Friday, 22 May 2015

The mathematical value of Pieday

Ok, everyone knows how to do maths with pie.
Cut the value of Pi into the top before you bake it, make an open-topped pie chart with different fillings, measure the diameter, circumference, radius and depth: pie-based maths is fairly intuitive really.

Today, however is not about maths with pie pie, or even maths with Pi-pie.
In fact, it wasn't originally going to be about any kind of mathematical pie.
It was going to be about an ancient Roman cake-pie thing called placenta* which we were going to make for the Roman feast we had intended to make tonight, however a change of plans and an untimely stomach bug** later, here we are.

This isn't a recipe, I won't be listing ingredients or going into the method, or anything like that.
This is just a rough approximation of how, and why we make mathematical muffins***.

Start by convincing yourself that muffins count as pie****.
This may seem an unnecessary step but, just like salting and draining aubergines or adding that pinch of turmeric to a curry, it will have a huge, if unnoticed impact on the final result.
Remember that pie is a filling surrounded by some sort of crust.
Note that the glossy top of a muffin is somewhat crust-like and that, while a muffin may not be glossy and crusty all over it is still made from the same muffin mix and therefore, spiritually, all crust.
You have only to add a filling to achieve pie.

Concede that, while filled muffins are an oozy nuisance*****, if you want to call this Pieday then filled muffins you must make.

Get out the emergency box of muffin mix.
Assuming your mix is blueberry, go and get the jar of blueberry conserve from the cupboard.
Make up the muffin mix.
Add a little lemon zest****** because it's there, and because lemon and blueberry go so well together.
Consider swapping the blueberry conserve for lemon curd.
Determine that no, these are blueberry-pie muffins, so blueberry it must be.

Feel a moment's sympathy for the writers of those so-called recipes which list cake-mixture and packaged icing on their ingredients.
Quash this ruthlessly.

Note that at least the blueberries in the package are tinned and not dried because otherwise these would be dried-blueberry muffins not blueberry muffins: it's not as though you call scones******* with raisins in grape scones.
Not that that matters here.
Because these are pies.

Sort out the oven, muffin pie cases and so on.

Now spoon half the muffin mixture into the cases.
Add a teaspoon of the fancy jam in the middle of each splodge of mixture.
Top with the rest of the muffin mix.

Put the pies into the oven, set the timer and have a cup of tea.
Get distracted contemplating apple-pie muffins made with a really good plain muffin mixture with lots of melted butter, and a proper, non-gloopy, apple-pie filling with two kinds of apple, and a crumbly topping made of soft brown sugar and cinnamon*******.
Ok, so not all filled muffins are an abomination

Once the muffins are done take them out, let them cool a little and get on with the maths.

The thing about mathematical muffins is that it's not how they're made********* that makes them mathematical, it's what you do with them.
So count them.
Do addition and subtraction, cut them into halves, quarters and thirds, talk about the number of cuts needed for each and how many times you would need to cut them for each.
Talk about why that isn't the same.
Do most of the things you could do with a normal pie.
Measure them.
Figure out the height of an average muffin, then work out the height of six average muffins balanced on top of one another.
Balance them, giggling madly, and measure them to see if it's the same.
See how many times you can cut a muffin into equal-sized pieces before it crumbles.
Eat them.
Time yourselves cleaning up.

Make some more so you can check your results.

There, now that's out of the way we can get on with the blog.

**Apparently contracted by text.
I suppose it's a natural evolution of the computer virus.

***Which are still American Muffins, but also still get away with murder due to the awesome power of alliteration.

****Because this is Pieday.

*****And, frankly, just rather disappointing cupcakes.
Which are themselves just overblown fairy cakes.

******But not juice, as this would throw off the acidity of the mixture and mess with the raising agents.
Resolve to experiment with lemon muffins another day.

*******And I hope you mentally pronounced that correctly.

********Because cheese on a sweet muffin would be a thousand kinds of wrong.

*********Although obviously weights and measures are all sorts of fun.

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