The life artistic – The science of baking


I’m a firm believer that anyone can bake if they just put their mind to it and try. Most of the problems people face stem from attempting to follow a recipe that uses a technique they’ve never even seen done before. We have very similar problems in the lab. Contrary to popular belief, most scientists spend an awful lot of time making things up as they go along (otherwise known as “optimizing”), attempting techniques they’ve never seen done before, and trying to discover the magic step that will make an experiment work (which the previous student conveniently forgot to mention). These are all very useful transferable skills, and since following an experimental protocol is very much like following a recipe, it holds that scientists should make great bakers.

From personal experience this is true maybe nine times out of ten, after all what is a pipette if not a fancy piping bag? As for me, I’ve recently discovered that kitchen experiments are an awful lot more fun that lab-based ones. I think it has something to do with getting to eat the results. My most recent experiment involved attempting to recreate my favourite flavour of ice cream in cupcake form. So, may I present (in true Blue Peter fashion, as I did make it earlier) the Pralines & Cream Cupcake.

P&C Cupcake

Move over Haagen Dazs, I just cakeified your ice cream!

I think my favourite part of this particular experiment was the discovery that caramel dipped pecans are quite possibly the greatest food ever invented.  Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the cupcake was good, but I would take a bowl full of those little beauties any day.  The added danger of trying to avoid covering yourself in liquefied sugar whilst making them just adds to their appeal.  Not only are they delicious, but now they’re dangerous too!

Caramel dipped pecans

Just looking at them makes me want to go experimenting again.  OK, so it’s not quite in the same league as HIV research, and these experiments will never save lives, but they did make several tired and hungry scientists very happy, which makes it a worthwhile investment of time.

This begs the question of what to try for my next experiment?

Back to the lab!


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