adventures in gluten free baking

We have a few friends who are living gluten free these days, and since they will be attending Kaylee’s birthday party I thought I’d attempt to provide a few menu items they could eat as well. I like to bake from scratch, but mixes seemed the way to go in this case since getting the ingredients wrong could mean sending someone to the hospital…and who wants that on their conscious?

On our last trip to Trader Joe’s I picked up a bag of their Gluten Free Brownie Mix….The package looked great, it smelled like chocolate when I opened it up, but once I mixed everything together it looked like a bowl full of lumpy engine oil. I thought that was a little odd, but since this was the very first gluten free thing I had ever made I just went with it. I anxiously returned to pull them out of the oven when the timer went off. The looked ok at this point, perhaps a bit dark and slightly hard on the top, but when I went to scoop them out of the tray they were sitting in a bed of oil, as if they were oozing. The tops got hard as soon as they cooled and they turned into tasteless hockey pucks within hours. Freezing them made things even worse. Total failure.

Next I baked a tray of Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Yellow Cake mix mini cupcakes. These turned out much better, although they were slightly oily on the bottoms too, enough to discolor the paper wrappers, they got better once they cooled. The texture was very reminiscent of Betty Crocker cake mix; neither dry nor moist. They did have a noticeable egg flavored aftertaste, but I think this will be diminished once I frost them. This mix is not better than the original Betty Crocker mix, but it is still pretty decent and probably will be quite tasty slathered in icing.

Determined not to be defeated by the first failed brownie attempt, I tried my hand at them again the next evening, this time with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix. The difference between these and the Trader Joe’s mix was like night and day. The wet mixture actually acted like regular brownie mix instead of a slimy mess. They baked up soft and chewy on the inside with a slight crust on top, very much like real brownies. These had an egg-y aftertaste too, but the Ghirardelli chocolate added a rich flavor. I’m no brownie connoisseur, but these were just as good as the real thing to me. With less sugar and calories than regular brownie mix, I’m tempted to substitute these on a regular basis in our house. I guess the real test will be on Sunday when they are reviewed by our guests. I am also happy to know that if anyone in our house is ever diagnosed with Celiac disease, there is a company we can turn to make life seem a bit more like normal.

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