Posted 15 March
A former chef and current Harper Adams Food student is examining the unique properties of an underutilised cooking by-product in research aimed at developing a sugar-free meringue.
For his final year project BSc (Hons) Food Technology and Product Development top-up student Felice Ceccarelli is working to develop the meringue using a foam made from aquafaba – a water which is left over from the cooking of chickpeas.
He said: “Aquafaba, or chickpea water, is a nutrient-rich by product that is often discarded, but I would like to see it be utilised more because it can perform all of the same functions as both egg whites and egg yolks in cooking.
“It is an excellent egg-replacer - but the amount of academic literature on it is quite limited.
“I am trying to determine if it is possible to produce a sugar-free meringue, which involves substituting sugar for various sweeteners and additives in order to see how the aquafaba foam reacts.
“I also believe by trying to consume less sugar we can live healthier lives, but it isn't as simple as swapping sugar for sweetener because they both behave in inherently different ways.”
Felice, 26, who is originally from London, outlined his initial findings as part of an undergraduate research conference for Food and Business students at Harper Adams in February.
In his presentation, he explained how he had approached OGGS®, who produce aquafaba commercially, to explain his work – and how once they had heard about his plans, they had offered to work alongside him on the project.
He added: “My research has been partly sponsored by OGGS® - who have also kindly provided all of the aquafaba for the investigation, and an external industry supervisor. Their support is greatly appreciated.”
Dr Alexandra Hyde, OGGS® R&D Lead and Felice’s industry co-supervisor said: “OGGS® mission is to swap eggs for plants to improve food system sustainability so of course we were delighted to support Felice’s research into new ways to use OGGS® Aquafaba. The whole food industry is working to reduce sugar so Felice’s work has many applications.”
Ultimately, Felice hopes to find a suitable meringue which could be used to make a chocolate teacake or similar product with a reduced sugar content. His development work has seen him using the industry-standard Food Academy facilities, which include a product development kitchen, a sensory evaluation room, a Food Production hall and more.
He added: “All experiments are taking place under controlled conditions in the Food Academy instrument room.
“The foams are being tested with a texture analyser for their level of firmness, and observed for other properties such as stability, volume increase and liquid drainage.”
The chance to work alongside food industry companies developing products such as those in his final year project is among the reasons that Felice believes his degree has been so worthwhile.
He added: “I have always had a passion for cooking, so I initially trained as a chef - but after becoming disillusioned with the hospitality sector, I decided to continue into higher education to explore a slightly different path within the food industry.
“I still want to work with food so this degree will create the opportunity to work on the manufacturing side.”