Recipe - Light Lemon Puffs

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These things look great, melt in the mouth, taste divine and fill the house with a lovely lemony scent while they bake.


  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 4 fl. oz./120 ml buttermilk (or 2 fl. oz./60ml milk mixed with 2 fl. oz./60ml of vinegar)
  • 2½ oz/65g of baking soda
  • the seeds of one vanilla pod: slice the pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the flat of the knife - this is expensive though so a teaspoon of vanilla essence can be substituted
  • 8 fl oz/250ml of lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
  • 10 oz/250g sugar
  • 1/2 lb/200 g plain flour
  • 4 oz/100g butter or margarine, melted

To Make About 18 Pouffes

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, Gas Mark 4.

  1. In a small bowl, beat the egg until it's foamy
  2. Add the buttermilk and the vanilla and blend well
  3. Add the baking soda one teaspoonful at a time, carefully sprinkling it in and beating gently until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of light cream.
  4. Add the lemon juice all at once and blend in. Stir, do not beat. It needs to be creamy but without a lot of air.
  5. The mixture will gradually congeal into a single mass. Sprinkle some flour on a worktop and scoop the mixture out onto it with a spatula. Spread it slightly using a rolling pin.
  6. Sift the flour and 6 oz of the sugar together and use the fingertips to work it into the lemon/egg mixture
  7. With a floured rolling pin, roll the mixture out flat and cut it into whatever shapes you like (I use a small knife to do triangles about as big as my thumb because they interlock nicely, but you can use any cutter)
  8. Sprinkle on the sugar and brush each shape with melted butter.
  9. Place an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until golden.


Do not under any circumstances attempt to follow this recipe yourself. All you will make is a mess. Note the large quantity of baking soda, plus the large quantity of lemon juice. Baking soda is, to give its proper name, sodium bicarbonate. Lemon juice is, of course, primarily citric acid. If you follow this recipe as far as stage 4, the reaction between these two substances releases a little heat, and a LOT of carbon dioxide, which makes the mixture you've got foam up, out of your small bowl and all over your worktop.

Don't worry, though - although messy, it's perfectly harmless. It is, however, an excellent demonstration of two things: that cooking really is practical chemistry, and that you should never, never take things at face value. The practical chemistry in question is summed up by the following stoichiometric equation:

3 NaHCO3 + C6H8O7 = CH2(COO-Na+)COH(COO-Na+)CH2(COO-Na+) + 3H20 + 3CO2

The suggested use for this recipe is as follows: print it out, complete with all the lovely h2g2 and BBC headings, but CUT OFF this explanatory/warning bit. Give it to someone you don't like1 (perhaps someone who thinks themselves a bit of a whiz in the kitchen, but you happen to know just follows recipes blindly...) and rave about how lovely these things are. Feign bafflement if they mention a mess. Or possibly direct them to a chemistry textbook...

1Or someone you DO like but whom you know has a sense of humour...

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