By: Beth Ann Luedeker
Contact: Dr. Joseph Awika firstname.lastname@example.org 979-845-2985
Shreeya Ravisankar and Tadesse Teferra, both doctoral students under Dr. Joseph Awika, and with Celeste Totten, an undergraduate in food science, have been working for many months to create a new breakfast muffin. Last month their efforts were rewarded.
At the American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACCI) annual meeting in San Diego, the trio claimed first place in the product development competition with their PulCe Muffins.
According to the students, PulCe muffins are a gluten-free, whole grain mix made from a blend of different ancient grains (sorghum, amaranth and teff) and pulces (garbanzo beans and lentils).
“The busy lifestyles of consumers is making many skip breakfast and they are looking for more convenient products,” said Ravisankar. “According to research data, the sale of muffins is projected to increase rapidly in the next ten years, so we set out to develop PulCe muffins, which derives its name from the ingredients – Pul from pulses and Ce from cereals.”
With many consumers considering gluten-free products to be healthier choices, the students wanted to create a quick, ready-to-bake, gluten-free muffin mix offering several nutritional benefits.
“The muffins are a complete source of proteins, as pulses are rich in lysine and cereals are rich in methionine, offering three to five times the protein of other muffins,” Taferra said. “In addition the blend makes the muffins rich in vitamins and several minerals, including calcium, iron and manganese.”
Whole grain cereals and pulses, in combination, are sources of beneficial polyphenolic compounds which have been shown to have synergistic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential in recent in vitro studies, the students said.
The students faced several challenges as they developed their muffins.
First it was the “beany” flavor of the pulse flour, which they overcame by microwaving the whole beans and lentils briefly prior to grinding them into flour.
Texture was another challenge.
“The gluten in a wheat based muffin provides elasticity and extensibility to hold the product together. The lack of gluten in our product forced us to work with other additives to provide a moist product.” Ravisankar explained.
“We also had a hard time milling the garbanzo beans,” said Teferra. “The beans are naturally hard and difficult to mill, and the situation was worsened by the microwave treatment. It was a constant struggle.”
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges was time. The students all have class and research obligations which limited the time available to obtain some of the key ingredients in the form required.
“In the end, we were able to present a healthy muffin in three flavors, blueberry, strawberry and chocolate) that perfectly fits current consumer trends,” Ravisankar said. “They are gluten free, rich in protein and minerals, and have no artificial ingredients.”
The trio recognizes that whole grain products are more prone to oxidation, which limits their shelf lives, and they plan to address this during future research and development.
“We could not have achieved this without the support and guidance of Dr. Awika, and the cereal quality lab members,” Ravisankar said. “We also had support from Dr. Rhonda Miller in animal science, who helped with sensory analysis, and Dr. Suresh Pillai in nutrition and food science, who provided microbial analysis support.”