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Obviously You Need a Bold Flavor…

If you're going to be sending strawberry-rhubarb crisp to outer space.

Ulster County BOCES culinary students Angelina Violante, Sara Freer and Lauren Hoetger aka the Terrific Trio, know all about out-of-this-world desserts.

They were the winners of NASA HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) Culinary Challenge.

This year’s challenge was to make a dessert for the astronauts to enjoy on the space station. “They had to create a dish that followed specific dietary restrictions while making something that can be packaged and delivered to space. For example, crumbs do not simply land on a table for easy clean-up in space, so dry, crunchy items are generally not sent to the station,” according to the NASA website.

It started with an essay on thermostabilization. They then picked four recipes to submit to NASA. It got narrowed down to a pear frangipane tart and the strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

But tarts have crumbs, so they were off and baking on a six-month venture to perfect their crisp.

Why a crisp? They wanted the astronauts to have some comfort food and something with a bold taste to make up for diminished taste buds in space. “Their favorite accompaniment is Sriracha”.

The nutritional parameters are strict and early experiments with sugar substitutes were disastrous. After opening 85 packets by hand, “we had to throw it out, it was gross.” Eventually they ended up using coconut sugar for the winning recipe.

Their classmates went along for the ride, too, getting to taste every trial batch. “Every single time they ate all of it” the team said. “I don’t know if they were hungry…”

It started with a regional competition in New Jersey, where they placed second. A late-night phone call from one of their instructors let them know, “we’re going to Texas!”

Panna cotta, rice pudding, baked apple, “lots of shakes” and a tiramisu were some of the other desserts they were up against.

One of the reasons the team thinks they were successful has to do with how the food is prepared on the space station. They re-hydrate dishes using a syringe with hot water that gets injected into the food packet and as we all know any crisp is best served hot.

Look for it early next year. In the meantime, if you’d like to make your own version, click here for the recipe.

The students are hoping that the astronauts will give them a call when they’re enjoying dessert, and we do too!

Will they compete next year? They might, but they’ve got their eyes on a different prize, the ProStart Invitational, where they will have to create a three-course meal using only two propane burners. Good luck to them!

And for the guidance counsellor who told them that BOCES would be a waste of time? “How many girls can say that their food’s going up into space?”

Thank you to Tammy and the team at Ulster BOCES for letting us know about this great group of bakers, the photos and the video!

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