CLEMSON — The holidays this year will be tastier with recipes from a cookbook created by Clemson students and dedicated to a holiday favorite: ginger.
The cookbook was created by students in the Creative Inquiry (CI) project “The Evolution of Gingerbread Recipes” a few years ago. Led by Aubrey Coffee, a senior lecturer and sensory coordinator in the food, nutrition and packaging sciences department, students learned the history of ginger and how to modify recipes. Technology and ingredient functionality were main considerations during the early stages of the project, with the latter stages aimed at the creation and optimization of modern recipes with ginger as the key ingredient.
The result is a cookbook filled with tested gingerbread recipes.
“This cookbook is a collection of recipes the students researched and developed while in the CI project,” Coffee said. “The goals were to improve traditional recipes, incorporate ginger in unexpected recipes and flavor profiles, as well as create recipes to fit specific dietary or nutritional needs, such as gluten-free.
“I’ve had these recipes for some time,” she said. “I thought it would be a good idea to create a cookbook and share them with everyone.”
Part of the study involved learning the history of ginger spice, which is made from ginger root and is used to make gingerbread. Queen Elizabeth I is believed to be the first person to hand out gingerbread men when she offered them to visiting diplomats. Over the years, gingerbread has become a holiday staple in the United States and Europe.
To make the recipes their own, the students took recipes they found on the Internet and modified them so that the recipes fit within certain parameters. This included removing the eggs and butter to make a recipe vegan, or making modifications to recipes to remove the gluten protein and make them gluten-free. Gluten acts as a glue and helps foods maintain their shapes. It has been associated with celiac disease and other intestinal maladies.
The students also learned how to use their senses of smell and taste senses when creating recipes. Using these senses helped the students determine if their recipes need any modifications.
“If a recipe didn’t taste or smell just right, the student tweaked the ingredients until they had a recipe they were satisfied with,” Coffee said. “This taught them how to recognize the functionality of recipe ingredients and how to change these ingredients to find something that works.”
From this project, students were able to learn about how appearance, aroma, flavor and texture affect peoples’ perceptions of foods. Coffee said knowing this will help the students when they enter the various fields of culinology, product development and so on. Culinology is a field that combines the artistic abilities of culinary arts with the scientific expertise of food science.
“After participating in Clemson’s food science program and this CI project, the students now can look at a recipe and know how the product created from it should taste, smell and look,” Coffee said. “Experiences such as this give students something they can put on their résumés and it lets employers see that the students have the skills needed to perform in positions related to food science and technology, as well as nutrition and dietetics.”
One students on the team was Karen Cuneo, who graduated with a food science degree from Clemson. The project helped her in her career as an associate scientist for innovation product development at Mondelez International in East Hanover, New Jersey.
“The Clemson Gingerbread CI Project, as well as all of the Food Science CI projects, allowed me to develop not only my technical skill set as a food scientist but also to foster my creative and culinary ability,” Cuneo said. “Getting out from behind the textbook and into a real-life kitchen lab setting was an essential learning experience, as I still work in a kitchen lab regularly at Mondelez.
“It is this balance of creative thinking backed by a technical skillset that allows me to succeed in my role as a food scientist and bring something unique to the workplace,” she said. “I need to have an understanding of flavors, technology, ingredient functionality and consumer expectations in order to create products that will be successful in the marketplace and for the business.”
Cuneo encourages all Clemson students to participate in at least one Creative Inquiry project.
“The CI experience is a great opportunity to discover or develop existing interests, skills and passion,” Cuneo said. “CI projects let students develop long-term project work skills, in which they have to outline a big picture plan and develop an understanding of the details in order to reach a goal. Participating in the CI project also gives students the freedom to take on risks and overcome challenges.”
Other students participating in the project were Lindsay Beck, Elizabeth Bennett, Ashlea Benson, Audrey Boushell, Marisa Case, Maggie Dunn Albro, Patricia Fedele, Sarah Gilbertson, Charles Johnson, Caroline McTier Hillman and Emily Pinner.
The students presented their research at the 2011 Annual Conference and Culinary Expo hosted by the Research Chefs Association and held in Atlanta, Georgia.
The cookbook also can be found at: http://bit.ly//CUGingerbreadCookbook.