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Best Gluten Free Brownie Mix- Taste Test Update

Gluten Free Brownie Mix Taste Test - The Winner
Best gluten-free brownie from a mix. Our taste test.

And the winner is...

Steve and I decided to do a taste test. Our goal? Finding the best tasting gluten-free brownie from a mix. Our criteria? A brownie so abundant in chocolaty goodness it would fool a gluten eater. Steve is the brownie baker in the family, so he was in on this project from the start. 

I had him at, What if...

For the sake of simplicity we chose to compare the three gluten-free mixes readily available at our local markets: Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix, Pamela's Irresistible Chocolate Brownie Mix, and The Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix.

We were most familiar with The Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix as it was the first gluten-free mix we tried when we gave up gluten five years ago. It gave us hope. The will to live. Gooey, chocolate goodness.

I suppose I should mention here, in the spirit of full disclosure, we always add extra semi-sweet chocolate chips into our bar and cookie recipes; even if the recipe or mix might not call for chips; and if a recipe or mix does call for chips, we double it. We like our brownies decadent. Life is short.
So, let's get to it.

We began this experiment with Pamela's. Here are our notes.


Pamela's Irresistible Chocolate Brownie Mix

Pros::

Honey and molasses for sweetening - a plus for those limiting sugar intake.

I used cold coffee for the liquid (as directed on the package for a mocha flavor - nice option!) and I thought the balance of chocolate to coffee flavor was perfect, and overall, not too sweet.

The brownies rose high, and had more of a cake-like texture than I expect in a brownie, but I didn't hold that against them. They looked like a true brownie when I took them out of the oven.

Cons::

The mix (as is) needs a smaller pan than my favorite large Chicago Metallic pan.

Baked at sea level [read: humid] the texture was more cakey than chewy-gooey. Because of this, Steve voted these down.

Update note:
For some reason, these brownies seem to bake even better in a drier climate. Because we are at high altitude now, I upped the oven temperature to 375 degrees F- as Pamela's suggests for high altitude- and they came out perfect.



Pros::

The Bob's Red Mill mix has a nice look to the packaging; very appealing.

I liked the use of turbinado sugar in the mix, and the Ghiardelli cocoa.

Cons::

An in-between amount of batter and I had to choose between my favorite large brownie pan and the smaller Pyrex; I chose to stretch it and used the big pan, so the brownies were thin. If I were to do it again, I'd try a muffin tin.

The texture was good and slightly chewy, not gooey, but passable.

The flavor was just okay. I'm not a fan of bean flours. There was something missing.

Our overall impression was, well. These taste a tad "gluten-free" and we would not bother making them as a real treat. We doubted a gluten-eater would be enamored.



Pros::

Lots of batter for the buck- enough so that I could use my favorite large brownie pan.

I also appreciate the preparation tip on the bag to line the pan with foil and grease it. This makes clean-up: done.

Hands down the best texture and mouth feel. A perfect balance of chewy and gooey.

We both believe even gluten-eaters would be impressed with these brownies. They look, feel, and taste like a normal brownie living in a gluten filled world.

Steve's number one choice, no contest.

Cons::

No real complaints from me. Pretty darn good. Fudgy.

The winner?

The original winner from December 2005 is pictured above in all its glorious chocolate radiance. It's The Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix.


Update 2008:

We now have a two new faves, Dear Gluten-Free Reader. Pamela's Irresistible Chocolate Brownie Mix and Namaste Brownie Mix. We kick 'em up with extras.


Kick Up Your Mix::
  • Substitute the water with coffee, coconut milk, or a safe vanilla non-dairy milk
  • Add a cup of shredded sweetened coconut
  • Add more chips- we add a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or try a cup of gluten-free white chocolate chips or even peanut butter chips
  • Add a half cup peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans or walnuts
  • Go Chunky style- add raisins and chips and peanuts, or Almond Joy style with coconut and toasted almonds
  • With the additions above, you may need to use a larger brownie pan


And if, by any chance, you're feeling up to baking a brownie from scratch...see my divinely delicious dark chocolate brownie recipe.

26 comments:

  1. Food for serious thought. Happy holidays.

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  2. Anonymous10:06

    Karina -- can you use guar gum, or do you have the same problems with that?

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  3. That's an excellent question. Guar gum does not seem to bother me - at least in small doses. I'm sparing with it; if I use it at all.

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  4. Interesting. I have the reverse problem as you: I can't eat much guar gum without being ill. Luckily for me, it seems to be in fewer of the mixes out there than xanthan.

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  5. Xanthan gum is an additive gum used in small amounts for gluten-free baking, and making ice creams. It is used in a wide assortment of foods - from jarred olives to Egg Beaters. It is, basically, a vegetable derived gum that adds vicosity.

    ~k

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  6. I have had good luck sub-bing milled flax seed for xan gum in recipes. I have a pretty good brownie recipe, but it is not perfect yet. I'll let you know if I get it! Thanks for the reviews! I am anxious to try the Pamela's now. I made the GFPantry mix this week and it was a bit too sweet for me. I thought less sugar and a little coffee flavor would be perfect, so the Pamela's sounds like the mix for me! Thanks!!!

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  7. Anonymous18:03

    Here's another (gum free) brownie recipe you might want to try. They're great in muffin cups or in a 9x13 pan. They're always best warm and a la mode. This recipe was given to me by a friend when I was first diagnosed, but I'm unsure where she found it.

    3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
    3/4 c. butter
    1 c. brown sugar
    1/2 c. white sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla
    3 eggs
    3/4 c. gf flour mix
    1 c. almond meal or chopped almonds

    In a fairly large pot on the stove top, melt butter with unsweetened chocolate. Remove from heat and wisk in sugars. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla. Next add 3/4 c. gf flour (I use Bette Hagman's suggested mix of 3 parts white rice flour, 3 parts brown rice flour, 2 parts potato starch, 1 part tapioca flour mix), and the almond meal. Pour into a greased brownie pan, or unbleached muffin cups. Bake at 350 for 20-23 minutes--tops should crackle, and a knife or toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center. Makes 16 brownies. I calculated the calories and they are 210 calories a piece. Regardless they're the richest, most filling brownies I've ever had. And no one, even the gluten lovers, ever turns them down.

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  8. Anonymous15:42

    Have you tried Namaste' Brownie mix? My 11 year old nephew begged to make them again!

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  9. Hi Anon ~

    No, I've not tried that mix. I haven't seen it in the store[s]. Will keep an eye out.

    Thanks.

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  10. Hey Anon ~

    Recipe looks good. I bet it would be delicious in muffin cups.

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  11. Pam Koons20:35

    You HAVE to try The Craving's Place gluten free brownie mix- it is to die for! Wheat free egg free dairy free!

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  12. Has anyone had luck experimenting with Expandex, which is a modified tapioca starch that is supposed to do a better job than gums (and lessen the amount of gums required) in gluten-free cooking? I saw the ad in the latest Living Without.

    http://expandexglutenfree.com/

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  13. I have this vague memory of someone mentioning using Pamela's brownie mix in place of Pamela's baking and pancake (aka all purpose) mix as a crisp topping. I was thinking of making a cherry crisp following your recipe for the blueberry crisp, but using the Pamela's brownie mix instead of the all-purpose one. Do you have any suggestions? Also, would you add as much brown sugar to the crisp topping? Thanks!

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  14. Hi ~M,

    That's a fab idea! I'd follow the same recipe, and maybe add a tad less sugar to the crumble mix. Taste test as you go and see what you think. And please let us know [under the Blueberry Crisp post] how you make out.

    Thanks!

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  15. Sorry no one has answered you, Michelle. I have no experience with that product.

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  16. Anonymous18:47

    hey karina,

    i love your site and all the recipes/tips. as someone who is both GF and DF, you are a goddess indeed!

    just curious if the GFP mix works with added chips (1C) and brown sugar (1/2 C) as you suggest for pamela's adaptation. thanks!

    you're amazing - really love your stuff and thank you for keeping this site up and fresh.

    take care -
    niki

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  17. Hey Niki!

    Actually the only change that Steve makes to the GFP mix is to add a cup of chips. It has enough sugar in the mix already [and fits a larger brownie pan].

    Sometimes we add 1/2 cup shredded coconut; and sometimes a 1/2 cup raisins, also [these taste like a Chunky candy bar].

    When you add extras keep on eye on the baking time, they may need to bake a little longer - but don't overdo it - you don't want them dried out. {Adding the chips really helps keep them fudgy.}

    Take care! :)

    Karina

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  18. Anonymous19:17

    thanks, karina - appreciate you writing back so fast. i'll add the chips, hold off on the sugar and will look forward to some yummy brownies shortly!

    hugs from dc,
    niki

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  19. Anonymous14:34

    ms. goddess,

    the extra chips and raisins made for a sinfully delicious batch of brownies - my best yet! and my slightly skeptical partner (GF by default) was blown away too. he was suspicious of raisins until he ate them! thx again and keep the great recipes coming - you rock!

    niki

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  20. Nice cookies blog, would you mind if i ask you for a link exchange?

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  21. Karina,

    Have to say that I just prepared the Bob's Red Mill brownie mix and it was fab. I brought it to work and people were extremely fooled. They were very rich in texture. I used a smaller pan--8x8 and think that was helpful. They were very thick. I thought they were cakey in texture, so I made a cocoa-confectionary sugar glaze and co-workers were just eating them up without knowing. Even loving after knowing their GF status.
    I know that from some experience, baking some of these items in pyrex doesn't do it any good, it needs a pan which is what I think you used anyway.
    I have had Pamela's but I think she changed her recipe and it is better? I could be wrong.
    I wonder if the thinness did your brownies a disservice.
    Thanks for the info, and the pic was simply devine chocolate.
    Dina

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  22. Karina-
    Just wanted to tell you what you do is amazing! I was diagnosed with MS 5 years ago then saw a doctor thousands of miles away who found out I had Gluten Intolerance. I wish I knew how to cook like you! I was wondering if you could tell me any convenient things you found to make. My husband is not GI so he buys toaster strudles and bagel bites, quick things he can eat in 2 minutes! I don't mind cooking, but I'm not that good at it!! Thanks for your page!

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  23. Anonymous13:35

    Karina- I love the choc truffle bownie mix also. Is there any way to make it lower cal by using pumpkin or another lower cal substitute for the butter and eggs?

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  24. Hi Karina, a couple questions.
    I want to make GF Peanut Butter Brownies (not vegan) to bake in mason jars and can (see my site if you aren't familiar with the method EmilysEdibles.Etsy.com)

    Based on your detailed reviews, I might try the Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix IF I can somehow make them PB brownies. Any ideas?
    I'd rather bake from scratch... so do you know a good recipe for GF PB Brownies from scratch? Slightly cakey is okay, it just needs to be bakeable in a 1 pint jar, which is different than a pan (really just means a longer baking time, but some recipes end up with burnt edges around the sides of the jar, for whatever reason.)
    Thanks!
    Emily

    Read more: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2005/12/best-gluten-free-brownie-mix-taste.html#ixzz0MqMJIWsW

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  25. Hi Karina,

    I too, have tried several GF Brownie mixes and have been disappointed by most of them. I recently tried the Bob's Red Mill mix and was gravely disappointed. They are somehow sticky AND gritty at the same time! Not what anyone wants in a brownie. I do have to agree, however, with your pick for the best mix. The Gluten Free Pantry mix is excellent. I first found it about two years ago when I was working at a natural food store. I whipped up a batch and brought them into work, and NO ONE could tell they were Gluten-Free. I now use the mix to make my famous peanut butter cup brownies. I sift out the chocolate chips because I find the texture distracting.

    I can't wait to try your recipe as well! It is quite the challenge to find the right combination of flours to bake with. I am happy to see that I'm not the only one who refuses to settle for mediocre substitutes for baked goods! I am very sensitive to food texture which, as you may imagine, makes GF baking difficult. I usually avoid any kind of rice flour because of the grittyness, but I'll trust you on this one!

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  26. You are very brave to try pre-packaged brownie mixes. All the ones I've tried taste too chalky. So I have yet to find a brownie recipe that competes with the gluten-filled brownies I used to make. I am going to try your peppermint brownies. They sound really appealing.

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