Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My year away from the bench

It has now been one year since I left the lab. In May 2012, I found a full time position as a Scientific Editor for BBA with Elsevier in Cambridge. It is an excellent job for me: I get to read other people's science all day. Plus, it has been an exciting change of pace. In the first few months, it was tough to get used to the relaxed atmosphere; suddenly, there was much less pressure to produce results. I have since adapted to the vagaries of scientific publishing. The best part of this normal schedule: I have a more balanced life again. For me, this has included reading more books, watching movies, and running more regularly. 

I have also started to develop my skills as a baker. Anyone who has tried my brownies knows that I am familiar with the power of combining eggs, butter, and flour. However, in the past few months I have started to take this to a new level. About six year ago, I stumbled upon Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen. If you are unfamiliar, they have an amazingly scientific approach to developing a recipe; essentially, they make 100 batches of chocolate chip cookies so you don't have to (by the way, their chocolate chip cookies are amazing and are worth every extra step). I started to think about my baking differently. I have been reading more about the science of cooking, specifically the chemistry of the ingredients and how changes in the ratios of the components can lead to predictable changes in the resulting product. 

I decided to work on one of my standard recipes: the oatmeal raisin cookie. In the past, I have done a little bit of experimenting with my recipes, but I have never been very methodical. For this new undertaking, I invested in two new tools: a scale and a notebook. After a few batches, I think I have a successful recipe, which has consistently (N = 3)  achieved the desired outcome: a cookie with a good combination of chewy and crunchy with a lot of molasses and oatmeal flavor. 

I suppose this means that I miss the lab more than I had anticipated. Of course, in contrast to experiments in the lab, a bad result in baking is still a good outcome: treats to enjoy!