Monday, 10 December 2012


zing: a lively and pleasant quality, taste, or feeling

The world is a mad, mad place. I can say this for certain as I can feel the zing in the air when chaos rules and all we can do is smile and wait for the cocoa that follows. We can delude ourselves as to patterns in the madness but only some of them are true. As a mathematician it's often supposed to be my job to work out which are the true ones and write the formulae that fit them best. That's maths.

In my subtitle it says, at the moment: 'The Quirky Muffin: The mental meanderings of a maths researcher with far too little to do, and a penchant for baking'. I have never said a thing about baking in this blog! Here in the deepest meanderings of Black Month I must confess that I bake a lot, although not as much as when I was in Hungary. In the last few weeks I have committed some acts of bakery both successful and not. I shall confess only at this time to the chocolate cake with melted chocolate topping that excelled and the carrot cake that really failed on many many levels. Apple tarts and rhubarb tarts are amongst the best things I can make, and the best recipes can be pinched from public domain books on Project Gutenberg. For example, in Mrs Beaton we find an excellent mix for sweet short crust pastry:


1211. INGREDIENTS.--To every lb. of flour allow 8 oz. of butter, the
yolks of 2 eggs, 2 oz. of sifted sugar, about 1/4 pint of milk.

_Mode_.--Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar, and mix the whole
as lightly as possible to a smooth paste, with the yolks of eggs well
beaten, and the milk. The proportion of the latter ingredient must be
judged of by the size of the eggs: if these are large, so much will not
be required, and more if the eggs are smaller.

_Average cost_, 1s. per lb."

while in 'Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking' there's a rather too sweet apple crumble pie:


6 tart apples
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
pastry for 9" shell

Pare apples and cut into thick slices. Mix half the sugar with the
cinnamon and sprinkle over apples. Put into unbaked pastry shell. Blend
the flour, the remaining sugar and the butter and work into small
crumbs, with your fingers. Sprinkle the crumbs over the apples. Bake in
hot oven (425-f) for 10 minutes then reduce to moderate (350-f) and bake
for 35 minutes more. Serve with cheese."

If you combine the pastry and eliminate the crumble you come out with a rather excellent apple tart. Or substitute the apple for rhubarb, or add berries. Trust me, I'm a doctor. There may be more baking in the future so please take notes.

Shifting topic, 'Fish Story' has reminded me of how sometimes movies can be good. Can you believe that movies can sometimes be good? It was based on a Japanese novel apparently, which probably has never been translated. I may have to go back to learning Japanese. Also, on rare circumstances I've finished a book that I was less than interested in: 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' by Kate Summerscale. I finish lots of books but often times the less than interesting ones become blocks in the book pile and nothing happens for weeks. This book did that for a few days but knuckling down occurred. I may write more but in essence it's a good historical overview of a landmark detective case which illustrates how detective fiction developed as an art form around it. It ends in a very humdrum manner though, descending into biography. Ho hum. The last book that I stumbled on was Carl Sagan's 'Contact' which left me cold for a stretch in the third quarter and really had to be relearned. Maybe it had no zing.



  1. Interesting thoughts and nice recipes - I have just accomplished the famous Granny's Apple \pi.

    Why do not you find the Sagan's book appealing? Have you seen the associated movie? I.

  2. Yes, I did read it. I reviewed it somewhat eccentrically on here in fact!

    I found it rather dull in the midsection and lost interest in a spasm.