Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Commercial Gluten-Free (GF) Desserts

So, I just went to an open-house/tasting for a baker that is entering the Gluten-Free (GF) foods market here in the Cleveland area. She (calling herself "Joi Gluten Free") baked up three different snacks / desserts that she is offering for sale at a local health food and GF foods store in the area.

The selections, and my opinion of each, included:
  • Creme Filled Chocolate Cupcakes - taste was just OK, consistency wasn't bad but was not exceptional either. Out of the three items this lady presented, these were best (not saying much);
  • Lemon Filled White Cupcakes - horrendous! Absolutely disgusting. The "lemon filling" was like a lemon chewing gum that you would not want to chew.
  • Individual "Cheesecakes" with Cherry Topping - lacking taste, consistency was sub-par, and these "cakes" were a total cop-out having no crust whatsoever. Lame. How hard is it to sell cheesecake filling and have it be GF (it's cream-cheese, sugar, eggs basically!)
So, that is the high-level review. And, I told her I was a food critic for GF foods, which I most certainly am. And, I have high expectations, since I absolutely know you can bake Gluten-Free Desserts that taste just like the "real" ones (wheat / gluten containing ones). How do I know? Well, simple: my wife bakes them for me regularly, and we are creating a cookbook to help the GF community get back to a sense of normalcy. Enough of these inferior GF products already! We may not be able to consume Gluten, but we still have taste buds!

The thing that really burns me up is the COST of these GF products, which would be bad enough to deal with if the products tasted any good, and is ridiculous for products that are at best "OK". For example, the lady was charging $11.29 for FIVE CUPCAKES! This is insane! How much would five "ho-ho's" cost these days -- $1.00?? OK, so they are "specialty" items, and I could see them being as much as a buck apiece, but not $2.25/cupcake. And, they are made with ingredients that really aren't that much more expensive than regulare wheat-containing ingredients (in fact, if you know where to buy the rice flours, tapioca, sorghum, and such, it can be just as cheap). If we were talking Gourmet Restaurant-Quality foods here, the price would be another issue; but we are not.

Next issue I have with commercial GF stuff is this "need" that GF bakers seem to have for adding all sorts of Gums, binders, preservatives, and other artificial this and that to the mix. This particular baker whom I discussed the issue with insisted that these things are needed or the stuff will just fall apart! Uh... WRONG! Once again, we do not use any gums at all to hold out desserts together, and they are just like the real thing. Sure, we don't have to have a 2-week shelf life, so preservatives are out for us too. Some of the things used in this particular batch of "commercial" desserts included: BHA, Guar Gum, Fumaric Acid, Mono-and-Diglycerides, Potassium Sorbate, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Polysorbate 60, Yellow #5 & 6, Red #40, Erythorbic Acid, Xanthan Gum, and Carob Gum. Whew! That is one heck of a lot of ingredients that *I* do not feel like consuming! And, the sad fact is, all that stuff did nothing to make these desserts taste good, so why use them?

So, demand more from commercial Gluten-Free Foods producers. Do not purchase their sub-par goods; make them raise the level of their baking to where their products taste just like the "real" thing! If they can't figure out how to make something that is restaurant-quality, tell them to call me and we can work out a deal.

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