Christmas is a wonderful time of year where we all get to be around family and loved ones (not necessarily the same groups) and celebrate whatever it is that we feel like celebrating.
Of course, as researchers and people of science we wouldn’t let something like an international holiday get in the way of deadlines and the scorn of our supervisors. Which is why so many researchers find themselves in the lab practically every hour of the festive break.
But being in the lab shouldn’t hold you back from enjoying some of the more traditional elements of Christmas. And to help we at ErrantScience have spent some considerable time (about 2 mins) thinking up ways to bring a little bit of Christmas into the lab.
So for all the researchers stuck to their lab bench this festive period here’s a handy recipe for making some traditional Christmas pudding… in the lab.
Now while we have tried to come up with a recipe that sticks to things you can readily find in most labs however, there are some items you’ll probably need to buy. As most health and safety officers tend to not look kindly on researchers bringing shopping bags into the lab we have sourced all the ingredients from lab supply companies. Simply add these items to you next order and you’ll have everything you need and it will be within the COSHH system.
- Sugar (Sucrose, for molecular biology, ≥99.5% (GC), sigma)
- Egg (Egg powder, Simga)
- Flour (Whole wheat flour, powder, VWR)
- Baking powder (Bicarb and L(+)-Potassium hydrogen tartrate ≥98%, VWR)
- Fat (Beef tallow, WHC Inc)
- Cinnamon (Cinnamon oil, Sigma)
- Dried fruit (Fruit and Nut Foraging Mix, Certified, Bio-Serv, VWR)
- Milk (Thermo Scientific™ Oxoid™ Skim Milk Powder, Fisher)
- Distilled water
Step one is to make your ingredients into usable ingredients. The milk and the eggs will need rehydrating with distilled water into their respective pastes. While you’re at it you can also making your baking powered which is 2:1 bicarb to potassium hydrogen tartrate pre mixing it does help with the spongey consistency of the cake.
The next step is that you need to mix everything together. Most labs don’t have handy mixing bowls so you might need to get creative. Suggested bowl like containers you might have are poly styrene packing boxes (surpsingly water proof), the lab sink or at a push the backpack of the youngest researcher.
How much of all the ingredients is kind of up to you and how much cake you want to make. Christmas pudding is very resistant to messing it up. A general rule of thumb is that you need around about 8g of baking powered per 100g of flour, equal amounts of flour to sugar to milk, half as much egg as milk, about twice more fruits than flour, as much fat as you have egg and around 150% as much cinnamon as baking powder. Which I think is perfectly clear.
Once mixed you then need something to cook your pudding in. For this you’ll need to create a water bath. For most people this should be easy as water baths are one of the most common set ups in any lab. All you need is a hot plate, a large container of water and then a smaller container to put in the water in which we’ll cook the pudding. Personally I find a 250 ml pyrex beaker is great for the pudding and then a 1L beaker works well as a water bath.
You’ll need to then cook the pudding in the water bath with the water boiling for somewhere between 1 and 10 hours depending on how big you made it. You want the core of the pudding to be around 72 degrees C. You can measure it with a handy thermocouple if you want to check it’s progress.
Once cooked remove from the water bath and allow the pudding to cool for a few minutes before gently levering it out with a spatula onto to a lab notebook. While still hot you can optimally pour on some reagent grade Ethanol and set it on fire for that extra festive moment. Sadly ethanol flames are colourless so this is mostly just for the spirit of Christmas rather than the look. You can use alternative solvents but try to stick to ones that won’t install kill you with their fumes.
Once you’ve finished being all christmassy then select cleanest spatula (wipe on your lab coat if needed) you can find, take a big scoop of your delicious looking pudding and then finally, on no account eat if. Not even the smallest bit, it’s 100% going to kill you.
Happy Christmas 🙂