A few weeks ago, I volunteered to be a judge at the citywide science fair for Boston Public Schools.  And boy, was it terrific!  Despite the fact that I had to wake up at an ungodly hour to get my ass there by 8 AM on a Saturday morning, I had the most wonderful time speaking to some very intelligent and creative kids.  

I was pretty impressed with the caliber of some of the projects, considering they’re middle and high school students. Here are some of the funnier project titles that caught my eye:

“The study of cakes with different amount of egg yolks”

“What is the effect of white paste on teeth?”

“What is the effect of nail length on writing and texting speed”—I can imagine the results of this study would be of interest for middle school girls everywhere

“How does temperature affect how long nail polish lasts”

“How to make what girls love”— haha, at first I misread this and thought they were saying “How to make love to girls,” which I would argue is an equally important skill. 

“Butt-tronics”—I can’t believe I missed this.

“Is global warming caused by nature or by humans?”—Glad to know the conclusion was humans. 

The last project I judged was done by a girl who looked at the durability of different prophylactics.  And by that, I mean condoms.  The design was actually quite simple.  She took condoms from three different brands, strapped them to a faucet and measured how much water each one can hold before it started to leak.  If I remember correctly, they held about 3-4 gallons.  However, not a perfect assay for durability because—if I may be crude—how many guys do you know secrete 4 gallons of sperm in one go? 

What really impressed me about this project is that she had the balls to do it.  When most people her age (heck, most people at any age) would probably be squeamish about the topic, she actually approached the project with amazing maturity and intelligence.  I’m really proud that despite the negative reactions she received from abstinence nuts, she was really positive and unafraid to point out that teenage pregnancy is a problem in her community.  I gave her a lot of points.  Not because of the feminist in me (duh, what kind of biased judge do you think I am?), but for the well thought out conclusions she drew from her observations.  And an extra point for balls

I really wish that my high school had sponsored a science fair program.  I can’t think of a better way to inspire kids to do science than actually have them investigate a question that is important to them.  And it’s just so encouraging for someone like me, who’s trying to pursue a career in science, to see the next generation get excited about science.  After working in a lab for awhile, it’s hard to see past the daily grind of duties that comprise mostly of troubleshooting experiments and getting ambiguous results.  You forget the possibilities that science can do and the amazing things that science has already done.  We forget that at the end of the day, we want to be like these kids who are so damn proud as they stand to present their projects, which they can call their own. 

Anyways, enough fluff.  For this week’s baking escapade, I decided to use yeast because I was inspired by the science projects that tested the efficiency of yeast metabolism with different sugar substitutes, like Splenda. And since I finally bought myself a rolling pin (briefly posing with it in front of the mirror), I was ready to tackle this recipe that I’ve been eyeing for a long time. Buhtle- or Jam Filled Butter Balls.  

Boy, was I excited.  I emptied the packet of active yeast into a warm bowl of sugar water and just waited for it to foam.  Yeast!  It’s alive!  Wonderful alcoholic scent of fermentation!  If I had more time and money, I would’ve tried to do three batches of these buns, using a different type of sugar for each one to see how much they would rise. 

Everything was perfect up until the part where I had to wrap the squares into balls with the jam in the middle.  It was more difficult than I thought.  I should’ve rolled the dough out flatter because I had trouble pressing the edges together.  It didn’t help that I was slow too, giving the dough more time to rise and thicken. 

They look like chinese pork buns.  Kind of a shoddy wrapping job.  I was afraid some of them might burst open while baking and leak all the marmalade out.  Which is exactly what happened to this demented one. 

Next, the recipe said to put the buns in the oven at 180 degrees for half an hour. Hm, 180 degrees?  Does anything ever bake at 180 degrees?  This seems strangely odd, but who was I to question?  So I faithfully placed the buns in the oven and checked on them 10 minutes later.  To my dismay, all they did was inflate a little bit more without getting cooked. It was also when The Demented One burst. That’s when I figured out that the recipe meant 180 degrees CELSIUS.  Damn European metrics!  180 degrees celsius = 350 degrees fahrenheit.  

I wonder what the buns would look like if I left them at 180 degrees for half an hour.  Size of watermelons?  At 180 degrees, I bet the yeast had a field day.  I wonder what it feels like to be surrounded by a sugary casing in tropical weather.  I’d probably procreate like mad. 

In the end, they turned out alright.  They look nothing like the picture from the website I got the recipe from.  Don’t look!  It makes me ashamed of mine!  I’m determined to make these again and they will be pretty next time.  Even though they weren’t as fluffy and light as I imagined they would be. 

Since I had leftover egg whites, I used them up for coconut macaroons.

These were also not light and fluffy.  But I love coconut, so I ate them up. 

Not a fan of macaroons, but maybe just this recipe. 

Thanks for reading this far.