Norfolk Rusks

Back in the distant past in Britain, there was the Yorkshire Television company, who had a show called Farmhouse Kitchen. I went to university with two volumes of recipes from that show in books that were copyrighted in 1975. This is an adaptation of one of those recipes to be more Paleo-friendly.

Ingredients

Makes about 13 rounds

  • 10oz almond flour (might need a bit more if dough is very wet)
  • 0.5 tsp salt plus a “good pinch”
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2.5 oz butter
  • a beaten egg

Mix the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Add the beaten egg and fork the dough around until it is one lump. Roll out the dough to about 10mm thick and cut into rounds. The dough will be sticky and resist rolling, I put some all-purpose flour on the work surface and that helped.

Put the rounds on parchment paper on a baking tray. Put the baking tray in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill the dough. Set the oven to 400F.

Bake the rounds for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom.

These turn out as pleasant, buttery, slightly crumbly, savoury cookies. You could add herbs (rosemary, or Herbes de Provence) to add flavour. I was craving cookies and these are a gluten-free version.

Eclipse 2017

Using a tree as a pinhole camera, these were taken a bit before the eclipse and fifteen minutes before totality.

Traffic stopped, everyone was out and looking at the sky. Even though the sun was down to a tiny sliver, it was still almost full daylight. Then the light dimmed and it looked like dusk right after sunset. It wasn’t pitch dark but the lights at the gas station across the street suddenly looked a lot brighter.

We got a minute and a half of totality, then a line of sun was visible and we were back to almost full daylight.

Sourdough Scones

I’ve been tweaking a recipe for sourdough scones, and it feels sufficiently different from the original to put it here. I found this recipe on Sourdough Surprises, who credits Sourdough Diva (no longer online)

Before you can make these, you need to get enough sourdough starter to play with. You can do this first thing in the morning or overnight, but you’ll need to leave this stuff alone for at least 6 hours to do its thing.

Take a half cup of goo from your sourdough stash and put it in a big bowl with three cups of water. Add one cup of all purpose flour, and two cups of whole wheat pastry flour, mix well. You can use all the same kind of flour, I like the mix because the all-purpose seems to get processed faster than the wheat.

Replenish the stash with a half cup of all purpose flour and a half cup of water, stir well, and stick it back in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of sourdough starter
  • 1 cup of bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of wheat pastry flour or Paleo flour
  • (Optional) 2tbsp of Trader Joe’s coffee flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of Penzey’s Cake Spice
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons of cold butter
  • 1/2 cup of currants
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

Heat the oven to 400f.

Mix the flours, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda, sugar, and cake spice in a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it in to the mix until you have a breadcrumb texture. Mix in the currants and walnuts.

Add a cup of the sourdough starter and mix well with a fork. Add a second cup of starter, knead the dough in the bowl for a minute so it knows who’s boss. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 3/4in thick. Cut out rounds (do NOT twist the cutter, that seals the edges) and put them on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Brush the tops with milk (cow or almond, makes no difference) and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over them. Bake at 400f for 20 minutes.

You can substitute a lot of different things into this recipe. I have used dried cherries, diced orange peel, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cranberries, roasted hazelnuts, 1/4 cup of roasted cacao nibs (also from Trader Joe’s), dried blueberries, whatever you like.

Do not under any circumstances use more than 2tbsp of coffee flour, because it will drown out all the other flavours.

St. Louis Techies Project

The St. Louis Techies Project aims to highlight people in tech in the St. Louis area. This year, for International Women’s Day, the global Women Techmakers group has the theme of “telling our story.” We want to tell your story!

This is my story, also available on the St Louis Techies website

How many years have you been in tech?
Since 2005, so 12 years now.

Tell me about your background. What were your early years like?
I was the science and maths nerd at school, did a physics degree because I loved the subject, and got into coding there via Fortran77 and then Visual Basic 4 and 5. My husband and I are British, we immigrated to the US in 1998 and got US citizenship in 2009.

How were you exposed to tech?
I had a Commodore VIC-20 as a small child and spent many happy hours typing stuff in, watching it run, and playing games. At University studying physics, we got access to Unix machines and Windows boxes. I married a programmer and taught myself Java so we could converse at dinner, then HTML, CSS, and other useful acronyms. After years of listening to him tell me about working with bad QAs, I got a job in that field so I could do better, and because it sounded fun.

What is your current role?
Director of Quality Advocacy for Asynchrony Labs. I serve nearly fifty quality advocates in two states, spread across three cities.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
Introducing the idea of a QA apprenticeship to the company. I took a candidate with no development background and trained him to be a QA automation engineer on one of our larger teams. After less than three years as a QA, his work is outstanding and contributes to a high-performing team responsible for multiple applications. We are currently training apprentices seven, eight, and nine.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Tell us about a time that this applied to you.
When I arrived at Asynchrony in 2013, I was one of nine QAs for about two hundred developers. Many teams did not have a QA person, and the QAs worked in isolation. I wanted to change that, despite being told that “Test-driven development means we don’t need a QA.”

I implemented automated tests on my team, learned C# from my team lead. I started a weekly QA stand-up to connect the QA team, asked for and got a free month of Codeschool.com for QA people to continue learning, and drove hard to be the best QA automation engineer my team had ever seen.

Now the QAs are a team of nearly fifty for four hundred developers. Teams request a QA on startup, the QA team meets every other week to share knowledge, and we are continually training each other, pairing with QAs and developers, and having fun.

What are you learning right now?
The Elixir language. Current goal is to write myself a web server that will return a correctly formed HTCPCP 418 error, see https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2324 for details of the spec I’m working from.

Describe a time where you solved a problem in a creative way. For example, did something in your personal life trigger a solution to a problem at work?
I was trying to coordinate QA activities while being a full time QA on my team, and we hadn’t been able to hire a replacement for me. I asked for and got permission to hire an apprentice, thinking of my father’s experience when he was apprenticed to a local carpenter as a teen. His apprenticeship changed the course of his life, I wanted to give someone else that chance. It was a risk, my apprentice took a huge leap of faith and we muddled through a three month boot-camp until he was ready to start flying solo. I’ve continued to meet with him to advise and encourage and hear his successes and experiments, I’m so proud of what he has become.

What was the last fear that you faced? How did you feel after you conquered it?
Speaking in front of groups of strangers has always been terrifying for me. My mentor challenged me to visit the CoderGirl meetup and talk about software QA. I prepared a speech, got myself a green laser pointer and did it. I felt horribly nervous but people liked the talk. I have taken on part of the new hire orientation presentations at work, so I speak in front of a group every month and over time it has become easier. It’s still scary though.

What advice do you wish someone had given to you? What advice would you give to others starting out?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this, that something is ‘too technical’ for you to understand, that your role and discipline is a second class citizen. March forth and be awesome!

What are your hobbies?
I’m a 1st degree black belt in Chinese Kenpo, which took over eight years of training. I knit, I spin yarn from fleece, and I write a novel every year with National Novel Writing Month.

What do you like about St. Louis? The midwest? Why do you live here?
The people here are friendly, the weather is constantly changing and the summers are glorious. The town is big enough to get band concerts but not so large it feels like a New York or London. I have history here, my favourite bread shop and coffee place knows my name and my order, and I feel like I belong here.

Who inspires you?
The people in my life who struggle with mental illness and refuse to give up against often overwhelming difficulties. Walking forwards against a depression hurricane is a struggle I share with them.

What tags would you use to describe yourself?
Android, C#, cat-herder, English, immigrant, Java, kenpo student, knitter, leader, lifelong student, manager, muppet-wrangler, QA, QA engineer, tester, wife.

2016 in review

I drove a race car around a Nascar circuit in March for my 41st birthday, reaching 106mph! It was an awesome birthday gift from my husband.

I was promoted to 1st degree black belt, on Friday 13th May, by Ben Pratt of Tracy’s Karate West. Started this journey in December 2008 with Karen Luesse as my instructor, switched to Ben after Karen went out for surgery late December 2013.

We visited Washington DC for our 21st wedding anniversary, saw Phantom of the Opera at the Kennedy Center, and went to the White House and the Smithsonian.

I read thirty-five books in 2016, two were re-reads. I started but did not finish nine additional books, I’m getting comfortable with not finishing a book that does not hold my attention. This was the year I started using highlighter pencils and writing in books, starting with Ryan Holiday’s "The Obstacle is the Way" in October.

In 2016 I knit twenty-six projects, fourteen of which were gifted to people. Older projects were also gifted, I’ve given over a hundred and twenty knitted projects away over the eight years I’ve been tracking projects on Ravelry.

I wrote 50,000 words of a passable novel in November (still in progress), my eleventh novel from thirteen years doing NaNoWriMo. I believe I may have a great novel in me, and I’m eleven novels closer to that manuscript than when I started writing in 2004. My lifetime NaNoWriMo word count is 589,088 words.

Better English Scone recipe

I’ve been tweaking my scone recipe to improve structural integrity, after at least three test batches and direction from Angie Ruiz, this is the new and improved recipe.

Better English Scones

Makes about 13 scones and one runty little test scone

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of flour (I used half wheat flour and half wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar (not necessary if you use white flour)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of nutmeg or Penzey’s Cake Spice
  • 6 oz baking raisins, or chopped dried cherries, or chopped dates, or walnuts, or diced orange peel
  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • up to 200 ml of milk

Put flour into a bowl, add salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cream of tartar and mix. Rub butter into flour until mix looks like bread crumbs. Add sugar and mix again.

Stir in the raisins/cherries/dates, make sure they are evenly distributed. Put 100ml of milk into a jug, break an egg into it and beat. Mix in egg/milk slowly with a fork until you have a springy, slightly sticky, dough. You might need more milk, pour out another 100ml but don’t use it all.

On a floured surface, roll out to 3/4 inch thick, cut into 2in rounds and put on a greased baking tray. Brush tops with the leftover milk and sprinkle with brown sugar, or cinnamon sugar if you prefer.

Bake at 450F for 20 minutes, they should be golden brown on top. Eat with butter and strawberry jam or honey at around 3pm, with a mug of hot tea with milk.