Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oh Betty!

Sunday morning I pushed a cart up and down the grocery aisles wondering where all the people came from. Where I grew up, the phrase, "Before church lets out," meant something. Primarily, it meant that if you get your errands done Sunday morning before noon (a.k.a., when church 'let out' for the day), you would enjoy less traffic in the stores and in general. It was usually our goal to get things done before this time ran out.

Around here, this doesn't really mean much apparently. Sunday morning at the grocery store was pretty busy. I tried to tuck briefly into the baking aisle to pick up some paper muffin cups (Ben appreciates the ease of clean-up when I use these to bake muffins or cupcakes) and was forced to make my way down the entire aisle because traffic blocked any sort of quick duck-out.

Imagine my surprise as I sped past the baking mixes when I saw the words, "Gluten Free," in big, red print on a row of baking mixes. These were the much talked about, but yet to transpire, Betty Crocker Gluten Free baking mixes. I couldn't resist slowing down, stopping, and picking up the packages to examine them more closely.

The ingredient list indicated the primary flour in the mixes was rice flour. I should have you know I am weary of any gluten free baked good that relies primarily on rice flour because they are usually grainy and not so flavorful. This particular store stocked the vanilla cake, chocolate chip cookie, and brownie mixes. They were about $4 a box, which is less expensive than Pamelas or Bob's red mill (at around $6 a mix), but more expensive than their 'regular' mixes, which come in between $1.50 and $2. They are made in a dedicated GF facility. Even though I knew they were likely to be not that great, considering their reliance on rice flour, I HAD to try one.

It was maybe the novelty of it (I haven't eaten a Betty Crocker product in over a year at least) and mostly curiosity that made me do it. I chose to purchase the brownie mix. I have heard it is hard to screw up gluten free brownies and I haven't eaten a brownie in over a year either. I have yet to attempt to bake gluten free brownies. And, heck, at least the ingredients were pronounceable!

So, Betty came home with me that day and sat proudly on the kitchen counter for about two days. I took pictures of her. Then I baked.

First of all, the batter is easy to throw together. It only fills an 8x8 pan, however. I figured the toughest thing to replicate would be the brownie top - you know, that flaky, crispy top? These did that just fine. I was a tad disappointed with the rest of the texture and the flavor. The texture was a bit too gummy. Brownies are supposed to be chewy, I know, but these were somewhat different...almost like they seemed too unnatural. And the flavor - the little chocolate chips definitely saved these brownies because without them, I think they wouldn't really be flavorful at all.

I think people forget that wheat flour has taste and rice flour does not. When you rely on rice flour as the primary substitute for wheat flour, the flavor suffers. You really have to include other flours or other flavors to make up for it.

I'm not sure how much of my distaste for the brownies comes from simply baking from a mix (don't home-made baked goods always taste better than ones from mixes?) or my lack of other gluten-free brownie-eating in the past year or ? Perhaps Betty has some more work to do before her mixes are up to par with what we expect.

In any case, they were "good enough" brownies, especially for those looking for a familiar brand and for those baking for gluten-free loved ones who don't want to invest a lot of money in various flours to bake from scratch (If you are in this category be sure your pan is clean and don't use old scratched-up pans or silicone pans, which harbor gluten. You can always line your pans with aluminum foil or parchment paper if you have any cleanliness worries. You can read more here for baking and cooking for others). They are also incredibly fast and "good enough" for those who have little interest in investing lots of time to their baking.

Have you tried any of the other Betty Crocker Gluten Free mixes? What did you think of them?


P. said...

I have only tried the BC gluten free brownie mix so far, but judging by my similar "meh" reaction to it, I probably won't try the other ones, unless I'm looking for something to whip up in a pinch. Otherwise, my go-to GF brownie recipe has been this one:

These are better than any mix or recipe I've tried thus far, hands down. In fact, I took them to a small family gathering tonight and came home with exactly 3 out of a big pan (which is a good thing for my waistline, ha). And I was the only one there who has to eat GF.

I'm like you, I don't care for rice flour as a predominant ingredient. My GF flour mix for the brownie recipe above is 1/2 c. each of sorghum flour, tapioca flour, almond meal, and brown rice flour.

A at said...

I tried the brownie mix and the chocolate chip mix, and with a little doctoring I liked them. With the brownies, I stirred in (in addition to what it called for on the box) a half bag of chocolate chips and some apple sauce. They were really good. And I added some extras to the cookies, too. My blog at details it. Regardless, it's fun to have brownies again! :-)

Stephanie said...

I too have been hesitant to try the BC mixes. I've picked them up several times at the store, then put them back on the shelf. Perhaps that is because I have found a brownie recipe that I LOVE! I haven't posted it yet on my blog, but the recipe I used to create mine is here:

So moist, so chewy, sooooo good!!

CinnamonQuill said...

Hm, really interesting point about how wheat flour has taste and rice flour doesn't. My husband often says that he finds GF items to be lacking; as he says, there is no 'wheat taste'. I haven't tried the brownies, but I wouldn't make the BC chocolate chip cookies or yellow cake again. The yellow cake had a very impressive texture, but strange taste/smell. And the cookies seemed much too grainy (strangely, my husband liked the cookies--go figure!).

I am a fan of brown rice flour, when mixed with equal or greater parts of other flours. I stay far away from white rice flour though.

Interesting to read about everyone's personal tastes!