Happy Creme Brulee Day

Happy Creme Brulee Day. Burnt Creme, Creme Brulee, Trinity Creme, Cambridge burnt cream, or  even Creme Anglaise. Whatever you want to call it, people have been delighted by it for over 300 years.  The earliest published recipe of the dessert is in a french cook book called Massialot’s Cuisinier royal et bourgeois, which was published in 1691. Cambridge Trinity College however records having served it as early as 1630. It can’t be readily proved who first created the dish. However these are the earliest mentions of the recipe. The recipe is probably older than either of these sources. But it doesn’t really matter who created it, perhaps they both independently did.  Custards were being consumed since the Romans, so there was plenty of opportunity for different people to change the recipe.

However this is an extemly simple dish to prepare. Below is the modern version of the recipe.  If you wanted to try it the way they would have served it 300 years ago, omit the vanilla, and add some cinnamon.

4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean

1/2 cup sugar

6 egg yolks

6 Tbs Brown sugar


1. Put the creme in a saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and put in the sauce pan.  Using medium heat bring the creme to a boil.  Turn off the heat and remove the bean.  Scrape the inside of the bean into the creme. And discard the rest of the vanilla bean. 

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Let the creme cool for 20 minutes.  While cooling, in a mixer combine the egg yolks and sugar.  Make sure the sugar is blended evenly.  It will change consistancy and color when mixed enough. 

3. While the mixer is going, slowly pour the creme mixture into the egg mixture. If you pour the liquid in too quickly it will cook the egg in small chunks, and ruin the dish.

4. Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins.  Then place these in a large casserole dish.  Pour hot water into the casserol dish until it comes up half way to the ramekins. If you wish to bring these in for a bake sale, or send to your child’s class. You can use cupcake liners. Simply place the liners into a cupcake pan. And fill them the same way. Then place the pan in the water filled casserole dish. Because the cupcake liners are fluted, these are a little more difficult to eat. Also you should leave in the cupcake pan, until they are served. The cupcake liner doesn’t provide enough strength the stay upright for very long.

5. Place dish into the oven for 50 minutes.  Then check by inserting a toothpick , and removing.  If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done, otherwise cook for another 10 minutes.

6. Refrigerate the ramekins for at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve remove from refrigerator 30 minues before serving, place 1 TBS brown sugar on each one. Then we need to carmelize the dessert.  A salamander was used in the past to carmelize the sugar. This was a branding iron, with a 2 foot handle.  It was heated to a very high temperature, which is why it needed the long handles.  Then it would pressed on the top of the creme brulee. However you can use either the broiler in your oven, or a propane torch.

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memories of Computer Space

How does the machine know what the ships look like. There were no dedicated rom chips in the machine. It had a diode matrix that operates as it’s rom. If you look at the schematic of th player memory boards you can see the rom images. (Link at bottom of post to get pdf of user manual.) Above the 74150 chips, which are used to access the memory, you can see the bitmap of the ship. It’s a 16 bit high by 12 bit wide picture. There are 9 seperate images, which is over 800 bytes of memory stored by diodes. Picture of Ship Rom Schematic

The 74151 chip is a decoder, or demultiplexor. It takes the 4 lines of input and enables one of it’s 16 output lines, this enables the row of bytes we are interested in. Enabling the output, means that we place 5 volts on that line. The 74150 is a multiplexor. The 4 control lines pick which of the inputs to choose. Such that if the control lines were set to 4, the output would be whatever was at input number 4. This allows us to choose which bit to look at. The 74151 choose which line, or you could say which byte, and the 74150 chooses the individual bit from that byte. The 74151 provides 5 volts, however if the line selected by the 74150 does not have a diode, there will not be 5 volts on it’s output.

Unlike a modern machine, because of system constraints, we only use one bit at a time. This is because there is no ram, to hold th entire picture that will be displayed all at once. Later we will look closer at th video display process. 10 points for anyone that knows why there are 2 diodes on the top of each picture. That is a little bit of a cheat. If you follow the lines in the full pdf, you will see it goes to the thrust circuitry. These diodes put dots under the ship when thrust is being pressed. This way they didn’t have to make another set of images with thrust shown. Picture of Ship Rom Schematic

Why doesn’t it make a big line all the way down the screen. That’s because of the logic gates, that only enable those two diodes on the proper lines. But they also pulse the thrust, to give it the impression of movement. That’s what the 4 inverters are doing. The capacitor accross the second one turns them into a waveform that is generated only when thrust is applied. The movement illusion, is because the two pixels alternate, while the ship is repositioned. A pretty neat trick. The schematics are in pdf form at the killer list of video games inside the owners manual.

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Happy Junk Food Day

Happy Junk Food Day. So many different foods, however I feel fries are probably the most popular. People have been enjoying french fries, for over 200 years. Thomas Jefferson wrote the oldest verifiable document mentioning frying potatoes, around 1802. French fries were very popular in france in the middle 1800’s. Which is why they’re called french fries. They became popular in the united states after soldiers returned, craving them.
The biggest part of the fry’s flavor is from the grease. Tallow is the best, it’s simply rendered beef fat. If you can’t find tallow, you can get lard which is pig fat. Vegetable oils provide the least amount of flavor. This is why fast food places have until recently used tallow. McDonalds used tallow until 1990 when they switched to vegetable oil. To get the flavor, they added flavorings. Probably something like beef bouillon is sprayed on them, before being frozen at the factory. One quarter of all potatoes in america are served as french fries. On average each person in the U.S. eats 30 lbs a fries a year. Over 6 million pounds of fries are consumed each year, in the U.S.

6 Potatoes (Russets are best)
Tallow or cooking oil (enough to fill pan at least 2 inches deep)
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBS salt
season salt

1. Wash the potatoes. You can peel or not peel the potatoes depending on you preference.

2. Slice the potatoes into thin strips about 1/3 inch wide.

3. Wash the potatoes then place in a pan of cold water. Add 2 TBS salt. Bring the water to a boil. If you’re using russets cook for 5 minutes. If you’re using a waxy potatoes cook for only 1 minute. Boiling the potatoes first, creates a creamy texture in the finished fries.

4. Disolve 1 cup of sugar into 1/2 gallon of water. If you wish to use beef bouillon dissolve 4 cubes into the water with the sugar. Add ice to the water. Drain potatoes, and place into ice cold water sugar solution. Stir fries around in the water to cool and coat all of them. After 30 seconds drain potatoes. At this point you can place potatoes in frigerator for later frying. The sugar solution, cools the fries so they don’t overcook, and coats the fries in a small amount of sugar, which adds flavor and helps to brown them.

5. Heat the cooking grease to 375. Tallow is the tastiest cooking grease. The place some of the potatoes into the grease. Not all of the potatoes at once, because that would drop the oil temperature too much. After 3-5 minutes the fries should start to float. Once floating using a slotted spoon, continue to check the fries until they are a golden brown.

6. Remove to a collander over a plate, to drain. Sprinkle season salt over fries.

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What’s in an arcade machine.

Lets take a look at what is actually inside Computer Space. This game is often listed as having no ram, rom, or processor. This is only one third true. It would have been too expensive to use a microprocessor. Instead they relied on TTL chips to provide the game logic using logic gates. They are easy to understand. Each gate has one output, it can only be 5 volts or 0 volts. I would normally call 0 volts ground, but it is not completely accurate here. Because the chips weren’t perfect, the 0 volts, could actually be as high as 1.5 volts. This is why they used 0 volts and five. Even if each output was the 1.5 volts from what it should be there is a large margin of error in the middle, so we can be completely sure of the result. 1.5 to 3.5 would be the range in the middle that would indicate an invalid output. But was important so that we can be sure that we never mistake a high for a low or a low for a high. Today’s chips are so much better that many processors actually run at 1.8 volts. If the output is supposed to be 5 volts, it’s referred to as a high or 1. And if the output is supposed to be 0 volts, it’s referred to as a low or 0.
Logic gates come in several varieties. AND, OR, NAND, NOT, and XOR are the most common. An AND gate would have a least 2 inputs if all of the inputs were the high then the output would be high. An OR gate has at least two inputs, if any of the inputs are high, it will be high. A NOT gate only has one input, and it’s output is the opposite of the input, such as a high input gets a low output. A NAND gate is an AND gate and a NOT gate put together. Such that if all the inputs are high you get a low output, otherwise you get a high output. An XOR gate has at least two inputs, and is similar to an OR gate, however unlike an OR gate if all the inputs are high, then the output is low. This is also called an exclusive OR gate.
OK, so now we have gates. What can we do with these things. Actually a lot, your computer is made up of just these, when look at it close enough. He used these to essentially build a single purpose computer. It wasn’t fast, but it did what was needed for the game to run. These gates can only deal with high’s and low’s or 1’s and 0’s. We need to shift our thinking to using binary instead of decimal. The highest number we can count to is really 9, in decimal. But when we reach nine, we do a couple of tricks. The first is to reset the number to zero, and second we add a number to the front of the zero. We start it at 1, then when we count past nine again we repeat. The number goes to zero, and the number to the left gets a 1 added to it and becomes 2. At 99, the we do the same thing, going to zero, we move to the number on the left, we must set this to zero as well. Then the next number on the left become 1. In binary this works exactly the same except we can only count to 1. Zero plus one is one, one plus one is ten. See it’s pretty easy, the 1 is the maximum number, so it went to zero, and then we put a one in front of it, which makes it 10 in binary, or 2 decimal. Binary math is very important, because our logic gates only can handle 1 and 0. Using logic gates and binary math, we can manipulate number quickly and easily. Next week we’ll continue with Computer Space.

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Happy Video Game Day

Today is Video Game Day. Who would of thought they would make a holiday for video games. This is a holiday right up my alley.  Actually there seems to be two different video game days, might as well celebrate both.  How many of you know what the first commercial video game was? It wasn’t Pong. It was computer space, by atari before it was atari. It was a partnership between Nolan Bushnell’s Syzergy, and Nutting Associates.

In November 1971 the world’s first commercial arcade game was released. And for 25 cents you could wage pixelated battle against an electronic foe. This was the year the first general purpose CPU was produced, the 4004. Which cost thousands of dollars. This year also saw the first single chip calculater.  The Busicom Junior calculator, with 12 digits and 4 funcitons. It’s processor had 2,100 transistors in 360 gates plus 160 flip-flops.  This pocket sized calculator sold for 395, which wasn’t bad for a calculator back then. It was the first that could actually fit in a pocket.

Computer Space was a one player game where you controlled a space ship and tried to destroy two flying saucers.   The flying saucers were always aligned vertically. It lasted for 90 seconds, and could be extended if your score exceeded the machine’s score. The two player version came out maybe 2 years later. You controlled your missle once fired. So you could curve it, if the saucer was moving.  However the AI player, could not change the trajectory of it’s missle.  This was not a succesfully game, Nolan made only 250 dollars from this venture. 1500 games were made, with only 1000 sold. I haven’t been able to find the price for the Computer Space machine, however Pong, which came out 2 years later cost 500 to make, and sold for 1200, so it was probably around the same amount.

Have you ever wondered how a video game works?  Over the next couple weeks we will delve into this game.  Although it is a simple machine, it still has alot to offer.  The method used to interface the screen is identical to every other game system.  See you next week when we look under the hood at Computer Space.

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Which eggs to get?

Which color egg is better? If its easter, the white ones, they can be dyed better. There’s very little difference in the eggs. The most popular breed of layer in the U.S. is the Leghorn which produces white eggs. Rhode Island Reds, Orphington, and plymouth rock, are among the most popular birds after Leghorns, these all produce Brown and reddish eggs. The Ameraucana and Araucana breeds of chickens both produce pink, green and blue eggs.
It’s best not to wash the eggs until the last moment. Water seeps through the egg shell, and can crack the egg. This would allow salmonella and other bacteria to get into the egg. Eggs left out on the counter can only last a week. However eggs can last up to 2 months if properly refrigerated . The age of an egg can be determined by the texture of the white. As eggs age both the white and yolk become more liquidy the older they get. A fresh egg will have the white stand tall, when removed from the shell. An older egg’s white, well spread much wider and not retain it’s shape. Commercial eggs are between 1 week to 45 days old when purchased at the store.
Must eggs be cooked? If an egg has salmonella, this is only practical way to kill it in most recipes. However even if a chicken infected with salmonella, it doesn’t always produce eggs that are infected. Only 1 egg in 200,000 is infected, currently in the United States. However the CDC said that in 1997 tainted eggs caused 90 deaths, and 200,000 illnesses. So salmonella is something that should be considered when preparing your eggs. Cooking also makes the egg more digestible, which means it allows you to get more calories from the egg. Heating the egg alters some of the cholesterol in the yolk. The cholesterol oxidizes, which many Nutritionists consider to be more dangerous than regular cholesterol. Recently the amount of cholesterol in eggs has been reduced to 185mg. It used to be 216 mg. This negates some of the advantage that home raised eggs once had. This is probably because of better feed and conditions.
According to motherearthnews.com, home raised eggs, can have cholesterol as low as 115mg, but on average it’s about 158mg. The amount of cholesterol in your diet may have a fairly limited impact on your blood cholesterol levels. Your liver provides up to 6 times more cholesterol than you ingest. Some recent studies suggest that cholesterol in foods, has little affect upon your cholesterol levels. Diets high in saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol, but a large egg yolk contain less than 2 grams of saturated fat. In fact, there is actually more healthy monounsaturated fats in an egg yolk than saturated fat.
Should you eat the yolk. The yolk has almost all of the nutritional value. Half the protein is in the yolk. All the fat is in yolk. It also contains all of the choline, approximately half of the recommended daily intake. Some studies suggest when dieting that eating the yolk can help weight loss. The egg white though has little value for weight loss, and very few nutrients. The egg white is composed of protein and water. All of the egg’s vitamin A, D, and E are in the egg yolk. The egg is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Here is a list of all the vitamins and nutrients in an egg, Choline,Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Vitamin E, Selenium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium.
So which eggs should you buy? For total value, the cheapest eggs at the store can’t be beat. I wouldn’t recommend organic eggs in general they are significantly more expensive with little additional value for that cost. If you have a soy allergy obviously you need to get soy free eggs. If the treatment of chickens is important to you, only buy from small local farms. If you want to maximize Omega 3’s the local farm is you best choice. The most nutritious eggs, are from your local small farmer. Whichever egg you buy it will probably be delicious, and nearly identical to all the other eggs. If you only eat the egg whites, it makes no difference which eggs you get because almost all the nutrition of an egg is in the yolk. However I would suggest if your only going to eat one part of the egg make it the yolk, the white is empty calories, with the yolk having all the real value.

By the way, scientists have determined the egg came first.

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What’s in an egg?

What do chickens eat? Practically anything they get near. They will devour just about any vegetation, down to the ground. If too many chickens are in one area, they will kill all the vegetation quickly. A chicken can clear a square foot of vegetation in a day. I would estimate without additional food, they would need at least 100 square feet, per chicken, for exclusivly pasture fed chickens. Chickens are not vegetarians. I’m not sure what the advantage of vegetarien fed chickens is. They love to eat bugs. Which actually makes a better egg. As a child I would throw grasshoppers to the chickens, which would cause a football game of sorts. With each chicken stealing the grasshopper from the previous one, and running as fast as it could. A typical farm feeds their chickens layer pellets, which cost about 12 dollars for 40 pounds. This can be supplemented by many things. Such as the left overs after harvesting, or even table scraps. One of the primary factors for organic eggs costing more is that the feed is more expesive, 19 dollars for a 40 pound bag. Chickens require about 4 lbs of feed to make a dozen eggs. This would make feed costs about 1.20 for regular eggs, and 1.92 for organic. Commercial egg producers buy the feed in bulk, resulting in large savings. However as you can see selling eggs is a low profit margin business. This is why eggs at the farmers market are so much higher.
The color of yolk is determined almost exclusivly by diet. Pasture fed chickens have very deep orange colored yolks. Grain fed chickens produce a light pale yellow yolk. The deeper orange the more xanthophylls in their diet. These act like a dye to color the yolk, so that the more plants a chicken eats the more deeply colored the yolk. Omega 3 enhanced eggs, are simply chicken fed with grains containing omega 3’s usually fish oil, flaxseed, and soy. Chickens are cannibals they well eat other chickens, especially a dead one. Any chicken that dies must be quickly removed to prevent the others from cannibalising it. Organic feed has little affect on egg quality. Most home farm raised chicken have grain and pasture land. Another potential factor for feed is soy free. Why is this important? Because eggs from a chicken which consumes soy, will contain the allergens from soy. So anyonewith a soy allergy would be at risk from eating those eggs. Next week we’ll finish this article.

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