UPEI students put their taste to the test in food lab

It's mid-morning and four hungry UPEI students are ready to eat cornbread. They are taste testers high-protein cornbread being developed by the school's foods and nutrition program.

Cornbread recipe was developed to help seniors who lack protein in their diet

The testers are trying high-protein variations of cornbread, developed to help seniors with their nutrition. (Pat Martel/CBC)

It's mid-morning and four hungry UPEI students are ready to eat cornbread.

They are taste testers for high-protein cornbread being developed by the school's foods and nutrition program.

"We're making it for seniors because it's pretty evident that protein energy malnutrition is occurring," said student Andrea Furlotte, who is part of the team that made the cornbread.

Students from UPEI's foods and nutrition program developed three variations of one cornbread recipe. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"We want to provide something that's easy to chew and is easy to swallow so that they're able to enjoy something that has high protein."

Students from the school's in the foods and nutrition program have cooked up three different cornbreads in the kitchen lab.

1 recipe, 3 variations

The testers will have to score the three different cornbreads on more than just its taste.

"It's about the flavour, it's about the sensory characteristics, so looking at them and the mouthfeel, so we really wanted to take all that into consideration," said Furlotte.

The lab students had researched many cornbread recipes online. They eventually narrowed it down to one, making three different variations.

Each tester will rate the variations on taste, as well as 'sensory characteristics' like mouthfeel. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The three variations are sliced into samples, each numbered.

One slice contains 100 per cent all-purpose flour.

Another contains 50 per cent chickpea flour and 50 per cent all-purpose flour.

The final slice is 100 per cent chickpea flour.

Two of the recipes utilize chickpea flour, which is high in protein. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"We know chickpea flour is high in protein," Furlotte said. "We know eggs are high in protein. We also know that milk is a source of protein as well, so putting all that in the cornbread will really assist us in having an excellent source."

Put to the test

The four taste testers take their seats, waiting for the little windows in front of them to slide open.

The windows open, and the lab researchers slide a tray of cornbread samples through each.

Three out of the four taste testers scored the cornbread made with high-protein chickpea flour as their favourite. (Pat Martel/CBC)

It takes the testers about 10 minutes to chew their way through the baked goods, and mark their scores on a sheet of paper.

Feedback from testers 'constructive'

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen lab, the cooks wait for the verdict.

"You have to be prepared for that and their feedback is helpful whether it's positive or a little constructive," Jocelyn Beaulieu said. "It helps us develop a better product."

"It's exciting," said Kaleigh McAulay. "It's really nice to get other people's feedback and take that into consideration when developing a new product that will go into the market."

The taste test gives the students constructive feedback on the products they are developing. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The final verdict

Three of the testers gave the highest marks to the cornbread with 100 per cent chickpea flour.

"I thought that it had the most moisture in the sample and also a nice taste," said Hannah Creaser.

"I thought that was the best for tenderness and flavour and flavour is king," added said Emily Barney.

"It had the best the flavour and it was also the most optimum texture out of the three, said Megan O'Hanley.

However it wasn't unanimous. Morgan MacIntyre preferred the variation with a 50/50 mix of chickpea and all-purpose flours.

"I guess you could say I'm a contrarian of sorts,"  he said. "[It] had the greatest taste and texture and it also had a more palatable mouth feel to it in comparison to the other variations."

Furlotte is pleased with the results — that the majority liked the cornbread made with all chickpea flour.

"That would be the one we would want to be on the market."

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About the Author

Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning — from a writer-broadcaster to a producer. This year, Pat joined the web team with an eye to create great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He always welcomes great story ideas that are visually appealing.