This Week in The Lab: Finally!
Why I Had To Make The Same Recipe 32 Times Before I Got It Right
When I was making plant-based snacks for my family and friends it was pretty easy. I made tasty snacks, they ate them, and they came back for more. So when I set out to commercialize my recipes I never thought about what it might take in order to get my ready-to-eat recipes, often made in small batches, to the point where I could ship direct to consumers, in large quantities. I can now tell you, it took 32 tries on average, per recipe. That’s a lot of ingredients and a shit load of kitchen time.
First, I had to actually document my recipes. It took months until I did this correctly. I started out using volume measurements instead of weight measurements, which I later found out, is not really operationally scalable. One person’s cup is 200 grams, another person’s is 220 grams.
I also never really documented, until recently, the exact order the ingredients got added since I didn’t full realize how that could make a difference in the outcome. It wasn’t until at least my 20th try that I truly started to understand how detailed I needed to get in documenting the process.
"First, I had to actually document my recipes."
Secondly, after you figure out the recipe for, say 25 pieces, you can’t just multiply the recipe four times to get 100. I probably realized this somewhere around my 25th attempt, because that was when I started trying to make bigger quantities. If the recipe for 25 pieces called for 1 teaspoon of cardamom it turns out that a recipe for 100 will not need 4 teaspoons. You just can’t figure this out until you scale and test, scale and test.
I also learned about fat and sugar blooms. This does not refer to pretty flowers opening up. When chocolate or foods high in fat are left out for a few days, or in my backpack, or unwrapped and exposed to air, the fat and sugar crystals bloom and limit the shelf life of many foods. Chocolate or other ingredients that have “bloomed” are still safe to eat, but it’s not an appetizing appearance.
"Scale and test, scale and test."
Lastly, there is taste. How much matcha paired with how much vanilla bean, when combined with how much cashew butter tastes the best? Wait, forget taste, how do these ingredients pair up in regard to texture? Does it stick to the roof of my mouth, is it too dry to even swallow? And speaking of texture, did I lose half of it on the floor because it crumbled before I even got it in my mouth. Taste, texture, and how it’s handled on its way to my mouth and the mouths of my friends and family was what sent me back to the lab many, many times.
Here’s what I’m getting at, trial (and error) is EVERYTHING in this business. Really, it’s everything in any business and in life. It’s never going to work the first time. You have to go through the process of experimenting and tasting and waiting in order to get it right, and, I think, feel a true sense of accomplishment. Eventually you will get trial and success! It just takes time.
"Taste, texture, and how it’s handled on its way to my mouth and the mouths of my friends and family was what sent me back to the lab many, many times."
My mission is to get people from one meal to the next with highly nutritious and ridiculously tasty plant-based snacks. The vegan labs snack box will start shipping in June. There’s a few dozen spots left for the initial roll out. If you are interested you can get your name on the list.