It may be the beginning of “pumpkin spice” season, but a new flavor at the UConn Dairy Bar is all about the coziness of coffee and chocolate.
Hazelnut MOOcha Latte brings together rich, creamy coffee ice cream, hazelnut fudge swirls, and chunks of dark chocolate Pirouline wafers. The unique flavor was created by Madelyn Pickett ‘23 ’25 (ENG), besting the other creations in an annual competition begun last year as part of a unique hands-on course in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR).
In Animal Food Products: Dairy Technology (ANSC 3641), taught by Dennis D’Amico, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science, students learn about the science of processing and producing dairy products, including ice cream, yogurt, and cheese. The course gets hands-on and allows students the opportunity to create each product themselves.
For the ice cream production, D’Amico teams up with UConn Creamery Manager Bill Sciturro. After a guest lecture, Sciturro takes the students on a tour of the Creamery facility to show them the equipment and let them see the manufacturing process first-hand. Students then work on developing and producing their own ice cream flavor with each going head-to-head in a good-natured match-up to see which is the most liked by their peers.
“It’s a way to make the course as engaging as possible,” says D’Amico. “When students know they’re going to be making their own food, especially the ice cream, it helps make the part of the course where we discuss chemical, physical, and microbiological components more interesting because they immediately know they’re going to have to apply that knowledge later.”
D’Amico first incorporated the competitive element last year with the class voting on their favorite. The winner gets their ice cream sold at the UConn Dairy Bar.
Pickett, currently a UConn graduate student studying biomedical engineering, is no stranger to bringing new and delicious food to the University community. She advocated for plant-based food options on campus that eventually came to fruition as CrossRoads Café in the Wilbur Cross Building in 2021.
During her undergraduate studies, she minored in food science in CAHNR, taking courses in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Department of Animal Science, including D’Amico’s dairy tech course.
“My own research interests within biomedical engineering focus on biomaterials and tissue engineering,” says Pickett. “Specifically, the development of cultivated (lab-grown) meat products is my focus which ties in the food science side to engineering. This involves the use of stem cells derived from animals to grow true meat samples in the lab. Dairy technology is not far off from this area due to the recent development of lab-grown milk, another cultivated product.”
She says D’Amico was receptive to her research interests and helped her incorporate her biomedical background into presentations and coursework.
“He allowed me to follow this niche area of research. We were even able to give a presentation on a dairy product of our choice in which I shared the development of lab-grown milk, which seemed to be eye opening to many. It was easily one of my favorite courses since it’s super interactive through the lab portion, which greatly helped me learn the concepts that were once foreign to me.”
When it came time for her ice cream flavor, Pickett had no trouble brainstorming and coming up with an idea.
“I thought about how to combine coffee and hazelnut in an ice cream and came up with putting Nutella into coffee ice cream. Then I wanted it to have a crunch and I added the Pirouline cream-filled wafers.”
She says the voting was the hardest part as there were many other impressive flavors made by her classmates, including lemon poppy and a cleverly named UConnoli, incorporating the iconic Sicilian pastry.
“All the other flavors were not only creative but came out to be delicious, making it hard to choose one flavor over the others. I’m excited to share this flavor in the Dairy Bar. I know my family and friends especially have been awaiting its release. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as my class and I did.”
If you want to try the flavor, you’d better move fast. The winning flavor from D’Amico’s last class was Brown Butter Brickle created by student Charlie Parchen ‘23 (CAHNR), which sold out quickly. Be sure to head down to the Dairy Bar to get a cone, cup, or half gallon of Hazelnut MOOcha Latte while it lasts as the perfect flavor to enjoy on crisp fall days.
Visit the UConn Dairy Bar site for hours of operation (opening today at 2pm).
This work relates to CAHNR’s Strategic Vision area focused on Ensuring a Vibrant and Sustainable Agricultural Industry and Food Supply.
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