Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | November 21, 2008

Pastry Proposal

Dear NinjaBaker,

I have a proposal for you:

Hypothesis: I can tell the difference between pastry made with butter vs. shortening, specifically butter-flavored, but you cannot.

Background: Pastry has several attributes, among them taste and texture. It seems intuitive that taste is a function primarily of ingredients, whereas texture is a function both of ingredients and technique. Technique, while not difficult, is directly related to experience making pastry. Therefore to explore the above hypothesis, I propose that we perform an experiment while you are home for the Thanksgiving holiday (either during your weekend “hang-out” time allotted here, or elsewhen.)

Experimental design: Each of us will prepare two batches of pastry (utilizing the same recipe, of course), one using butter (unsalted; pre-softened at room temperature) and one using butter-flavored commercially available shortening. Each pastry batch will then be rolled into an oblong, spread with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, rolled up and sliced into slabs of a pre-determined, agreed-upon thickness, and baked in an appropriately pre-heated oven for an adequate period of time.

This 2 x 2 matrix design allows us to control for both the variables of ingredient and technique. Comparative, paired taste tests both of dough aliquots and finished cinnamon swirls will seek outcome measures not of “which is better” but “are they different,” yielding binary yes-no results, as opposed to having to devise a quantitative scale of how good they are.

Blinding: Each batch will be labeled with a letter (me/butter: A, you/butter: B, me/Crisco: C, you/Crisco: D.) We will then generate a numbered list of paired samples to be provided for us blindly and in a random order by either Darling Spouse or one of your siblings. I recommend using milk (white) as a palate cleanser between samples, although further preliminary research could be conducted comparing chocolate milk, hot chocolate, water and orange juice for this purpose.

IRB review: This study has not been presented to this institution’s ethics committee regarding research involving humans, because this institution (“Home”) does not have one. However, I did ask the cats, and they couldn’t care less.

Analysis of Data: to be determined

If nothing else, we’ll wind up with a shitload of cinnamon swirls.

What say you?


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