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Student bakes way for a pistachio white chocolate endeavor

Photo courtesy of Caitie Wallman

If the smell of doughnuts wafting through your dorm or apartment is something that would make your mouth water, you should ask Isabelle Scantland Lebel to be your roommate.

The University of Ottawa student created the pistachio and white chocolate doughnut that qualified her for the semi finals of the Tim Hortons Duelling Donuts contest.

Her doughnut concoction was chosen out of 76,000 entries, eventually leading her to the top eight selection to compete for a grand prize of $10,000.

When she first heard about the contest, she didn’t think she had a chance at the grand prize. “The idea was just to have fun with it,” she says.

Scantland Lebel is a recent human kinetics graduate from the U of O, now entering her second year of pharmaceutical science.

But on the side, she loves to bake. Scantland Lebel gets ideas from blogs then tries to find new ways to make old-style sweets, like replacing butter with apple sauce, or stevia with sugar. “Apple sauce makes a good texture even though there is no fat, and whole grain flour makes a difference,” she explains.

Soon after she submitted her doughnut idea, Scantland Lebel got a phone call telling her she was in the top 20. “I jumped 20 feet high when I got the call,” she says. Her next step was to make a video of her doughnut pitch explaining the concept behind the idea and flavours for the recipe.

She and the other finalists were flown to Tim Hortons headquarters in Oakville, Ont. Scantland Lebel had to introduce her doughnut to a panel of judges that included television host Ben Mulroney, musician Jann Arden, chef Anna Olsen, and actor Jason Priestley.

For the initial taste test, several trials of each doughnut creation were baked by Tim Hortons. “They work really, really hard to come up with the best recipe possible for that with all the ingredients, and make them look and taste as good as possible,” says Scantland Lebel. But when it came down to the competition, She couldn’t beat the recipes of Canada’s top amateur doughnut-makers.

“I like them all. The final four that were chosen definitely were the best,” she says. “The judges made a great choice because they made the most Canadian aspect of them.”

The Big Red Canadian features a red velvet base, and the Lumberjack is made with bacon and maple. Currently the most popular is the Reese’s Pieces, which contains the classic candy.

Even though her recipe didn’t go all the way, Scantland Lebel says she loved the experience. She gained media skills from pitching and creating her video, since the Tim Hortons team provided feedback on the execution and style of her pitch.

It also gave her an appetite to pursue a career in food and media.