Three of the students and their habanero bread. Three of the students and their habanero bread.

Habaneros give flavor to artisanal bread

Students' process extracts the heat but leaves the flavor of the hot chiles

Should you ever fancy a slice of fresh, hot-buttered habanero bread — but without the heat of the seriously hot chile pepper — students from Yucatán have the recipe.

Four students from Autonomous University of Yucatán are making a name for themselves with Wa’ah iik, their brand of artisanal bread with the full flavor of habanero.

The bread was born in the classroom as part of an assignment in chemical engineering. Karen Pérez, Lueli Itzá, Gerardo Compañ and Rodrigo Torres came up with the idea, which was to make the bread palatable to a variety of tastes, hot pepper lovers and otherwise.

“We thought the project was feasible, and that the product could sell well,” Torres told the newspaper Milenio.

The habaneros are treated with a process that removes the spicy component, called capsaicin. But it only takes out the the heat of the chiles, leaving their characteristic taste and high fiber content intact and ready to be added to the bread dough.

Early last year the four students finished second in a contest looking for new habanero-based products. Later in the year, the team and their bread won a prize for the best startup during a local trade show.

The wins have given Wa’ah iik (the name is Mayan for chile bread) a higher profile but it is only sold on request. Production is limited because the youths have yet to set up their own bakery. For the time being they have been using the facilities at the university.

Their next step is to find financing to become fully independent and open their own bistro where customers can purchase the product, said Pérez.

The young entrepreneurs are also considering expanding their line of products to include gluten-free bread, breadcrumbs, baguettes and others while continuing to use the habanero chile flour for artisanal bakery products.

Independence and autonomy are the ultimate goals of the four students. Itzá told Milenio that they don’t want to go work for someone else after graduating. “We want something that’s our own.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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