Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gluten free flours and mixes - a Bob's Red Mill Review (and who's doing it better).

Bob’s Red Mill Product Review
Bob Moore of Bob's Red Mill
(image above is from their website)
Ever looked at the gluten free section in your store or online and wonder - wow - I wonder how Bob's Red Mill Products are?
Perhaps you tried them and like them....
I have, so...I'm going to just review my Bob's Red Mill attempts in this single post. As a gluten free baker I try to turn to pre-milled flours sometimes to alleviate much prep work needed to soak, grind and store the grains.
Can I "soak/sprout" away gluten?
I also want to say something to the people who try to tout soaked/sprouted wheat as "gluten free" or "gluten reduced". When you have severe issues with gluten (Celiac Disease) and/or a direct allergy to wheat, rye, barley; no amount of "pre-digesting" the grain is going to help you. You may even need to stay away from supposedly gluten free oats. Bummer.
And some of us may never be able to eat gluten safely again. No matter what steps we take to heal our gut - it just isn't going to happen. So we are in constant search for those products that allow us to enjoy the foods we recall tasting so good.
From their site: "Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods produces more than 400 products, including a full line of certified gluten free products and an extensive line of certified organicproducts. With a wide variety of whole grain products, from flours and hot cereals to baking mixes and grains, Bob’s Red Mill has “whole grain foods for every meal of the day.”"
The Review in short:
Naturally, I have not used all of their 400 products, but I have used a significant amount; regretfully many without success. I've tried most of their recipes from the back of the bag as well and 90% of them tasted weird, have too much liquid, leavening, etc - many times I should have trusted myself to adjust the recipe when it seemed off.
I've had better luck with flours from King Arthur, Authentic Foods (a favorite), Pamela's (however their baking mix has dairy and leavening in it and I've stopped using it), and Gluten Free Pantry.
I've tried many other brands I was lukewarm about; Arrowhead Mills (I find many of their flours too coarse), Betty Crocker (where's their grain coming from? Are they actually gluten free pantry like everybody says?), etc , and I've also bought prepared goods from Glutino, Udi's (lovin' their blueberry muffins), Rudi's, French Meadow, etc. I'm not a Gluten Free novice and I've left some brands off the list like Chebe and the other one in the brown bags that escapes me right now - they pale in comparison.
I'm really not interested in hearing about any new mixes - unless of course it will knock my socks off and be dairy free and organic....
I've reviewed a couple on their website so those reviews are included here with photos. I should probably review ALL of their products on the website but that takes so much time.
So onto what I've used (please assume all products are GF):
Almond Flour
Best product that I've tried from Bob's so far. i like to use it to make cakes, muffins and other baked goods. Keeps it moist and adds protein. Almond flour is highly perishable and should be kept in the freezer as they suggest.
Sweet Rice Flour
works for thickening BAD POUND CAKE
We use this product in our gluten free baking and in sauces, however the Pound Cake Recipe on the back is horrendous. The recipe has to be off. A FIRE started in my oven.
Sorghum Flour
I love this flour - it is very versatile, sort of heavy, though so use it sparingly. I use it in my from scratch maple brownies and it is divine. I have made the scones - I prefer my own. I'll be making scones soon, posting and linking to the recipe - meanwhile - try Pamela's recipe on her baking mix if you eat dairy.
Brown Rice Flour
A staple in my kitchen - our brown rice flour is the base of my gluten free flour mix. Can't live without it.
Potato Flour
Another staple in our kitchen, used as part of the gluten free mix and as a thickener.
Garfava Flour
Another all purpose flour I use in 1/3 amount in my flour mix - it can make things taste "beanie". Babycakes features their blondie recipe on the back - I think they are pretty good - but can get beanie as I mentioned before.
Xanthan Gum
THE STAPLE FOR THICKENING AND BINDING. Very slippery - very messy - don't underestimate the power of this stuff - usually 1/4 tsp is enough. Yeah yeah - I know you can use flax seeds, chia, and some other things (kuzu - what I use in my brownies and arrowroot). YEAH I know it is a refined corn product. Honestly, I've not found anything else that works like it.
Corn flour
Another staple - just fine - keeps well in vacuum container.
Polenta/Grits
Wonderful Polenta - just what you expect. I like to soak mine in whey for 24 hours before cooking.
Old Fashioned oats
Another staple at our house. Great with soaked/baked oatmeal. This is a link to my favorite recipe: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/03/healthy-breakfast-recipe-from-sue-baked-soaked-oatmeal.html
Cornbread Mix
This was actually pretty good. Quite heavy from the general recipe so I experiment with lightening it up. It stands up well to experimentation, additions like jalapeños and Tillamook cheddar....
Millet
We eat a lot of millet in the morning and I use it like couscous as a side. This is pretty good. I actually like it better than Gold Mine - I find that the small Gold Mine grains have little stones.
Millet Flour
This makes morning sweets even sweeter. It is a very nutritious and dense flour - very yummy.
Quinoa Flour
We use this, but sparingly, it can taste a little bitter and impart a flavor you might not enjoy into baked goods.
Quinoa
This is exchanged with millet or added to millet as a side dish. It must be rinsed. It "sprouts" quickly. Very nutritious - tastes better as a grain than a flour. However - I like to add Quinoa flakes [Ancient Harvest] to my baked goods sometimes - banana bread is really nice with it (1/2 cup).
Pizza Crust
One of the better pizza crusts in a bag. If you can get it really thin it is good. Tip: Bake the crust first on a pan with parchment - then put on your toppings and put it back in...Don't use a stone with gluten free crust - it will be too hard.
Whole Grain Bread Mix
I personally like this bread, it is better than the "wonderful" bread mix; it is a little grainy so the kids and husband don't like it.
Brown Rice Farina
Very successful morning cereal for the children with cultured butter and maple syrup or preserves.
Biscuit and Baking Mix
It really is too bad this stuff only works for pastry for me (prefer Gluten Free Pantry for pastry crust though) - but that is a big positive since I do make tarts often. The biscuits are terrible - prefer these from scratch as well (123 Gluten free has THE BEST Gluten Free Southern Style biscuits EVER:
Wonderful Bread Mix
A staple here...although after eating Udi's for a while I can taste the heavy bean flour in this bread and it is too much. I was making sourdough from scratch this summer and it was great but a lot of work - I'll keep working and post a recipe when I think I've perfected it. Everybody's is different though due to your humidity and environment.
All Purpose Baking Flour
King Arthur beats the pants off this mix. Don't even bother with it. Too grainy, heavy and beanie tasting for us.
Steel Cut Oats
The kids and husband don't like these so we don't eat them anymore - too chewy.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
These cookies never taste right. They taste too beanie or soapy or something - must have too much leavening agent. They are sometimes grainy!
Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal
We tried this a couple of times - kids don't like it - they'd rather soaked oatmeal or millet.
Brownie Mix
Another general bummer. Pamela's brownies are by far the best mix I've sampled so far. But I have a brownie recipe that will delight and amaze (will blog it soon after I make them next and will update and link).
Chocolate/Vanilla  Cake Mixes
Nothing to write home about, cooks evenly, a little bland on the chocolate. Pamela's tastes better and Betty Crocker is just as good and cheaper).
Buckwheat Groats/Kasha
Tried a few times to serve this as a side or a cereal to my family - they hate it. I'm not partial to it either way - it sits in the freezer.
Pancake Mix
I don't know what it is but every time I make this the pancakes taste like FISH. YEAH - that's right - FISH. They are repulsive. I check the dates, try them from different locations, etc - but blech.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix
TERRIBLE. Don't even bother.
Please leave your comments below.

2 comments:

Mrs. B said...

I have to agree with you on most of your reviews. There are very few things that BRM makes that we like. The bean flour throws me off every time. It makes the products taste very different. The things I do like from them are their Almond flour and GF oats. Also the whole grain bread wasn't bad but my kids much prefer the texture of Rudi's (which is divine) and Udi's.

Allison said...

Allison, have you tried any of the King Arthur Flour GF mixes (brownies, cake, pancakes, etc.)? If not, send me a note and I'll be glad to send a few for review - we think you'll find they're the best you've tasted!
-Allison@KingArthurFlour
allison.furbish@kingarthurflour.com