Maths & Baking Part 2

I’ve been promising myself that I’d get the time to develop these ideas a bit more before blogging about them, but months have passed and we’re still as chaotic as ever at Quirky Towers so here goes.  I’ve been fascinated with the idea of communicating ideas about science, engineering and mathematics in unusual ways for a while now. Much of my inspiration for baking comes from scientific concepts, indeed I’m more likely to be found reading a book about science and/or maths than anything else.  I’m especially inspired by projects such as Helen Storey’s Primitive Streak or the Wellcome Image Awards. Here are a few of my ideas so far.

I’m a huge fan of the Venn diagram.

Venn Diagram Quiche

Making a Venn Diagram quiche is tricky, but possible.  I used the thickest foil tins I could find, and cut them up to make the basic Venn shape like this.

A Venn Diagram pizza is much easier to make…..

Bacon & Mushroom / Red Pepper

and still looks fairly recognizable once cooked…

Venn Diagram Pizza

As soon as I read about the Menger Sponge in one of my favourite books Alex’s Adventures in Numberland I knew I had to make one.  Here’s my first attempt as a work in progress.

Menger Sponge Cake


I’m determined to get better at this one.  They’re the devil’s own job to cover in sugarpaste and so I’m rethinking my approach and will have another go soon.

My first homemade Pork Pi really didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.  WID & I went to school in Melton Mowbray, so the idea of using cured meat in a pork pie really goes against the grain, but I hoped the mixture of ordinary pork and bacon would mean the shape of pi would appear once the pie was cut.  It didn’t.

Pork Pi

Like the Menger Sponge though I’m determined to have another go at this one.

I’ve got lots more ideas (biscuits of constant width) which I hope to get nailed by the time the Festival of the Spoken Nerd come to Derby later this month, so watch this space.

Emily’s Pizza

We make a lot of pizza in our house.  My favourite recipe for the dough is a very simple one from Jamie At Home (I make half a quantity for the 4 of us which is more than enough).  I always have mozzarella in the fridge and batches of my tomato sauce in the freezer.  This way we can have a quick but healthy tea in no time at all.

I’d been spending a lot of time practising my food photography with some baking I’d done, and Emily, our youngest daughter (aged 4 ) asked if she could take some pictures of her pizza.  I suggested that we write a blog about her making it, so here it is.  The following few lines are Emily’s words, some with spelling help, and some without!  

Emily’s Blog

Emily loves pizza. I love making pizza.  I love it so much and I like making it too.  It looks like snow. When I put the sweetcorn on, it looked like yellow snow.       wegtrryt ge4edgtryh d1w 1qd1er4q51qfqr ty7o0zzzz

I always make dough in my KitchenAid.  My dear husband thought I’d never use it when I bought it 2 years ago but it’s been in constant use ever since, and as I’m unable to knead dough very well by hand (due to an old injury) the KitchenAid is an absolute godsend.  The dough usually rises well in our kitchen, but my tip for those of you who are as impatient as me is to cover the bowl in clingfilm and stick it in the airing cupboard for about an hour.

While the dough is proving start preparing your pizza toppings so you can throw everything together quickly just before you put it in the oven.  We tend to be rather conservative with our toppings, but have recently discovered that Pepperdews and veg make for a great pizza.

Once the dough has risen, divide into portions (half Jamie quantity makes 4 large or 8 small sized pizzas) and roll out as thin as you can manage.  I find it’s best to use either a marble or a non-stick rolling-pin for this and DON’T flour your worktop.  As the dough is so stretchy, it helps if it slightly sticks to the worktop.  Just keep lifting and turning the dough as you roll it out and you should be fine. Jamie suggests leaving the dough to prove for a further 20 minutes or so, but we’ve used it straight the way with no problems, it just makes a thinner crust pizza that way.

Pre-heat your baking tray in as hot an oven as you dare.  Experience here demands that I remind you to make sure you check the maximum temperature your tray can be used at (oops!).

Cover the dough thinly with your tomato sauce.  Now this bit is important.  If your sauce is thick enough and you have the oven temperature high enough you’ll be OK, but runny sauce makes for a soggy pizza, so if your sauce is thinner than tomato puree stick it in a saucepan and reduce it until it is.  It’s a hassle I know but you’ll thank me for it later.  The advantage of using my tomato sauce from the freezer is that as it defrosts in the fridge, the bowl containing the bag of tomato sauce gradually collects a pool of tomatoey water which can be discarded, thickening the sauce for you.

We use a variety of toppings depending on what we fancy and what’s available.  If we want to go posh we get parma ham (Hannah’s favourite) or sometimes it’s just cheese and tomato.  You can use whatever you want, but make sure you’ve got everything chopped and to hand before you add the tomato sauce.  If the pizza is waiting too long before being cooked  you’ll get soggy pizza no matter how thick your sauce was to start with.

On this occasion, Emily chose to make “Sweetcorn Mountain” pizza.  Emily said she was making mountain shapes out of the sweetcorn and that the mozzarella was the snow on the top of the mountains.

Put in the oven, as hot as your oven and/or baking sheet will allow and bake for about 10 minutes.  Now, ovens vary so much it is impossible to give an exact timing, so the best plan is to look at it after 8 minutes or so. If it helps, mine usually go in at about 200C for 10 minutes.

Tomato Sauce – makes about 10 batches

1 head of celery

500g carrots

4 or 5 red peppers

5 onions

6 tins tomatoes

1 tube tomato puree

Worcester sauce, few drops

Chop the onions, celery, carrots and peppers up into very small dice.  I usually use the food processor for speed.  Sweat the vegetables in some olive oil in a covered pan on a low heat for about half an hour.  They should be translucent and not browned.

Add the tins of tomatoes, tomato puree and a few drops of Worcester sauce. If you’ve got any leftover red wine it can be added at this stage.  Season with salt and lots of black pepper and leave to simmer for about an hour.  If you’ve been diligent and chopped everything up very small, you coud just leave to cool and freeze in portions at this step, but as I use this sauce for everything from pasta sauce on its own to spaghetti bolognaise and pizzas I usually blitz up in the liquidiser before portioning up and freezing.  The sauce will keep for 3 months in the freezer.  I find this an excellent way of not only increasing the vegetable intake of my girls, but also using up any leftover veg that’s hiding in the fridge.