Cigi continues work on improving nutrition of gluten-free products with pulse ingredients

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Since 2014 Cigi has been investigating the use of pulse ingredients as a way to improve nutritional levels in commercial gluten-free food products and add value to Canadian pulse crops.

Work has involved incorporating pulses in tortillas, pan breads, and most recently crackers as part of the four-year project, ‘Development of Gluten-Free Products Using Pulse Ingredients.’ Other upcoming product development will include pasta and noodles.

Gluten-free food products are usually high in starch mainly from the use of rice and tapioca as ingredients which are also low in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, according to Heather Hill, Project Manager, Pulse Flour Milling and and Food Applications.

Cigi has been in contact with commercial gluten-free processors to gain some insight into any production issues and requirements, Heather says. The processors are open to the inclusion of healthy ingredients such as pulses to increase nutritional levels but are concerned about taste and functionality of the final products which is a focus of Cigi’s work. Feedback from a survey of gluten-free consumers also indicated that flavour and nutrition are of prime importance.

Cigi has evaluated gluten-free domestic products and ingredients to help determine quality targets and formulations for the inclusion of pulses, she says. “Ingredients for bread were evaluated then a gluten-free product was developed with 30% and 50% pulse flours. We found that faba bean flour worked very well for high-quality colour and crumb structure comparable to the gluten-free control or even better.”

Watch the Cigi video on producing gluten-free bread with faba bean flour.

Crackers a good choice for gluten-free work with pulses

Gina Boux making gluten-free crackers in the Cigi test kitchen.

Gina Boux making gluten-free crackers in the Cigi test kitchen.

Most recently, three different pulse crackers were developed and evaluated against a control cracker sample made from ingredients commonly found in a selection of commercially available gluten-free crackers. Cigi found that, with corn starch and rice flour as the main ingredients most commonly used, the control cracker was low in nutritional quality.

Gina Boux, Technologist, Pulses, says crackers are a practical choice for gluten-free product development with pulses. “For crackers you don’t need the gluten strength that you would typically need for pan bread or even tortillas or pitas and it is easier to experiment with more savoury ingredients. You find all sorts of flavours and textures.”

For the pulse crackers, pea fibre and three 50-50 blends of pulse flours were used: whole yellow pea and split red lentil, whole yellow pea and pre-cooked navy bean, and split red lentil and pre-cooked navy bean. To produce the crackers, the pulse ingredients were combined with the same gluten-free ingredients used for the control sample. These included brown and white rice flour, corn and potato starch, and corn flour in addition to egg powder, vegetable shortening and salt.

Although there is some concern that pulse ingredients may introduce strong or undesirable flavours, blending pulse flours appears to limit specific pea or bean flavours or the perception of such flavours, she says. “We decided to go with blends of certain pulses. From informal sensory feedback at Cigi, people didn’t like faba bean (in crackers) all that much although it worked well in other applications like pan bread. In crackers people preferred red lentil, yellow pea and navy bean and with blending there isn’t any strong flavour detected because they seem to counteract each other.”

The addition of pulse flours and pea fibre resulted in crackers that were firmer and thicker than the gluten-free control although firmness decreased after seven days. Crackers made with yellow pea and pre-cooked navy bean had the best texture, producing the thinnest cracker, and those made with yellow pea and red lentil flour had the most desirable flavour.

“We typically use yellow pea in our formulations because we grow them the most in Canada and are trying to add value to the crop,” Gina says. “Red lentil, which gives a nice peppery flavour especially in a more savoury product, is also a common pulse type grown in Canada.”

All the pulse crackers had an increased nutritional profile, especially in fibre content, and tasted better than the control cracker although there are some challenges with cracker texture, she says. “The biggest thing when developing these products on a lab scale is achieving the flavour. If they taste good and nutritional content is improved that’s a great start. Then a commercial processor can steer you in the right direction on improving the texture.”

See project results here: Pulse Ingredients in Gluten-Free Crackers.