Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Recipe Development and Logo

Monday, our "day off." Our shop is not open, but inevitably one or both of us ends up going in to do something that can't wait. Last Monday it was getting an internet order out. Truth be told, it never feels like a day off and we never feel like we get a break from it all. The potential for burn-out is always in the back of our minds. But we're not there yet, so we, as Dori from Finding Nemo says, "just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

In the early days, after we had chosen a company name, the next things we worked on were recipe development, and a logo. We had decided that we would start this company at a farmers' market, which meant that we had almost a year to do all the planning we needed to do before the next season would begin. I'm glad we did it that way. We had plenty of time to work on everything.

I've baked cookies since I was about ten, but it was not until embarking on this adventure that I really learned how. I used to make cookies without ever measuring the ingredient
s. I would approximate everything. Although the cookies always tasted delicious, they were never consistent in texture. Sometimes they were high and cakey, other times they were flatish and chewy. Not only did I have no idea why, I had no inclination to even wonder why until I set out to develop a consistent cookie recipe. It wasn't until I was several batches into testing that I realized that I was all over the map and there was no hope of getting a consistent product until I nailed down a real recipe.

The first thing I did was start from where I was, which was to make a batch of cookies using m
y guesstimate technique, but I weighed each ingredient after I approximated how much I needed so that I could figure out where to go from there. Weighing ingredients to the gram was the best way to be precise.

The next thing I did was to do a little research into ingredients and what they were meant to accomplish. What did the fats do and how did different fats effect an outcome? What could we do to assure a soft and chewy cookie? Once I had a sense of how a recipe was put together conceptually, I started to tweak the one I had started with, making a batch, checking for taste, color, consistency and appearance, and if there was a feature I felt was not quite right, trying different combinations of the ingredients to make it better. I kept a notebook with all the test recipes I attempted with notes about the result. Paul weighed in with his opinion on each
batch as well. His finely trained pallet helped discern what was needed next. Eventually, we arrived at our first final recipe - for First Love, chocolate chip. It was our first LOVE recipe and isn't it everyone's first love when it comes to a cookie?

Developing the other recipes got easier after we had our first one figured out -- although certain flavors were so vastly different, like peanut butter, a lot more experimentation was inevitable. Paul took on peanut butter chocolate chip because he was a real fan of the flavor whereas I'm not a peanut butter person. Triple chocolate chip was especially tricky because different kinds of cocoa powder drastically changed the taste and texture of the cookie. We had bags of different kinds of cocoa powder with different fat content all over the kitchen, we made test batches with each of them, then we did blind taste tests to see which one we preferre
d.

When it came time to come up with a logo, we considered several options, from creating one ourselves to really save money, to using an inexpensive online service, to hiring design professionals. In the end we opted for the latter, and we now feel that it was one of the best decisions we ever made. To this day we get tons of positive comments on the design of our logo and the overall look of our graphic elements, and for all of that we have Gotham City Graphics in Burlington, VT to thank. We cannot say enough about working with Steph and Amey, except we truly believe that we owe a great deal of the customer response to our products to their vision. We also cannot possibly repay the kindnesses they have shown us in extending us credit when we really needed it.

Potatoes are boiling over on the stove, the kids are throwing couch pillows at each other, and it's time to join my life once again.


5 comments:

  1. thank you for the post...i get so excited when I see that you've writen something new!

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  2. It's exciting and fun to come up with new recipes. Just roll with it. :)

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  3. Hi,

    I own two specialty food companies in Richmond, Vermont: Eddie's Energy Bars and Green Mountain Mustard. I also keep checking back on the site to see if something is new there and I found that you started a blog. Just like yourself, I too chronicle what is going on and have a long word document with my story as well.

    Take care--hope to connect in person soon!

    Michael Adams
    Eddie's Energy Bars
    www.EddiesEnergy.com

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  4. Hi Michael! I was not aware of your company and just checked out your website. I'm so impressed and feel ever so humbled by how much you have accomplished at such a young age. Amazing. Thanks so much for the comment!

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  5. Yes, consistency would make your product stick better in your customers' minds. Let's say I sell chewy cookies. I definitely have to make sure that the next batches I bake would still be chewy cookies. That's a nice way of promoting your business: making your products stick in the minds of customers.

    Another way of advertising, if you really want your business to pick up, is to advertise it online. Make a website that would show your menu and stuff. Come up with a good contractor marketing strategy, so that the website will definitely serve its purpose of spreading word about your business.

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