Over the past few weeks, I have baked and tested delicious brownies, yellow cake and chocolate chip cookies with the help of my husband and a few of our friends. After hearing about more and more people going gluten-free, I wanted to try some of the goodies I’ve seen lining the shelves; I also wanted to see how they measured up against the traditional, non gluten free brands that many of us are familiar with.
What is Gluten?
- a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease.
While doing research and looking further into the subject, there seems to be a debate in regards to if going gluten-free will help those without Celiac Disease. In one corner, there are those that say “Yes! Everyone should cut out gluten!” while on the opposing side they are are yelling, “NO! Cutting out gluten isn’t necessarily healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, sugar, fat, and carbs!”. You know what I say? I say if you want to give it a shot, do it! If you start to notice negative effects or realize that it’s not for you, then give it up. I think people rely more on current trends, what their friends and family tell them to do and what the good old internet suggests, more than they should; common sense comes into play here people!
Okay, I’m off my soapbox – now onto the bakeoff!
Meet the Brands:
- Duncan Hines: This is what most of us grew up with; Mom would bake some brownies for the school bake sale or she knew that chocolate cake with vanilla icing was your birthday staple (and if you were lucky, you could lick the bowl!). Tried, true and cheap.
- Betty Crocker: Again, another brand we’ve all heard of and have eaten at one time or another. Good ol’ Betty Crocker is another brand that is tried, true and cheap.
- LiveGFree: If you frequent Aldi, you will see that this gluten-free line of products is popping up all over the store. What started out as a “Special Buy” is now an Aldi staple with a range of items from noodles to granola bars, all at an affordable price.
- Simply B Gluten Free: This is a high end gluten-free brand currently offering two items, brownie mix and yellow cake mix. Shout out to Raleigh, NC! Simply B Gluten Free is also a local brand!
- Chocolate Chip Cookies: Betty Crocker vs. LiveGFree
- Brownies: Duncan Hines vs. LiveGFree vs. Simply B Gluten Free
- Yellow Cake: Duncan Hines vs. LiveGFree vs. Simply B Gluten Free
Round 1 – Chocolate Chip Cookies
Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, right? I was eager to see how these two measured up! Both mixes called for 1 egg and 1 stick of butter although Live G Free made 36 cookies and the Betty Crocker only made 28 (I used a 1 inch cookie scoop for both batches). I noticed right away that the LiveGFree cookie dough was very dry and I was actually concerned with how well the cookies would stay together! They also took much longer to bake.
Let’s start with the traditional chocolate chip cookie made using the Betty Crocker mix; it’s everything you want in a cookie – a golden brown color, moist inside with a slightly crisp bottom and lots of chocolate chips throughout. LiveGFree, on the other hand, was grainy and crumbly. The chocolate chips seemed more like flecks of sparsely placed chocolate and the cookie was overall pretty dry. Winner = Betty Crocker!
Round 2 – Brownies
This is the round that I think my husband and I were most looking forward to! Let’s start with the price – Simply B Gluten Free Brownie Mix is sold for $9.99, the Duncan Hines was purchased for $1.88 and the LiveGFree was $2.99. Obviously, there’s a large price difference. Another difference I noticed right away was the difference in color and texture of the batter. Simply B was extremely sticky, thick and lightest in color while LiveGFree was the smoothest and darkest batter, with Duncan Hines being somewhere right in the middle of the two. All of the mixes baked at 350 and I will note that SimplyB cooked in significantly less time than the other two competitors.
After the brownies baked and cooled, my husband, my mother-in-law and I sat down to try the varieties.
- Duncan Hines: We all really liked this one and tasted as a brownie should – somewhere in the middle of cake-like and fudgy, nice rich color and a yummy chocolate flavor.
- Simply B Gluten Free: As you can see from the photo above, this one didn’t have the nice glossy finish we typically see on brownies. The texture was dry, very cake-like and a bit crumbly. All three of us agreed that it left an odd taste in our mouths as well.
- Live G Free: The three of us, surprisingly, ranked this as our absolute favorite! This brownie had a rich, dark color with a cake-like outside and super fudgy inside. We also agreed that it tasted more like dark chocolate and had a delicious, decadent flavor.
Brownie winner = Live G Free!!
Round 3 – Yellow Cake
I’m not the biggest yellow cake fan (I’m more of a chocolate type o’ gal) but I’m still not one to turn down cake. I decided that I wasn’t going to make frosting for the cakes because I wanted to taste them in all of their glory without any sweet icing to get in the way and hide the flavor. I’d like to note that the two gluten-free varieties only made 1 layer of cake while the Duncan Hines made two cake pans worth (or 12 cupcakes vs. 24 cupcakes). Also, the SimplyB required the addition of vanilla extract while the other two did not.
My husband, our good friend Chad and I sat down with a glass of milk and these are our results:
- Duncan Hines: Typical yellow cake with a good flavor and texture. Nothing special but also not bad.
- LiveGFree: Bleh! While the brownies were our favorite, this yellow cake fell realllly short. Not only was the flavor quite bland but, it had a horrible texture. It reminded us of a grainy cornbread – not good, not good at all.
- SimplyB Gluten Free: One word = delicious! This cake was so light and fluffy, it reminded us of a yummy cross between a pound cake and angel food cake. The vanilla flavor was great and the outside of the cake had the nicest “crispness” to it (for lack of a better word); it was almost like a thin, sugary crust. We
devouredate this cake with a dollop of homemade whipped cream on the side and some sliced strawberries. So, so good!
Yellow cake winner = SimplyB!!
- Chocolate Chip Cookie: Betty Crocker
- Brownies: LiveGFree
- Yellow Cake: SimplyB Gluten Free
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me! Also, if you have gluten free products that you would like for me to review and test, send them my way! I hope you enjoyed this gluten free bake off; the only thing I’m off to now, is to eat a piece of fruit! 😉