Friday, September 11, 2009

Gluten Free Review #1: Maple Grove Gluten-Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

So we've dove into Gluten-Free food now, I thought I'd post some reviews of what we've tried. Since there's actually quite a few different brands out there, it's as much to keep track of what we like and don't like as it is a review for anyone else.
Today I'm going to talk about pancakes. Our family loves pancakes. Sometimes we eat them for dinner. My 14 year-old son Joseph has no problems with getting up and making them himself before anyone gets up. It used to be Bisquick or even a from-scratch recipe. Now we can't use those anymore, so I decided to try a mix. There are plenty of gluten-free from-scratch recipes out there (I'd go check out the Baking Beauties Blog if I were you, even if they haven't updated anything in months, it's still got a TON of recipes) but I didn't want to have to invest in all the different flours and starches and gums that you need. I just got some mixes. The first one I'll talk about is Maple Grove.
Maple Grove is not a big Gluten-free house like some other shops. They have a bunch of gluten-included items (we call them gluten-full at home), Belgian waffle mixes, syrups, salad dressings, maple candy. But their gluten-free mix was a shade cheaper than the Bob's Red Mill at Krogers so I picked them up. I seem to remember $3.29 a box.
Preparation - Cub Scout's Honor, I don't remember anything about the making of them. My wife whipped them up. I seem to remember that the batter came out a bit thick. But no complaints about the preparation. It was basically the same as any other pancake mix. No special gluten-free extra materials to add, no special dances to shoo away the gluten. Just mix it up and slap it on the griddle.
Taste - These pancakes came up tasting really nice, a bit sweet, with a hint of vanilla. Seriously, a hint. They did have a different texture than Bisquick pancakes though. Almost gritty. It wasn't terribly off-putting. A guy I work with whose wife has Celiac Disease told me that in general, gluten-free food tastes good, but the textures that I'm used to are hard to repeat. In fact he told me to get used to nothing having that good texture ever again. On the whole the kids thought that they were OK but they wanted to try other brands to see how they came out. So overall they were OK. Not light and fluffy like Mom used to make, but the taste was better than I expected.
Value - This is a touchy subject, because not everyone is as cheap as I am. But then again, they may not be supporting a family of eight and a half. So I actually check price per pound. Gluten-free stuff is expensive and I ain't made of money. The pancake mixes aren't at as much of a premium compared to some other stuff (like pasta or bread) though. And Maple Grove is less expensive than some other gluten-free brands. As a comparison, regular old "gluten-full" Bisquick runs about $6 for 40 oz. That's two and a half pounds. This stuff was $3.29 for a pound. Not bad. Bob's Red Mill was a little less per pound but a bigger bag (22 oz) and there was a mix from Pamela's that ran about $5-6 a pound (I think). So Maple Grove scores pretty well in the value department.
Final Verdict - The price was OK, but that may be an indication of the market for gluten-free pancake mixes. Preparation was straight-forward, no different than what you would expect. The taste was well above my expectations, better than what you would get out of most "gluten-full" pancake mixes. Texture left a bit to be desired though. At first we thought that we might pass on getting more Maple Grove for our pantry due to the texture but after tasting some others we might go back to it. It seems that getting a good taste is harder than we thought. More on that later.

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