Saturday 7 January 2023

Macarons Recipe

Pistachio Macarons: Shells 

200g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
150g egg white (divided into  two 75g quantities)
200g caster sugar
50g water
1 tsp food colouring powder 

Pistachio White Chocolate Filling

110g double cream
225g white chocolate
2 tbsp pistachio paste
40g butter (room temperature) 

Passionfruit & Milk Chocolate Filling

110g passionfruit puree
270g milk chocolate
40g unsalted butter (room temperature)

Shells Method

Combine icing sugar, ground almonds, first quantity of egg white and colouring, and beat until well combined. Place the second quantity of egg white in the bowl of a free standing mixer (or bowl resting on a damp cloth) to hold it securely. 

Mix the caster sugar and water together in a small pan. The volume of the sugar and water combined needs to fill the pan at least a quarter full. If the pan is too large, the temperature of the syrup will rise too quickly. The syrup should be heated up to 117C which requires a good depth of syrup for a thermometer to measure it accurately. (If you do not have a pan small enough, double or triple the sugar and water quantities and heat in a larger pan. Only use a half or third of the final syrup.)

As the temperature of the syrup gets close to 118C, the egg whites should be whisked until a little frothy. Whilst continuing to whisk, the sugar syrup should be poured on to the egg white. Continue to whisk by free standing or electric mixer until stiff peaks and still warm. 

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Add the ground almonds, icing sugar, egg white and colouring mix into the Italian meringue. Beat together slowly for 20 seconds then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and beat again for a further 10-20 seconds. 

The batter needs to flow smoothly, and when dropped back into the bowl it should spread and form a flat even surface. 

Transfer the batter into a piping bag with a 1cm plain round nozzle fitted. Pipe small rounds of batter on to a baking sheet lined with silicon baking parchment. Using a template underneath the baking sheet will help produce a consistent sized macaron. 

A reusable template can be made by drawing 40mm diameter circles approximately 30mm apart on a baking sheet. 

Hold the nozzle 1cm above the surface of the silicon paper. Pipe the batter out until it almost fills the circular template. It will continue to flow outwards until after you've finished piping. The tip of the nozzle should be swirled off moving it around the edge of the piped shell, this will help the batter to flow into an even flat surface. 

If the batter is under-mixed, tap the tray of piped macaron shells at this stage will help the batter spread and give an even flat surface. 

Most macaron recipes will recommend that the piped shells are left for a period of time to allow a skin to form before baking. This is a rather inconsistent method as how well a skin forms is dependent on the temperature and humidity of the kitchen. A much better technique is to place the trays immediately in the pre-heated oven at 150C but reduce the temperature to 0C and bake for 11 minutes. After that turn the heat back up to 135C for 12 minutes. The macarons are baked when they have a smooth dry top and have firmed up. They do not need to be completely dry and stiff before removing from the oven, as they will continue to cook for a few minutes after they have been removed. 

Remove the baking tray from the oven and remove the baking parchment and macarons allowing the shells to cool on the work surface. This is important as if left on the baking tray the residual heat in the trays will over cook the shells. 

Peel the shells from the parchment and pair up. 

Pisatchio/Vanilla Ganache Method  

Melt the white chocolate together with the pistachio paste and butter in a bain-marie. Once the chocolate is melted add the cream and mix gently until combined. Allow to cool until pipeable. 

Passionfruit Ganache Method  

Melt the milk chocolate with the butter in a bain-marie. Pour in the passionfruit puree and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until pipeable. 

Raspberry, Rose and Pistachio Larger Macarons 

Using a plain round nozzle, pipe 7cm diameter macaron shells. Bake in the same way, but larger shells will require 15-16 minutes baking at 140C after their drying out phase. 

Whisk double cream to soft peaks and add a small amount of icing sugar and rose water to taste. 

Pipe or spoon some of the rose flavoured cream in the centre. Place fresh raspberries around the edge of the cream and place a second macaron shell on the top.

Monday 2 January 2023

The History and Purpose of the Lichfield Cathedral Guild of Stewards

Prepared by Trevor Shakeshaft in 2003, this history does not include information after this time.

History 1955 – 1970 

It is recorded in the Chapter Acts that in December 1955 the Precentor at the time “reported that he had a list of names and addresses of men who he thought would be willing to serve as sidesmen in the Cathedral. None of them had been approached and it was resolved that the Dean write to each of them to ask whether they would be willing to serve as sidesmen in the event of the Cathedral deciding to appoint them as such. The principal duties would be to take the collection at morning and evening services on Sundays”.

Later that month, twelve men were appointed, with one as a reserve. Early in February 1956 a meeting of prospective sidesmen resolved that they would be called stewards, and later that month the stewards commenced their duties.

December 1956 saw the first use in the Chapter Acts of the term “Guild of Stewards” – and also the first resignation from the Guild.

History 1970 – the present

There is little or no reference to the Guild of Stewards after this until November 1970, when folklore relates that the then Dean, Dean Holderness, met a member of the Guild while purchasing a fish supper in a local chip shop. After this chance meeting moves began to set up the Guild in its present form. In December of that year, the Lord Bishop accepted an invitation to become Patron of the Guild of Stewards as newly constituted. The Guild was formally reconstituted in January 1971. 

When the Guild, in its present form, was inaugurated, there were just over 40 members (of whom eight are still on the membership roll in either an active or honorary capacity.) The first Head Steward was Frank Winfield. The number of members subsequently increased fairly steadily until the 1990s, when the total stabilised at around 75-85, including honorary members. At the time of writing (Spring 2003) we are actively trying to increase our numbers, as the number of active members on roll is down to 63, with 14 honorary members. It is our aim to have an active membership of around 70. 

The Guild has its own constitution and is managed by an Executive Committee comprising the Head Steward, Secretary, Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, and three non-officer members elected from the Guild. All are active members of the Guild.

The Dean and Precentor are Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively and, together with the Head Verger, are ex-officio members of the Guild. The Precentor and Head Verger attend the meetings of the Executive Committee.

Membership is open to practising Christians who have a close association with the Cathedral. Membership is presently restricted to men, thus giving the Cathedral community a large, vibrant and active men’s fellowship

The Purpose of the Guild

In its initial form, the Guild’s principal responsibility was the taking of the collection at the main services on Sundays. This – though still one of the guild's duties – forms only a small part of its area of responsibility. At their corporate services, the Precentor sums up the present function of the Guild as follows: 

The Guild of Stewards was formed to assist the Dean and Chapter in furthering the mission and ministry of Lichfield's Cathedral Church.

Members of the Guild are called especially to extend a warm and Christian welcome to those who come here to join our regular worship, share in special services or attend other events. Their duties include the preparation and allocation of seating; the distribution of service books and other information; the collection and recording of alms; and the supervision of movement within the building; that, all things being done decently and in order, those who enter this place may encounter the beauty of holiness and so be drawn closer to God.

In more specific terms, Stewards are formed into five teams of five who cover the 10.30am Sunday Eucharist services, and five teams of four who cover the 3.30pm Sunday Evensong services. These teams are augmented when special services take place. 

During the summer season, when increased numbers of people visit the Cathedral either to worship or simply to look round, an additional Steward is stationed at the West End during Sunday Evensong. After Sunday Evensong during the summer a team of two or three Stewards carries out ‘security’ duties so that the building can remain open to visitors during the evening at a time when the Vergers are enjoying a short, well-earned, break after an extremely busy day.

Saturday Evensong, which is usually well-attended, normally requires a team of two Stewards.

In addition to these weekly commitments, the Guild maintains a presence at all special services, concerts and other events where there is a need for management of seating, offertory or communion arrangements. During the Lichfield Festival, a team of Stewards is provided for each Cathedral concert. Their duties include welcoming visitors, showing them to their seats, and providing assistance in case of emergency evacuation.

Over the last few years, the Guild of Stewards has taken on an additional major responsibility by providing the necessary Health and Safety cover under the overall direction of the Cathedral’s Health and Safety Officer. Training sessions are held in emergency evacuation procedures, and a team of Stewards is asked to attend all events, either run by the Cathedral or by outside organisations, where larger numbers of the public are admitted. This safety rĂ´le is normally incorporated with the guild's other functions of welcoming and helping visitors in any way possible.

Sunday 1 January 2023

The web is the most conservative force on earth - Charles Leadbeater 'The Spectator', 12 July 2008

Digital technology has made us a society of mass archivers, says Charles Leadbeater. Far from rotting our brains, the web enables us to preserve all our memories

Archiving is not regarded by most people as sexy, glamorous or even interesting. Odd then that most of us, and especially the young, hip and trendy, seem to have become avid archivists without even realising it.

My archive, which I keep on the web, and in my computer, mobile phone and iPod, is neither particularly extensive nor interesting: several thousand digital photographs, play-lists of songs, endless dull policy reports, papers and presentations, some internet postings, Facebook friends and connections. Teenagers, however, are archiving their lives as they happen through blog entries and photos taken on camera phones, much of which they organise collaboratively, in semi-public, on the web. We have become a society of mass archiving.

At first sight it seems obvious that these rapidly expanding digital archives should enrich our individual and collective memory. We are more able than ever to capture, store, search, retrieve and share reminders of people and events. By tagging our digital photos with descriptions we are less at risk of forgetting who we were with, where, when and why. By sharing photos with friends on social network sites we create multiple copies and perspectives, so we should never lose anything and we should have a richer interpretation of events.

Social networking sites will keep us in touch with friends even when our ageing minds cannot retrieve their names. That clever Sky+ box will remember to record an entire series of television programmes for me even as I struggle to remember crucial things like the location of glasses, keys, credit cards and past holidays.

My parents have a large box of black and white photos in their loft, mainly of groups of smartly dressed people looking slightly uncomfortable at the seaside in the middle decades of the last century. I have no idea who most of these people were. When my parents pass away the meaning of this physical archive of family history will be lost. In future families with digital archives should not suffer this catastrophic memory loss.

From early on the computer revolution promised to create vast shared stores of memory. When Lee Felsenstein became chair of the Homebrew Computer Club in the early 1970s he had just started a project called Collective Memory for people to share their memories using computers in public places around Berkeley. Similar projects on a much larger scale are now being run all over the world. Our expanded capacity for collective memory will make us more productive and politics more accountable.

One of Tim Berners-Lee’s motives for creating the software that spawned the web was his poor memory; he tended to lose things. One of the attractions of digital files is that it is easier to trace their history. If a software project runs into the sand, the programmer should be able to trace his way back to the fork where he took a wrong turn. Digital technology keeps older versions of the same document. That makes it easier to retrace our steps to ideas that were prematurely discarded, often one of the richest sources for innovation.

Our collective capacity for instant recall should help to make power more accountable. Hillary Clinton’s mistaken memory that she arrived at Tuzla airport under sniper fire was quickly corrected. The powerful will find it more difficult to impose on us their version of the past.

The expansion of our shared memory in millions of mini-archives should be an unalloyed good, especially for an ageing society in which millions of people will be losing their memories and, as a result, their sense of themselves in the decades to come. Yet a growing group of thoughtful sceptics -- the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, the technology critic Nicholas Carr -- argue that far from supporting our minds, the web is rotting them, including our capacity for memory.

Carr argues that the web is engulfing us in a culture of distraction in which it becomes impossible to focus and think clearly.

Greenfield and other neuroscientists warn that this culture of distraction is reshaping how our minds develop: destroying our capacity to organise our memory for ourselves, reducing memory to mere bits of disconnected stimulus and so, in the extreme, undermining our capacity to develop a distinct identity based on our own narrative of our lives.

Certainly cues for individual memory will be even more social in future and so in some ways less under our control. Your past will be recorded on your friends' social networking sites, warts and all. This will have downsides. I for one am very glad that YouTube and Facebook were not around when I was 17. Employers will no longer have to trust your account of your history set out in your CV; they will be able to look at your social networking profiles, blogs and other online activities. As yet the generation growing up with the web, however, seem pretty relaxed about this public display of private memories: if everyone is putting embarrassing material online, why worry?

We will have to make quite different judgments about our memories and archives. For my parents' generation any memento sparked a precious memory of an important family event. Anything that could be preserved became precious just because it had survived.

Writing history is mainly an exciting act of detective work to piece together the story in scraps of material left behind by earlier generations. Historians of this period of history onwards will have the opposite problem: too much material to choose from.

We, the mass archivers, will face the same issues. Now we can keep so much, so easily, the question becomes how to distinguish the significant from the merely everyday. That is why the most contentious issue in the Wikipedia community has been the dispute over what counts as a notable entry. When everything and anything could have a Wikipedia entry -- my local cheese shop for example -- why disallow something from being recorded for posterity?

Sceptics like Carr and Greenfield are following in the footsteps of the American poet William Stanley Merwin who, long before the USB stick and the iPod, predicted that the fallibility of human memory would lead to the creation of personal remembering machines which would preserve both what their owners experience and their perspectives on that experience. Writing in 1969, Merwin warned these machines would eventually become substitutes for experience itself and a man who lost his machine would become 'a ghost'. Far from creating a reliable outboard memory, digital technology is encouraging a dangerous dependency, the sceptics warn.

Yet we have always partly stored our memories outside our heads, in everything from holiday memorabilia to the landscape we inhabit.

The range of ways we can support the organisation of our failing memories is expanding.

Off-loading mundane tasks to technology to allow us more time to think and dream should make us better off. The alarmists are wrong: the web is not rotting our minds. More people than ever will be able to live for longer with a richer set of memories which they can show to and share with other people, giving them a stronger sense of identity.

Now pass me that USB stick. I'd like to upgrade my memories.