Cigi staffer investigates pulses as healthy ingredients at workshop

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Cigi’s Lindsay Bourré (left) at the Culinary Institute of America

Lindsay Bourré, Cigi technical specialist in pulses, attended a two-day workshop investigating the use of pulses as healthy ingredients in various foods last fall at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone, Napa Valley, California. The hands-on training program was held by the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council which funded successful applicants. In the following question and answer, Lindsay describes the experience and what she brought back to Cigi.

How did your participation in this workshop come about?
The U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council sent out invitations to apply and I was accepted. The workshop was designed to demonstrate how pulses can be used as wholesome, healthy ingredients in a variety of food applications as whole seeds, flours, and fractions. I went to learn more about additional ways to use pulses as ingredients in both standard food formulations as well as in gluten-free applications. We have been doing a lot of work here at Cigi with pulses as healthy ingredients, and it related to my current involvement with our pulse milling project, so this was a good opportunity to learn something different. 

Who else participated?
It was attended by approximately 50 participants from various areas of expertise including chefs, food companies, ingredient suppliers, health professionals, marketing professionals, and research scientists.  We all brought different levels of knowledge and experience when it came to working with pulses. On one hand you had people who knew how to prepare different foods and were experienced with the cooking and baking component, and then you had others who were more knowledgeable when it came to pulses as ingredients and how their addition to recipes or product formulations changes the outcome of the final product.

What did you do at the workshop?
We were at the Culinary Institute which gave us the opportunity to actually prepare, cook, and bake these different products under the guidance of these great chefs who instruct there. We were able to make doughs and see how they feel, and respond to the different steps involved in processing.  This was especially helpful with some of the gluten-free applications because these dough systems are so different compared to ones that utilize wheat as a key ingredient.

Participants were separated into teams and given certain food products to make that included pasta and sauces, battered and breaded products, nutrition bars, beverages, pizza doughs, doughnuts, cakes, crackers, and flatbreads.  I think we made close to 50 different products all using pulses as ingredients. Plus we had chef demonstrations and some great speakers who discussed pulse nutrition, food trends, and the technical side of pulse ingredients. 

How was the overall experience?
It was an incredible experience. It was a great course with really good speakers.  It was also interesting to see just how many people want to work or are already working with pulses in the food industry both in the U.S. and in Canada.

What did you learn that stood out for you that will help you in your work at Cigi?
I learned a lot, but one of the biggest lessons was some of the processing adjustments that need to be made when working with pulses. Everything from mixing and baking/cooking times to the type of equipment used needs to be considered. With the right formulations this can result in some great products with pulses. With our product work here at Cigi that will be really helpful when we work with new product formulations and it is something I can share with all the technical departments here when they do any pulse work.

How is Cigi involved with gluten-free processing?
Gluten-free is one of the fastest growing food trends happening right now and pulses are a perfect fit for that market. Here at Cigi, we are starting to do some work to show that pulses are a functional gluten- free ingredient that can supply protein, dietary fibre, and vitamins and minerals to gluten-free foods since most of the prepared products are void of these nutrients.

At some point the hope is Cigi would host a gluten-free course or offer a course with some emphasis on gluten-free foods that use pulses as ingredients. Having said that, we’ll never abandon our work using pulse and wheat flours together because, just like in the gluten-free foods, the addition of pulses can really improve the nutritional values of some food products and that is important on a global scale.

How does involvement in a workshop like this benefit Canadian pulse processors?
We are building on our knowledge that allows us to work with pulses to find more uses, and more market opportunities will benefit all pulse producers. We are able to network with ingredient suppliers and food processors and learn what they want when it comes to ingredients. Making sure we are working on what they want and what they need ensures that the work we are doing here at Cigi stays relevant and, in turn, profitable for producers.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Cigi’s e-publication. To subscribe to future issues of Cigi.ca click here.