Student innovators bring ancient grain flatbreads to life at BakingTech 2019

By Kristine Sherred contact

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Judges prepare for student presentations in ASB's Product Development Competition at BakingTech 2019. Photo: Kristine Sherred / BakeryandSnacks
Judges prepare for student presentations in ASB's Product Development Competition at BakingTech 2019. Photo: Kristine Sherred / BakeryandSnacks

Related tags: Baking, Flatbread, Ancient grains, Gluten-free baked goods, Product development, Innovation, Food science, New product development

From a cheese and tomato snack to buckwheat dipping strips, four teams of food science students shared their modern twists on ancient grain flatbreads at the BakingTech conference held in Chicago, US, on February 25.

At its annual conference, the American Society of Baking (ASB) challenges college and university students to create a new product to encourage innovation and the pursuit of wholesale baking careers.

This year’s prompt called for a flatbread – including pizza, naan and tortillas – containing at least 15% of an ancient grain, which should have a shelf life of at least 21 days, or six months for a frozen product.

ASB selected four finalist teams in December from 15 submissions of written proposals describing the product, process, challenges and trend data to support the concept.

These teams then compiled a second proposal – replete with ingredient lists, nutritional facts, costs and food safety evaluations – and presented their products Monday at BakingTech.

The judges – Greg Toufayan, owner of Toufayan Bakeries; Juan Guardiola, president and CEO of Tortilla King; Manuel Flores, director of R&D at Mission Foods; and Dr. Lin Carson, founder and CEO of BAKERpedia – asked tough follow-up questions about technique, tests, why frozen versus shelf, and so forth.

Attendees also played a role in deciding the winner, voting in real-time.

Teams dove deeper into their products and process in a second, standalone presentation, where judges had the chance to taste samples. Show visitors could learn more from the students’ poster presentations in the exhibition hall.

The winning item was a grilled cheese and tomato-flavored whole-wheat flatbread made with a blend of three ancient grains.

Yet no one goes home empty-handed: each student receives a scholarship, starting at $500 for fourth place and $2,000 for first place.

Graincient Grilled Cheese and Tomato flatbread

Students from California Polytechnic State University present their Graincient tomato-cheese flatbread at BakingTech 2019. Photo: Kristine Sherred / BakeryandSnacks

Eric Kinjo, Breanna Barragan and Steven Pham from California Polytechnic State University created a frozen flatbread with a blend of 50% amaranth, kamut and spelt, and 50% whole-wheat flour. According to the students, all-purpose flour resulted in a product that was ‘too thin’ and ‘too airy’. The final combination, which also includes beetroot powder, enhances flavor as well as levels of calcium, protein and dietary fiber. Ready in two minutes from the microwave or 12 minutes in an oven, the students said a two-pack of Graincient flatbreads would have an RRP of $4.49.

Lost Grains Pita Pocket

Sarah Corwin, Pablo Torres-Aguilar, Anbuhkani Muniandy and Rachel Jackson from Purdue University created 

Students from Purdue University present their Lost Grains pita pocket at BakingTech 2019. Photo: Kristine Sherred / BakeryandSnacks

a gluten-free pita pocket that features 21% of a blend of sorghum, finger millet and proso (common) millet. They also added non-fat dry milk to the liquid batter to prevent browning and staling, and combined yeast and a chemical leavening agent to assist the challenging prospect of forming an easy-open pocket. The students said the pita pockets would be available in six-pack in the freezer section to keep others fresh after opening the box – for an RRP of $4.99. 

Sobasoy strips with dipping sauce

Eric Williams, Neve Blanz, Sara Feldman and Anna Johnson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed a portable pack of flatbread strips with an Asian-style dipping sauce. Made from 30% buckwheat and 70% high-gluten flour, Sobasoy uses xanthan gum for elasticity. The triangular package includes a dipping sauce of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger and scallions. The students estimated the snack would have a 28-day shelf life, thanks to the addition of potassium sorbate, and would have an RRP of $1.79.

Spensa pizza crust

Dietrich Pultinas and Colin McCarthy from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst presented a frozen, ready-bake pizza crust featuring spelt. The duo soaked the spelt before mixing to develop a softer profile, resulting in dough that resembles ‘pinsa romana,’ a Roman dough known for its high hydration and long proofing process, as well as its digestibility. Made with 70% hydration, Spensa uses autolyse and 1% of a sourdough powder to jumpstart fermentation, and then undergoes a 60-hour cold-ferment. McCarthy described the dough as clean label and shelf-stable because of its naturally low pH.

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