Category Archives: Baking

A pie for a wet April day

News flash: I have not been having a fun time recently. Well I have: there was Easter for one thing, and a singing competition for another. But there was also one conference before Easter and another one on Wednesday (I just finished my talk: now I’m totally allowed to blog in the middle of the day – right?) and an undergraduate lab course to help run (yes, I know we’re in the middle of vacation: that doesn’t stop 47 unruly undergrads turning up and needing help holding their Gilson the right way up) and somewhere in the middle of it, I got lost. A week of doing some actual exercise (hurrah!), vaguely achieving something at work (double hurrah!) and eating well (whoop!) and I’ve been feeling a bit better.

This weekend was a very rare and special thing: it was a weekend when I had nothing to do. By my standards anyway. I mean, I still had a double gym class, church, a rehearsal and a conference talk to finish, but that’s nothing by my standards. And so I did what any sane person would do on a cold wet April day: I baked a pie.

The great and glorious squash, spinach and goats cheese pie

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Starting Grad School: Trust nobody

I received two pieces of advice early in my career as a grad student. The first came from a friend who had graduated at the same time as me (in Biochemistry, rather than Biology, which meant that she had an additional year of undergrad to her name) and had immediately started her PhD. “Ask questions. ALL THE TIME.” She told me. No matter how much of an idiot you feel like asking a question, you will feel a million times worse if you don’t ask, and then you screw up.

The other piece of advice came from a post-doc. When I started this blog I made myself one promise: that I would not talk about this post-doc. (Put it this way: stealing my data and throwing away my entire cDNA collection was the small fry). But regardless of the abysmal state of our working relationship, this post-doc bequeathed two very important things to me. Continue reading

Molecular Biology is like baking because … Part II

Over the years I seem to have acquired a reputation as a competent baker. My second set of Bristol housemates decided that I was really quite awesome in the kitchen because of my ability to – 30 minutes after someone said I really want some chocolate… (We lived a 20 minute walk over a rainy, windy, barren field from the nearest supermarket) – produce a plate of hot-from-the-oven damned-good-if-I-say-so-myself brownies. This is slightly hilarious given the clear link between lab and kitchen and my ineptitude at the bench, but is really down to one simple secret.

I’m good at baking because I have a small selection of recipes that work and I never ever deviate from them. Last weekend I tried a different brownie recipe for the first time in about 4 years (two recipes in fact). Utter disaster. Continue reading

Molecular Biology is like baking because…

If you are a sufficiently regular reader that you have ever googled me directly to get here, you will know that I am not the only baking biologist on the internet. In my haste and excitement to found my blog I neglected to realise that there is another baking biologist over on blogspot. Luckily, she mainly bakes, and I mainly biologise, so there isn’t too much cross over. Then there’s Sugar Scientist  and Domestic Diva MD and of course Dr Isis, Domestic Goddess.  It seems that baking is quite the past time for scientists in general and biologists in particular.

We have a running joke in the lab that there should be a list of questions that we ask to interview candidates before accepting them as members. It’s really a long list of things my PI dislikes about us (in a Grumpy Old Man way, rather than a genuinely-frustrated by way). The current list stipulates that new members of the lab:

– Must not have coloured hair (in the past 12 months alone mine has been purple, scarlet, royal blue and turquoise).
– Must not own cats
– Must not knit
– Must not have or use a mobile phone, especially in the lab
– Must be strongly opposed to the construction of pylons
– Must not read fiction
– Must attend the lab day out (my PI’s favourite day of the year is when none of us come in and he can have the lab completely to himself)

And the most recent addition to the list (thankfully, added after numerous successes not failures) is that new members of the lab must demonstrate their accomplishments as a baker. Because, ultimately, molecular biology and baking are very similar to one another in pretty much every respect other than scale.

Don’t believe me? Well let me explain…

Every viva celebration needs cake…

Pink cake!!

Tonight has been a busy night. One of the PhD students in my office, V, has her viva tomorrow. I will be shocked if she doesn’t pass with flying colours, but will be crossing my fingers for her anyway! V loves all thinks pink and flowery, so as Chief Cake Baker of the Genomics group I have been tasked with providing large quantities of pink cake.  Continue reading

I may be sweet and nutty… but so is my baklava!

Last night wasn’t just a night for sausage rolls and single malt. It was a night for sugary nutty goodness as well. I can’t remember whether it was actually the housemate with the Turkish grandparents who introduced me to baklava, but I like to think it was. I certainly hadn’t encountered it prior to starting my undergraduate degree. Crisp filo pastry. Tooth-achingly sweet honey. Chewy nuts….

Ahem. Pardon me while I daydream.

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A cure for heavy rain and an empty house: Whisky Sausage Rolls

Or  rather Whisky-Caramelised-Onion sausage rolls.

We moved into the new place just shy of a month ago, and it’s still a bit of a tip with unpacked boxes and stuff on every surface. I haven’t been doing much cooking, much less baking. And by the time I made it home (faffing in the lab, finishing blog posts, answering phone calls, sheltering from the rain) it was nearer to 8 than half 7. But I have the house to myself, and not much to do this evening (besides cleaning out the guinea pigs and laundry and tidying and … oh…) I wanted carbs. I wanted comfort food. I wanted to open nice whisky.

This is an adaptation of an adaptation by Helen Graves. It is not quick. It isn’t cheap. It is not fool proof. But it is worth every minute and every penny (even when I got distracted by the Olympic swimming and it all went a bit pear-shaped…)

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