I'll be going through gluten-free products with a vengeance (as our budget allows) in search of the ones that best compare with mainstream gluten-containing products. Since I'm fairly new to this, there may be a lot I'm missing (i.e. ALL rice pasta tastes like kindergarten paste?). I wanted to give my first impressions as someone just setting out to explore this new lifestyle, hopefully helping others with their own trial-and-error.
Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix
The first reaction is "OMG I can make homemade pizza again!" happy dance. My review is mixed and a bit hedged. As a substitute for a commercial pizza crust mix, like Jiffy's, it holds up reasonably well! As a substitute for my own homemade foccacia pizza crust, it falls flat. That may be an entirely unreasonable expectation on my part, of course. The good news is that the mix is actually complete; including a packet of yeast. It bakes well, holds it's form, and re-heats well in the microwave for at least three days (which is how long it took us to finish the pizzas). The bad news is that it's bland, and somewhat mealy in texture. I would highly recommend some doctoring if you do use it. Try brushing the finished crust with garlic-flavored oil, mix Italian herbs into the dough, or sprinkle the outer crust with shredded cheddar cheese to bake into the bread. The crust might also be made crispier if, after the initial bake or for the last ten minutes, it was put directly on the oven rack or a pizza stone instead of finishing in the pan. Since each package makes two pizzas, you can experiment two ways, or leave one alone as a control in case the experiment goes badly. The crispy crust might help with the texture issues.
Bob's Red Mill Pancake Mix
Made these last week. It isn't Bob's fault this one disappointed me, but it would help if the label were changed to "Whole Grain Pancake Mix". If you're expecting the sweet, fluffy flavor of buttermilk pancakes you would get out of other commercial mixes, you'll be badly surprised. If you're expecting the heavy, nutty, semi-bitter flavor of whole-grain pancakes, you'll probably be very happy. That said, there are positives on this mix. It does behave just like regular pancake mix and fluffs up beautifully. The package also gives directions to make small batches (6-8 4 inch pancakes) at a time instead of needing to use the whole package in one go. Since they're heavy and filling, that was enough to feed both of us with enough leftover to pack for lunch the next day. Unfortunately I was expecting the sweet buttermilky flavor and had to use a lot of syrup to make them palatable. JD made them for breakfast again yesterday and added 1/4 cup of powdered (confectioner's) sugar to the dry mix, with a splash extra milk to balance the texture. They were MUCH closer to what I expected. I'm sure if we experiment once more using buttermilk instead of 2% it will bridge the gap.
Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix
This is a new product on the shelves with their regular baking mixes. It turned out so well that I'm going back for their gluten-free cake mixes! I could tell when I mixed this up that the flavor would be that of very dark chocolate, not the sweet milk chocolate I'm used to. So I added three tablespoons confectioner's sugar and one of sesame oil (to balance the added dry ingredients). It still tasted like dark chocolate, but wasn't quite as bitter. If you love 70% or higher good quality dark chocolate, you'll be absolutely in love with these brownies. Check the bake time by the toothpick method. I had a roast in at the same time and the brownies took twice as long as package directions indicated to bake. The batter should be mixed smooth; no lumps. It's thicker than normal brownie batter and won't really rise or flow, so spread it smoothly in the pan.
DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Penne
This had good texture for penne pasta, but gave my home-made red wine tomato and vegetable sauce an annoying undertone of library paste. It also didn't hold up that well; by the end of the meal it was already going to pieces under the sauce. I'm glad I kept the sauce separate, because I think it'll taste better over rice than these rice noodles. I probably won't buy this brand again, unless to try their corn-base noodles for comparison.
Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle Sides
This is Ramen for grownups, and diabolically tasty! Be sure to check the label, because we found that the rice noodles in peanut sauce in the 9.77oz is labeled gluten-free, but the 5.9oz size of the same flavor is NOT gluten free (label says "contains wheat"). The labels are all over the place too, so depending on the package size and batch, it may be in big words under the flavor, or in tiny letters off in a corner. I like the little bring-to-work size. I had the Spring Onion flavor yesterday and it was heaven. It had a separate packet for the seasonings and another for the spicy pepper oil; so you could theoretically spice to taste.
Those are the specific gluten-free brands we've tried this week, in our frenzy to find the right flavors. I'm sure our experimentation will settle down once we find favorite brands and products, but I'll keep letting you know what we find!
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