Shortening 2: Peter’s Flaky Pastry Recipe

by Peter Tyrrell Wednesday, September 21, 2016 9:51 AM

I use shortening in my pies, and they are reckoned to be very good, if I do say so myself. Here is my flaky pastry recipe.

3 cups all-purpose flour (400g, 14.4 oz)
0.5 cups unsalted butter (114g, 4 oz)
0.5 cups shortening (114g, 4 oz)
1 tbsp granulated sugar (15mg)
1 tsp salt (5mg)
1 cup water

1 beaten egg
1-2 tbsp sugar

Mix the dry ingredients. Cut the butter and shortening into acorn sized lumps. Using a mixer, pastry knife or a pair of table knives, mix in the fat until the butter lumps are the size of small peas. You can hand-fondle any remaining lumps to size. Don’t overmix, as can occur when you use a mixer. If the dough has the consistency of breadcrumbs, you’ve gone too far. In fact, when using a mixer, I turn if off early and do the rest by hand. Just to be sure. Those little lumps of fat are going to create pockets in the pastry while in the oven, which is where the pastry’s flake comes from. If the butter and shortening are mixed too thoroughly into the flour, you’ll wind up with a dense, heavy pastry.

Add the water bit by bit while mixing. (A mixer is invaluable here.) Watch the dough carefully, because you may not need all the water. You want the dough moist enough to clump together, but not wet. How much water the pastry will want depends on the humidity, temperature, and probably the phase of the moon. Temperamental stuff, pastry. When I make pies at our summer cabin, I always need to add the full amount of water, but at home, never. And again, do not overmix.

Dump out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it gently by folding it over 5 or 6 times, just enough so it is holding together. Overmixing or too much kneading at this stage will lead to tough and chewy pastry, because you will have over-activated the gluten in the flour.

Divide the dough into two halves, wrap with cling film plastic, and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have that much time, you probably shouldn’t have tried to make pies today.

Make your filling, and put that in the refrigerator too. Side note: whatever your filling, be sure to mitigate its moisture content with enough flour, cornstarch, chia seeds or what have you, and avoid adding excess liquid when ladling your filling into the pie. Too much liquid and your pie will come out of the oven with a soggy bottom.

When your dough has chilled long enough, haul out one half and roll it out on a floured surface to fit your pie pan. Ceramic pie pans are best because they conduct and evenly distribute heat super well. However, glass pans are fine, plus they allow you to check the bottom of the pie as it bakes, which is arguably more important when you are still getting used to a recipe. The dough should hang over the edge of the pie pan.

Add filling. As above, the less liquid the better. Put the uncovered pie in the fridge.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a floured surface and cover the filling, so that the dough hangs over the edge of the pie pan. You want enough so that you can pinch and roll the bottom and top dough together to create a seal, and that raised crust around the edge. Cut off any excess before your pinchrolling activity or you’ll end up with an uneven or overly thick crust.

I press my thumb into the crust to create a sort of scallop pattern. Do whatever you must, just make sure the crust seals the top and bottom together.

Beat an egg and brush it lightly onto the pie surface to create a lovely browning effect in the oven. Sprinkle sugar on the top also if you’re into that.

Cut some blowholes into the pie with a sharp knife so it can breathe while baking. Don’t do this and you can expect exploded pie guts all over your oven. I used to put fancy scrollwork into my pies for vents but now just stab them with XXXs.

Bake at 375 F (190 C) for about an hour. Check the pie after 50 minutes. When ready to come out, the pie should have brown highlights, and the bottom—if you can check through a glass pan—should be a golden brown. The filling will probably bubble out of the vents a bit. Don’t be afraid to keep baking for 10 or even 15 minutes past the hour if that’s what it needs. You’re more likely to underbake than overbake, in my experience.

Let cool, then serve it forth.

General Tip: Keep the ingredients cold, even going so far as to put them in the refrigerator or freezer before you begin. While you’re working, everything you don’t need immediately should go back in the refrigerator until you do. Even put ice cubes in your water. Really.

Tags: tips

The Many Uses of Shortening

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, September 20, 2016 9:42 AM

Shortening is a wonderful thing: in baking it makes pies and cakes light and fluffy, and on the web, it makes long, unwieldy URLs short and manageable. This blog post is all about the second usage, but we can think about the first as we read it.

You might wonder why you should care about short URLs. After all, isn't a long one like 

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

a perfectly good URL?

Sure, your web browser will have no trouble with that and will access the web site and cause it to run the search specified by all those parameters.

But what if you want to share this URL via email or on Twitter, or post it to a blog or Facebook. That URL is 144 characters, so it's not going to fit in a tweet.

Long URLs are often wrapped to two or more lines in an email and sometimes this breaks the URL itself, resulting in a bad link.

And, as the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network discovered recently, posting long URLs with many parameters to Facebook is problematic. When posting the URL above, Facebook stripped out all the equals signs, leaving a non-functioning URL. Who knows why Facebook would do this, but happily, there’s an easy workaround for this, one that lends itself well to emailing and tweeting long URLs too: URL shortening services.

As Wikipedia tells us, "URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using a redirect, often on a domain name that is even shorter than the original one, which links to the web page that has a long URL."

In practice, this means that a long URL such as

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

can be shortened to something like

These fit handily in Tweets, blog posts, emails and are not edited by Facebook when posting there.

You might now ask, is this the same as a permalink? Well, it is a link, and a short one, so it’s close, but there's no guarantee of permanence, as you're reliant on a third-party service to keep the redirect in place indefinitely. Although that may happen, it's probably better to think of these as short but disposable URLs, like a post-it note you stick on a desk or document pointing at something.

Some of the most common URL shortening services are: 

So when you next need to send or post a long URL, especially one with lots of parameters and query strings, give one of these a try.

The Librarian's Introduction to Programming Languages: A LITA Guide

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, September 07, 2016 9:09 AM

We are excited to announce that the newly published "Librarian's Introduction to Programming Languages: A LITA Guide" includes a chapter written by our Peter Tyrrell on programming in C#. 

Peter was approached last year by the editor, Beth Thomsett-Scott, who has gathered together chapters by experts on nine different programming languages that librarians might need to know more about.

"There are many books on programming languages but no recent items directly written for librarians that span a variety of programs. Many practicing librarians see programming as something for IT people or beyond their capabilities. This book will help these librarians to feel comfortable discussing programming with others by providing an understanding of when the language might be useful, what is needed to make it work, and relevant tools to extend its application. Additionally, the inclusion of practical examples lets readers try a small "app" for the language. This also will assist readers who want to learn a language but are unsure of which language would be the best fit for them in terms of learning curve and application.

This book is designed to provide a basic working knowledge of each language presented, case studies which show the programming language used in real ways and resources for exploring each language in more detail."

Peter is of course both a librarian and a programmer himself, so was delighted to contribute a chapter to the book.

Discover the fascinating artifacts in the Museum of Health Care collection

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, August 30, 2016 10:13 AM

The Museum of Health Care based in Kingston, Ontario is home to more than 35,000 artifacts, from surgical tools to laboratory instruments, which bring to life the story of medical care from the 18th century to the present day. The Museum has used the Inmagic DB/TextWorks software for many years to catalog and manage the collection, but was using a very old version and the web search interface was rudimentary and did nothing to showcase the artifacts.

The Museum received grant funding and Andornot was hired to provide updates that both met their administrative needs, and improved accessibility to the collection for the public.   We completely revamped the internal artifacts DB/TextWorks database to current standards by implementing our best practices in database design, adding validation lists and cleaning out unused fields and reports. MHC_search_page

However, the fun part was designing the new search of the collections using our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI).  It was hard not to get sidetracked looking at some of the bizarre and scary implements! For example, check out the tools for tooth extraction such as the tooth key from circa 1750. Virtually all the items in the collection have images attached which can be viewed in either a list view alongside details of the item, or in a gallery view for quick browsing.

The main collections search page features a quick search box plus "canned searches" for quick access to the main categories such as Cardiology, Dermatology, Obstetrics etc. There is also a slider of images of featured items showcasing various implements, uniforms, bottles and a medicine chest.

The Museum has captured a wealth of information about each item, all of which is searchable.  Search results can be narrowed down by facets for general category, a more in depth classification and MeSH headings.  There is a date facet, plus facets for where the object was made and the manufacturer if these are known. 

Museums and other heritage institutions may borrow items from the collection for their own exhibits, and they can now easily search, select items and send off a request for an object loan to the Museum.  Museum staff are also using this feature to compile sets of records to send to researchers in a PDF report. 

Records can easily be shared on social media such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and MHC_results_pagePinterest, or details can be emailed to a colleague.  Already, the feedback option has been used to help identify information in a set of photographs, and Museum staff are now using the permalink feature to link back to records in their regular “What is it Wednesday” Facebook posts. The new search interface, as with all our new Andornot sites, is designed for use with mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop computers.

The feedback from the Museum staff and users has been very positive.  “ I truly love the new improved version!” and “we receive numerous praise for the new on-line catalogue and how easy it is to use and find objects”, says Kathy Karkut, Collections Manager. “Thank you for your patience as the Museum organized a server, and for the beautiful end product.” Jenny Stepa, Museum Manager and Program Director. The database is maintained locally at the Museum whilst hosting and maintenance of the web search interface is provided by Andornot.

Take a look at some of our other projects using AnDI and contact us for a demo!

New Catalogue Search for Vancouver Island Health Authority Library

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, July 05, 2016 4:44 PM

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has used Inmagic DB/TextWorks for many years to manage their library collections. This year, VIHA joined other health authority libraries around British Columbia in upgrading their web-based library catalogue search interface to a modern, feature-rich system: the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI).

The new catalogue is available at http://viha.andornot.com 

The updated system is comparable to the search interfaces found in most university and public libraries, with a quick search box and then the ability to drill down through the results. Features include:

  • A sophisticated search engine and relevancy-ranked search results put the most useful items in front of users quickly.
  • Automatic spelling corrections and "did you mean?" search suggestions improve the search experience, especially when dealing with medical terminology.
  • Facets such as library location, material type, subject, author and date and allow users to quickly and simply refine their search.
  • An eResources facet allows users to bring up materials that are available online as e-Books or links to websites.
  • A selection list helps users to mark items of interest as they search, then view, print or email the list, as well as complete a form to request those items form the library.
  • The new interface is fully usable on tablets and smartphones for on-the-go access.

The site includes canned search links for special topics and collections and a more prominent listing of new titles, also available as an RSS feed. Book covers from Open Library are included automatically if available, based on ISBNs in the record.

The site is hosted and maintained by Andornot with automated updates from DB/TextWorks, which remains the back-end data management tool.

Contact Andornot to discuss similar upgrades to your search interfaces.

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