Taking the ‘beaniness’ out of beans

Food processors want the fibre and nutrition of beans, but not the bean flavour

Peter Frohlich stands in front of Cigi’s new Ferkar mill, which will be used in a new project researching pulse flours. Photo: Shannon VanRaes

Peter Frohlich calls them “unique” flavours.

“Yes, the beany flavours. I personally enjoy those flavours, but a lot of food companies would prefer to have all the nutrition of pulses minus the flavour attributes,” said the project manager for pulses and specials crops at the Canadian International Grains Institute, better known as Cigi.

He’s just embarked on a year-long project — formally titled The Influence Of Pre-Milling Thermal Treatments Of Field Peas, Dry Edible Beans And Faba Beans On The Flavour And End Product Quality Of Baked Products — to see if it’s possible to minimize the bean taste in pulse flours using heat.

“Our goal is to get more pulses into more processed food, and more people eating pulses,” said Laryssa Grenkow, research technician for the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, which is funding the project. “And that bean taste was one of the main concerns for the processor looking at using pulse flour, really it was their biggest concern.”

Most people still think about pulses as whole beans, she added, noting pulse flour has yet to really catch on as an ingredient with food processors, even if interest is growing rapidly.

“Most consumers are still using pulses in a very traditional manner, soups and that sort of thing… so I think getting pulses into ready-made products, sort of hidden, like using it in bread, it can help increase the consumption of pulses,” said Grenkow.

Frohlich noted that certain international customers, as well as a Canadian food manufacturer, have approached Cigi looking for pulse flours that meet demands for higher nutritional values without detracting from taste. The institute also completed a 40-participant program last week, which looked at ways to incorporate pulse flours into processed food products.

“Pulses are a great ingredient to use because they have a lot of nutrition,” Frohlich said. “And in our past work at Cigi, we have seen that certain heat treatments of seeds prior to milling can minimize and deactivate those off flavours or bean taste… so what we want to do is quantify this effect with this project.”

Manitoba-grown fababeans, yellow peas and navy beans are being used in the study, which involves two different types of heat treatments. The first method is infra-red heating, or micronization, which causes water molecules within the seeds to vibrate, resulting in rapid temperature increases.

InfraReady Products in Saskatoon will facilitate this phase of the project, said Frohlich.

The second method being tested is a little more old fashioned.

“We will be roasting them here, but with the kind of equipment you’d find in most commercial kitchens,” he said.

The institute’s new Ferkar mill — purchased with support from the Grain Innovation Hub — will then be used to mill the unhulled pulses.

“These will not be dehulled, because we want to keep that fibre,” Frohlich said. “Right now it’s all about the fibre, processors are really interested in increasing amounts, there is a lot of interest in it.”

While this study is looking at taste and baking characteristics, not nutritional values, Frohlich is confident the heat treatments used won’t diminish the nutritional value of pulse flour.

“I don’t think that the temperatures are high enough to begin to deactivate some of the nutritional properties, roasting is between 100 and 120 C… so in my opinion it’s not high enough to start denaturing proteins or that sort of thing,” he said.

Once milled, the pulse flours will be used to make pan bread, tortillas and pita bread. The pitas and tortillas will contain about 25 per cent pulse flour, while the pan bread will use roughly 15 per cent pulse flour.

“Then we’re going to use sensory panels to access the flavour differences,” said Frohlich, explaining the panel consists of eight to 10 trained individuals who assess for texture, taste and flavour attributes.

“So you’re asking about what it tastes like, but also how it feels, does it stick to your teeth, your tongue, all these really important things,” he said. “But we are still in the first steps.”

The project launched on March 1 and is expected to wrap up in February 2017.

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