Students in Food Science 1101, in order to form a more perfect ice cream and to secure the blessings of creamy, delicious flavor, carried on an annual Cornell tradition in a contest to develop an innovative ice cream.
Freedom of Peach, inspired by peach cobbler, won this year’s competition on Nov. 30 as students were challenged to come up with an ice cream that best represented the presidential election.
The 93 students in the science and technology of foods class taught by senior lecturer Alicia Orta-Ramirez broke into teams to develop novel flavors over the course of the semester. For the first time, students also had to ensure that their recipes complied with the kosher guidelines of the Dairy Processing Plant, which was kosher-certified in April.
It didn’t take an Electoral College to declare this year’s winner. Instead, judges from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Cornell Dining elected Freedom of Peach – with its peach swirl and cinnamon graham cracker pieces mixed inside a light, peachy base – as the top choice.
The panel of judges – Orta-Ramirez, director of culinary operations Steve Miller, professor emeritus of food science Joe Regenstein, and food science professor and chairperson Olga Padilla-Zakour – praised the ice cream’s flavor, likening the first spoonful to a bite into a ripe, refreshing peach.
“This is truly an exercise in creativity,” said Orta-Ramirez, who said that people were initially hesitant when first told the theme. She made it clear to her students that this was about exploring the election process and the nation as a whole rather than any one candidate or party.
“We have a lot of international students, and also others who are not familiar with the process,” she said. “This was a good way to illustrate it, with ice cream.”
The competition is meant to inspire more than just the creation of a unique flavor. The class teaches students how to hone marketing and food-development skills. “To me it’s more about how they were able to work together to come up with a concept and formulation in a limited time frame, dealing with many different opinions, resulting in a successful product,” Padilla-Zakour said.
The top four concepts from the class that proceeded to the final competition with the judges were chosen by the Dairy Plant staff based on taste and feasibility of large-scale production.
Competing teams were creative in their approaches to the theme. One group zeroed in on the contentious nature of this year’s race with their flavor, Campaign Trails, which incorporated pretzels covered in bitter dark chocolate with a hot pepper aftertaste. Another group presented Stop! Smell the Roses, a rose-flavored ice cream with a honey-cinnamon swirl inspired by the national flower George Washington cultivated in his garden.
No discussion of American food is complete without apple pie. A team offered their flavor, American Apple Pie, as a dedication to apples throughout U.S. history, with a caramel swirl and graham cracker pieces.
Memorable winning flavors of years past include pumpkin, sweet corn and coffee. The 2012 winner, Ezra’s Morning Cup, is still sold at the Dairy Bar.
“Every year, the students are consistently creative,” said Orta-Ramirez, who has taught the course for the past five years. “They come up with good stories explaining why the ice cream flavor is related to the concept.”
Students in the winning group said they chose Freedom of Peach because they thought it was closest to the spirit of the election. In their presentation, the students said their ice cream will appeal to consumers who want an alternative to typical flavors like chocolate and caramel.
The group members were Griffin Boutwell ’20, Grace Bricken ’20, Victoria Chan ’18, Rachel Fair ’17, Ronald Forster ’17, Micaela Gelman ’17, Ryan Graff ’20, Koppy Kolyvek ’19, Erica Mansfield ’18, Billy Murch Elliot ’17, Cape Murch Elliot ’20, Currie Murch Elliot ’17, Jack Nienaltow ’18, Alicia O’Neal ’18, Kimmi Schonhorst ’17, Emma Seymour ’18, Tessa Wilson ’18 and Richard Wang ’17.
Melanie Cordova is communications coordinator for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.