Sometimes when I’m confronted with a menu where everything just looks so good, I choose based on what I think is the most costly item on the menu. Probably not great for the restaurant, but it makes me feel like I’m getting the most bang for my buck. In a lot of the previous recipes that I’ve looked at, such as Brownies, or Muffins something has been clear. Most of the cost of a recipe is in the toppings added to them.
Instinctively this makes sense; flour, butter, sugar, eggs are not high cost ingredients so even though they make up a large part of the recipe. They can be outweighed by a smaller amount of a higher cost ingredient like chocolate or fruit.
So for this comparison we are looking at 6 different toppings:
- shredded coconut
- unsweetened chocolate chunks
There are a few different ways that we can think about how to compare toppings. First is comparing equal weights of the ingredients, this one is nice because its easy to compare, and we don’t need to think about the various sizes of each fruit. If we compare this way it turns out that chocolate chips are the most expensive at $9.28 a pound, and apples are the cheapest at $2.43 a pound.
Comparing ingredients by equal weight works well, but doesn’t tell you the whole picture. Most recipes use either whole fruit or volume measurements, because we are in the US. So here is the prices of 1 cup of each ingredient. Now unfortunately it depends a lot on how the ingredient is used in the recipe, I tried to use whole fruit when possible. To show the difference a cup of banana chunks is around 200 grams, but a cup of mashed bananas is 300 grams, which is 33% more! And the same is true about all the different ingredients.
So looking at both the weight and the volume prices it is quite obvious that chocolate is in a league of its own, at the most expensive in either measurement. Using chocolate chips will be a little cheaper, but in general chocolate is very expensive compared to fruit. Apples are the cheapest fruit, as anyone who has ever had to buy fruit for children’s snacks knows, apples are great snacks. I thought the shredded coconut was really interesting, I’m pretty surprised how much the cost changed by volume and weight. I guess it’s because all the water is gone, it is actually pretty dense.
You see these kind of thought processes all the time in industrial cooking. For example have you ever looked at the fruits used to make juices or fruit snacks? Often times juice is made with apples, and now we can easily see why! Apples are one of the cheapest fruits that you can use, so they use it to give the sugar that the juices need, and then add the other fruit to flavor it to where the company wants. So why should big companies be the only ones who care about that, when baking our recipes we should try to think about how much of the expensive ingredients we need, and when we can use a cheaper one to get us the price that we want.