The Polarized Postdoc

The quest for the perfect muffin, part I: Screening

with one comment

Yes, lucky reader, you have heard well, there is not only another muffin post, but also a third one on the way. The truth is, of late my polarized life has been skewing dangerously towards the stay-at-home-and-bake side, neglecting the rave-around-the-city part I was so fond (and proud, given my years) of.

But I am convinced it´s not all the unstoppable decay of age, it´s also this intoxicating, dumbing suburbia I dwell in that is turning me into a domestic goddess. Nothing wrong with being one, as long as it is a personal choice and not the only choice.

Long Island can pass for a decent summer getaway, with nice beaches, the best of the city life in bloom close by, and interesting characters on display around its towns and villages. But it demands a good deal of imagination, or other chemical methods, to survive the dire boredom of the winter months. During the snow season, the hipster-clubber in me peacefully hibernates. Tried waiting for the train in the cold wee hours of January nights, scantily clad. It wasn´t my thing, my mediterranean genes concurred.

So I have developed a winter version of myself, that wears Uggs and cute aprons, and throws dinner parties. I am not yet into board games, but I feel them coming close. For entertainment, not happy with all the mixing and matching routinely performed at lab, winter me usually cooks and bake her way through the cold. Thankfully, there are plenty of other bored, cold, hungry scientists around on whom to bestow some baked goods (see sample in Figure 1). Otherwise, I would be rolling around like a barrel come March.

tried and true

Figure 1: The muffin musketeers

This last winter, we embarked in a very ambitious and potentially relevant culinary project, The Quest For The Perfect Muffin. Our initial approach was a high-throughput one, much in the vein of current biomedical research. We decided to adapt and test in the same experimental conditions selected muffin recipes previously reported in the literature (refs 1, 2, 3, and others). These are the muffin varieties we tested:

-B&W muffins (cream cheese and chocolate)

-Power Banana muffins (mocha-chocolate-nut streusel)

-Naughty Pumpkin muffins

-Blue on Blue (blue corn-blueberry)

-Peanut Butter and Jelly muffins

-White Chocolate Macadamia Muffins

-Triple Ch muffins (cherry, chile, chocolate)

-Ying/Yang muffins (banana-nutella surprise/nutella-banana surprise)

We tried to cover with these the most common muffin ingredients, and add on some offbeat ones, and survey most of the possible deliciousness sources.

Figure 2 illustrates a typical work-in progress experiment:

now, for the fun part of the experiment

now, for the fun part

The results? As expected, most muffin types studied caused grunting, smiling, and a hefty sugar rush response in the voluntary tasters. We observed that the banana-based muffins were consumed significantly faster (p<0.005) than the other types. Moreover, the presence of chocolate acted as a potent stimulant and gave muffin testers a second wind that was much appreciated. This response was observed to a certain extend also in people that consumed PB&J muffins, but nevertheless those were deemed “too intense”, suggesting that there is a feedback loop for muffin-driven activation. Thus, our preliminary data show that the perfect muffin must harmonize, but not mix banana, nuts and chocolate.

Taking this into account, we refined the next phase of our quest by undertaking a “candidate approach”. We sought to combine the components highlighted in our screen in the right amounts to deliver the best possible muffin experience. Were we able to create the perfect muffin? Is it reproducible? Do we have the right controls? Find out more in the next and final chapter of the perfect muffin quest.

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Written by polarizedpostdoc

July 27, 2009 at 18:51

Posted in personal

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. The PBandJ were not too intense, they were perfect too!
    I was looking for the muffins recipe you gave me in my computer using the spotlight function. The first hit was some scientific writing you sent me a while ago, I doubled checked and the word muffin was not in it. It’s uncanny…my computer associates your name with muffin directly now??? anyway I found the recipes! I’m drooling just looking at the pictures of them, I have to make some!!! thank u 🙂

    anne

    July 29, 2009 at 06:37


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