It might be a great debate to determine which dessert is considered the most classic of all: the chocolate chip cookie or the brownie. When considering which product face-off I was going to do next, we had much more interest in brownies as opposed to, say, crackers. And so here we are!
If you have read any of my other posts you probably know that I am not a huge fan of refined sugar. For the nutritional purists out there, I will allay your fears that I am somehow under the impression that other sugars are not sugars or are actually good for you. I understand that is not the case. However, I do believe that unrefined or unprocessed sugars have benefits that refined sugars do not. They, being in a more natural state, retain a lot of their nutrients and enzymes and therefore do not rob our body of nutrients as part of their digestion process as the refined sugars do. This is the reason that I always strive to use unrefined or unprocessed sugars in the recipes that I develop or reboot.
That said, there are times in your life when you have to do what you have to do. Sometimes you are asked at the last-minute to contribute a dessert to a family, social or office function and there is no time to try to whip up one of Nutritionicity’s delicious gluten-free, refined-sugar-free recipes from scratch! Instead, you need to open a box of brownie mix (where the first ingredient is always sugar), stir in some liquid and fat, and 60 seconds later throw it in the oven. However, for those battling celiac disease or gluten sensitivity it doesn’t mean you have to glutenize your brownies–and either abstain from eating them or suffer the consequences. There are a lot of gluten-free brownie mixes available today. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that, contrary to what has been getting a lot of media time lately, these gluten-free brownie mixes are no higher in sugar than their non-gluten-free brownie mix off-the-shelf counterparts! We have tried many of them, and we’ve chosen the three best to compare and contrast in this face-off.
I selected Arrowhead Mills, Glutino, and King Arthur Flour gluten-free brownie mixes. We made all three exactly as the instructions on the back of each box explained as we wanted to compare apples to apples. This was not as easy as it sounds. I did have to resist the temptation to experiment with making them vegan. But we are comparing off-the-shelf products (and so it goes). I baked all three batches in one afternoon so they were all the same “age” when we tasted them that evening. We had three adults and two children rating the brownies in six categories (texture, chocolatyness, moistness, density, richness and sweetness). We then asked each tester to rate each brownie in overall satisfaction independent of the scores they received in each category. The scale was a 1-5 scale. One being lowest and five being highest. I won’t keep you waiting for the punchline. After averaging the scores of both the individual categories and the overall satisfaction the outcome was the same. First place went to Arrowhead Mills and second and third place were a tie for Glutino and King Arthur Flour. It is interesting to note that in this test group the children were much more consistent in their ratings. The children’s overall ratings reflected the same end result as their individual category averages. However, there was some disparity in the individual categories vs. the overall for the adults. Go figure – kids really know what they like when it comes to sweets!
So here’s the down-low on each of the brands.
First Place – Arrowhead Mills – The mix is certified gluten-free, certified Non-GMO Project Verified, and most of the ingredients are organic. It was easy and quick to mix together (about 1 minute) and used vegetable oil, warm water and eggs. It baked for 33 minutes and yielded 16 – 2×2 inch brownies in an 8×8 inch pan. This brownie was the thickest of the three. It was light and fluffy but still had a nice chewy texture and fudgy taste. The fudgy flavor was, in part, due to the chocolate chips that were in the brownie mix. The only flaw in this brownie was that it fell apart more than its competitors when cutting and serving. I attribute this to the 1/4 cup water that is added to the mix. I think that this could be remedied by splitting the 1/4 cup water between oil and water. Reduce the water to 2 tablespoons and add an additional 2 tablespoons of oil.
Second Place (Tie) – King Arthur Flour – The mix is certified gluten-free but not certified Non-GMO Project Verified. The ingredients do not state that they are organic. It too was easy and quick to mix together (about 1 minute) and used 1/2 cup of melted butter or oil (I used butter), 2 tablespoons water and eggs. It baked for 32 minutes and yielded 16 – 2×2 inch brownies in an 8×8 inch pan. This brownie was the 2nd thickest of the three. The texture was nice and chewy but the flavor was the weakest of the three. This could have been because it was the only mix that did not have chocolate chips. Of course, this could be remedied by adding a few mini chocolate chips to the mix prior to combining with the other ingredients. This brownie cut and served nicely without crumbling or falling apart.
Second Place (Tie) – Glutino – The mix is certified gluten-free and certified Non-GMO Project Verified. The ingredients do not state that they are organic. This mix required a little more time to combine (about 3-4 minutes) as it instructed you to beat the eggs for 2-3 minutes prior to adding the dry mix. The recipe used 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Earth Balance spread or melted butter (I used melted butter) and eggs. No water was required. The batter was thicker than the other two and did require some spreading in the pan before baking. It baked for 25 minutes and yielded 16 – 2×2 inch brownies in an 8×8 inch pan. This brownie turned out the thinnest of the three. The texture was also nice and chewy. However, we did note that you could sometimes feel the granulation of the sugar in your mouth. The fudgy flavor, in part due to the chocolate chips in the mix, was complemented by an almost nutty taste. Some people might find this a delightful departure in flavor but for me it was a distraction from the fudgyness that I am so fond of in brownies. This brownie also cut and served nicely without any crumbling or falling apart.
So there you have it! I hope this was helpful to you in making your decision for a go-to, off-the-shelf, gluten-free brownie mix. It was a true labor of love for my kids to eat three different kinds of brownies in one night, so much so that they are already looking forward to the next product face-off. We’d love to know if this was helpful to you or if you have any requests for future product face-offs.
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