I have the most amazing life hack for you guys!
Have you ever tried being on a hike and trying to stuff a handful of trail mix into your mouth, hands dirty and all, while dropping way too much of the precious nibbles along the way? Or have you tried letting the kids eat snacks in the car and then found half of it scattered all over the back seat afterwards?
I have the perfect solution! Welcome: edible plastic pouches containing trail mix (or whatever else you like)! They are perfectly pocket-sized and spill-free.
Gone are the days when edible plastic was only a fun and tasteless decorating addition on fancy cakes. Now, this science hack can actually be used for something useful.
The idea behind this edible plastic is actually quite simple. First, we gel water using agar or gelatine, and then, this gel is dehydrated to create an edible, plastic-like sheet that can be used for a variety of purposes.
Sounds good? If you don't care about the nerdy science behind this, go straight to the next step. Otherwise, keep reading.
Agar and gelatine can both be used to solidify a liquid, but they are structurally quite different. Agar is a carbohydrate, and gelatin is a protein. While gelatin is derived from animal collagen, agar comes from algae and is thus plant based (and vegan). Agar melts around 85 degrees C (185 F) whereas gelatin melts at 35 degrees C (95 F), making it less stable. This also means that gelatin will melt in your mouth while agar will not.
Step 1: Ingredients
To make enough plastic for a baking sheet (about 6 pouches -- the plastic shrinks as it dries), you will need
- 1 tsp. agar powder
- 2 dl. water
I chose to fill the plastic pockets with trail mix, but you could potentially use anything, like spice blends, tea, etc. (just throw the bag into the pot of hot soup or tea water, and it will melt!)
NOTE: For a recipe using gelatine instead of agar, click here .
Step 2: Boil
Mix the water and agar in a pot, bring it to a boil, and let it boil for 30 seconds. Take the pot off the heat, and let the bubbles escape. Skim off any foam from the top.
Let the liquid cool till it stops steaming. This will make it easier to coat the parchment paper evenly. Pour the liquid onto a baking sheet with parchment paper and quickly tilt it to distribute the liquid in an even, thin layer.
Set the baking sheet aside, and let the plastic dry for at least 24 hours or more.
NOTE: I have tried both pouring the plastic onto aluminum foil and directly onto a plate, and neither worked as the plastic stuck. Parchment paper is the way to go.
Step 3: Cut
When the plastic is completely dry, it should peel off easily. Carefully remove it from the parchment paper. Trim the edges, and cut the plastic into appropriately sized squares.
Step 4: Fill
Put your desired filling (I used trail mix) onto one half of a piece of plastic, and check to see that the other half can be folded over to close the pocket.
Brush some water around the edges of one half of the plastic, and fold over the other half, pressing on the edges to adhere. If the edges do not adhere very well, try folding the edges to secure the filling better.
Let the seams dry for half an hour before packing and enjoying the little pouches.
Step 5: Verdict
Taste: I think these trail mix pouches actually taste quite good, even though they challenge the sensory experience of eating trail mix a bit. The first impression is that you are stuffing, well, plastic in your mouth, and the plastic can have a very slight salty flavor from the agar, but as soon as you start chewing, the plastic disappears, and you get all the goodness from the trail mix. If you really think about it, the edible plastic adds a slight, chewy gummy-bear texture in the background, but it goes perfectly with the dried fruit.
Durability: The plastic holds up pretty well to scrunching, even though it may rip in areas that are very thin. However, the seams are a bit fragile and can easily open so that trail mix falls out. Also, the plastic is sensitive to humidity. So I probably wouldn't stuff these goodie bags in the kids' pockets if I knew they were going to play in the rain or stick their hands in the pocket a thousand times to feel if the treat is still there (even though I think I might actually slip one of these in my own pocket, hmmm, but for the kids, maybe put it as a surprise in the sack lunch for school). I think the best way to store and carry these plastic pockets with trail mix would be in a real food-grade plastic bag or container.
I hope you liked this instructable! If you did, please vote for me in the Science of Cooking contest and Pocket-Sized contest. Thank you! Also, if you try this out, please share the result and any modifications in the comments!