Sunday, February 21, 2010

Too much to hope for

My camera is back in the shop. Apparently the second time I sent it into Nikon they just sent it back without doing any work; this doesn't 'count' towards my three repairs before they consider the camera a lemon.

Hopefully my camera comes back in one piece or they decide to give me a new one; my extended warrenty runs out on the March 31.

The Blacks manager said that the repair could take anywhere from 6-8 weeks although last time I got my camera back in 3. I guess I'll be shooting film or borrowing Tara's camera until then...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's like deja vu all over again


I was taking some photos this afternoon (for a blog post about me deciding to get in shape) and between frames, the viewfinder in my camera got really dim. At first I thought I had something on my glasses, but a quick examination of the camera and lens indicated that the camera was no longer controlling the aperture of the camera. And since the aperture blades have a tiny little spring to help the camera close them, they stayed closed on the camera.  This in-effect, makes the camera useless on all of my newer lenses (which don't have a manual aperture control).


This is the third time I've had to take the camera in to the shop for repair (1st, 2nd, 3rd). I bought the extended warranty which means Blacks should replace my camera this time; I'm heading in tomorrow to talk to the manager. I'm hoping I don't have to go through the whole rigmarole of sending it in to warranty again, but given Blacks' track record, I'm not holding on to more than a sliver of hope.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Comfort food - chocolate cake

I don't know about you, but chocolate cake holds a special place in my heart. When I was young, my mom used to make a chocolate cake recipe. It was baked in a 9x13 cake pan. It wasn't too light (denser than a angel food cake) and wasn't too dense (lighter than a brownie). Most of the time my mom didn't put any icing on it. It was cut into 2" x 2" squares, the perfect size. Perfect.

Chocolate cake is comfort food. It's not pretentious. It's not expensive. It can be eaten warm or cold, with icing or without. Like I said, perfect.

A couple of weekends ago I made Devil's Food Cake for a good friend's 40th birthday. As you can see, there wasn't much left of it after the party. I got the recipe from the February/March edition of Fine Cooking. The recipe is fancied up a bit; it's layered and has been given a ganache icing treatment. But take those things away and it's pretty close to my mom's recipe.

I repeated the recipe the following weekend, splitting the cake into two smaller ones. One for us and one as a gift for one of Tara's co-workers (who went way out of her way on a Friday afternoon to help out with Tara's studies). I made a few tweaks the second time and I think it came out a little better. I used four 6" pans for the two cakes. But it you want to be a purist, you can find the original recipe here.

I'm sure each and every one of you can do a better job with the icing than I did. I wanted to get it really smooth, but the more I tried, the less smooth it got. I'm sure there are many tricks of the trade for icing a cake, but it's never been a skill I could master.

Devil's Food Cake with Ganache Icing

The Cake
(all ingredients at room temperature)
3/4 cup butter plus 2 tbsp for buttering the pans
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp for flouring the pans
2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa power
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup butter milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise

  1. Preheat the oven to 305F
  2. Cut out 4 circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the four pans. Place the parchment in the pans and butter the parchment and sides of the pans. Dust with flour.
  3. With a mixer, whip the butter, sugar and vanilla together for a minute or two (until it is light and fluffy). Add the three eggs to the mix, one at a time until they are completely incorporated.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients together into a separate bowl.
  5. Whisk the buttermilk and mayonnaise together in a third bowl (or large measuring cup).
  6. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the butter milk mixture, add the two mixtures to the butter/sugar a third at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter into the four pans and bake for 40-45 minutes.
The Ganache
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 Tbsp butter
  1. Boil the cream in a medium pot.
  2. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Gently mix the cream and chocolate until homogonous. Stir in the butter.
  4. Let cool to room temperture.

Put it all together
  1. Slice cakes in half.
  2. Assemble 2 cakes as such: cake slice, ganache, cake slice, ganache, cake slice, ganache, cake slice.
  3. Apply a thin coat of ganache on the sides and tops of the cakes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the ganache set.
  4. Apply a thicker coat of ganache to the sides and tops. Re-refrigerate to set the ganache. Remove from the fridge 60 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Winter Webster's Falls

This past Saturday my good friend George and I headed down to Dundas on a photo excursion. Our destination: Webster's and Tew's Falls.

We wanted to get there for the sunrise, but a short delay at Tim Hortons proved to be our undoing. By the time we arrived at Tews Falls, the sun was up ready to warm the world. She had a lot of work ahead of her. It was -20°C when we stepped out if the car. C-o-l-d. That cold has a few unexpected consequences on (digital) photography:
  1. Your battery doesn't work so well at these tempertures. To combat this, carry a spare inside your jacket and swap them out frequently. Your battery isn't drained, it just needs to warm up a bit.
  2. Don't get your lens too close to your face lest you accidently breathe on it. I found this out the hardway when I blew a piece of fluff off my lens. I had to wait a few minutes for the frost to clear.
  3. The same goes for your LCD screen; your face is already close to it so try not to breath on it.
  4. Cameras have lots of fiddly little knobs and dials and such that are hard to use with your gloves. Hand warmers are finger-savers.
The cold notwithstanding, Saturday was beautiful. The sun was out, the wind was calm and the people were sparse. George and I spent a hour or so at Tew's Falls and then a couple of hours at Websters falls. We then headed to Tiffany Falls, but there wasn't much to see there besides a few ice climbers. A quick trip to Henry's to replace a lens cap that went over the falls and a bite to eat and we were done.

Head over to my flickr page to see a few more photos of Webster's falls. And take a look at George's photos; he is much more talented at this photography thing then I am.