This Week I Learned (2016-02-23)

Danish pastry and regexp.

King Arthur Flour Danish classThis weekend, I took my first ever class at King Arthur Flour. You may notice a distinctly pastry-oriented slant to this week’s TWIL.

  • Adding salt to an egg wash helps break down the albumen, making it less gloppy.
  • High-fat butter (83% or higher) is the best for making laminated dough: it’s more pliable and less likely to fracture/tear the dough.
  • You can make Danish/croissants/puff pastry with shortening, but you’ll get a less crispy, less caramelized, less flaky, more tender result because you’re using 100% fat, which doesn’t have the water content necessary to create steam and puff up during baking. Also, shortening lacks the necessary milk proteins to brown.
  • How to upgrade OpenSSL on a Mac, which isn’t strictly necessary for security reasons, but is helpful to avoid warnings from other open source tools (like Composer).
  • The array.length property in JavaScript doesn’t give you the length of the array. That would be…too easy? Instead, it gives you a number one higher than the max index in the array.
  • I wrote my first piece of code in PHP using regex (to extract a bunch of words from HTML lists). I also wrote another, better piece of code to do the same thing using the PHP DOM, which I am so glad I now know is a thing. Along the way, I stumbled across this, which I will leave there to remind myself never to try to parse HTML with regex again.

This Week I Learned (2016-02-16)

Things I learned this week.

Last week I stumbled across a post by Diana Kimball on Medium, encouraging readers to “Write About What You’ve Learned Lately.” It was good timing—I’m taking two web development classes this semester and TA-ing for a third, so I’m happily up to my ears in learning about some of my favorite things. In the spirit of, as Diana writes, “celebrat[ing] the process of learning itself, implicitly inviting others to do the same,” here’s my first edition of This Week I Learned (TWIL):

  • Soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and sriracha make a pretty good salad dressing, especially if you’re searching for something to go with leftover baked tofu, mixed greens, shredded carrot, and slivered red onion.
  • The countifs function in Google sheets or Excel will let you count the cells in a range that match a certain criterion—and here’s the cool part—if a cell in another range matches a different criterion. Magic.
  • Giant rabbits are real, and can weigh over 20 pounds.
  • The differences between Number(), parseInt(), and parseFloat() in JavaScript. Specifically:
    • Number() handles Booleans appropriately; parseInt() returns NaN
    • parseInt() returns the first number if multiple numbers are separated by spaces; Number() returns NaN
    • parseInt() can take a second parameter specifying the radix (base: i.e., 16 for hexadecimal or 8 for octal). Number() can’t take a second parameter, but automatically assumes:
      • hexadecimal for numbers starting with 0x
      • octal for numbers starting with 0 (note: as of ECMAScript 5, parseInt() *should* interpret these automatically as decimal, rather than octal, if not given a radix parameter, but browsers haven’t caught up yet, so you should always specify a radix when using parseInt())
  • How to use scope to associate table headers with data

Povitica, aka swirls of awesome

How often does a loaf of bread BLOW YOUR MIND?

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across the Great British Bake Off on Netflix and fell in love. Compared to American reality television, everyone’s so nice! Bakers who are kicked off at the end of an episode get hugs and “I’m sorry” and “you’re going to be great!” instead of “pack your whisks and go” or “give me your apron.” It’s the best.

Also: the food looks amazing. Especially the food from this episode, which introduced me to the wonder that is povitica.

Povitica is (apparently) a “Eastern European sweet bread [that] is traditionally served at Christmas, but [that] makes a delicious tea time treat at any time of the year.”

It’s also one of the coolest-looking breads I’ve ever seen. Check this out:


I did some obsessive googling after watching the show and found out that some of the most well-known povitica in America comes from a bakery not too far from where I grew up. The bakery shows off how it’s made in this video:

After waffling a bit over whether I could ever roll dough that thin and how I would possibly find space on my apartment countertops and if I’d be able to spread out the filling and roll up the dough without making a giant mess, I decided last night to give things a shot, using the quarter version of this recipe (the full version makes FOUR LOAVES, so be careful, there).

I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud as when I pulled this out of the oven: