Saturday, October 23, 2010
Gluten-free Pancake Mixes, A Blind Taste Test
It is pancake breakfast season in the San Francisco schools. I don't live there, but I get announcements for these, and have been surprised as how many of these breakfasts offer gluten free pancakes. There are so many pancake options out there, which pleases my pancake loving kids. The mixes are easy to make in small portions, it would be nice if more restaurants would offer them too. It would certainly please the sweet breakfast loving crowd. Not sure which mix to try? Well, read on and get the results of a blind taste test.
We convened a panel of 18 tasters: Eight adults and ten kids, ranging from 3-8 years old. Tasters were given bite sized plain samples identified only by letter and asked to rate the pancakes and provide comments. Small kids rated the pancakes on a happy face scale. After samples, tasters got to make their own custom pancakes with mix-ins and toppings... My kids I think got enough sugar in their 2 massive pancakes to power them for weeks!
Overall tasters were surprised on how un-opinionated they were about the samples. Most found flaws in each and things they enjoyed about each, but did not feel like there huge differences. Artfully topped, most mixes passed muster. In fact, all mixes except three received both high and low ratings. Only one received all high ratings - Bisquick.
Arrowhead Mills: This received middle of the road ratings, with some noting that it was dry. In fact, the provided recipe created a batter that was too thick to cook, so we had to loosen it up. However, no off flavors were detected.
Bisquick: This newcomer received the highest ratings overall and was the only mix that did not receive any low ratings. Tasters appreciated the fluffy texture that reminded them of "real" pancakes.
Bob's Red Mill: This mix was rated in the middle of the road, with some liking the buttermilky flavor and others disliking the strong flavor.
Cherrybrook Kitchen: This vegan, allergen free mix was the overall winner for some, yet poorly rated by others. It is a very sweet, vanilla scented mix that reminded some people of eating "cake." The resulting pancakes are substantial and with chew - again loved by some and less so by others.
Gluten-free Pantry: Another mix rated in the middle of the road. Some found the resulting pancake a bit dry, but found the flavor pleasant.
King Arthur Flour: This newcomer was rated well, with tasters highlighting the fluffy texture of the pancakes. A few tasters felt that the pancakes needed more flavor.
Pamela's: coming into the tasting this was many tasters declared favorite. Indeed it fared well, but was not the highest rated. Tasters enjoyed the taste of this mix, with it's buttermilk studded batter, but felt the texture was not as fluffy as other mixes.
Simply Organic: This mix was the only mix made with some whole grains and the recipe did not call for any additional fat beyond the egg. However, tasters felt that the whole grain taste was too strong, and the pancakes were far too dry.
Trader Joe's: This mix, purportedly made by Namaste, received all around low ratings. Tasters detected a strong off flavor and did not appreciate the texture of the pancakes.
Homemade: This mix is a work in progress. I slipped it in to get some honest feedback. Many tasters rated this highly for its taste, but the texture needed work. I reworked the recipe after the tasting and it is below. It results in a very moist pancake with a rich flavor. Aaron said he really liked the flavor, but it was still too "chewy" while Isaiah liked the texture. If you want less chew, just swap out some tapioca for some rice flour or my favorite buckwheat flour.
Homemade rich moist gluten-free pancake mix
This mix is buttery, milky and has a slight malt flavor from the molasses. Just store the mix in your refrigerator or freezer and to make it up add 1 egg and about 1 cup buttermilk to each 1 1/2 cup of mix.
3/4 cup buckwheat*
1 3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup tapioca starch
1 3/4 cup white rice flour
1 3/4 cup potato starch
1 3/4 cup powdered milk
2 T + 2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
4 t salt
1 T molasses
1/2 cup sugar
12 T cold butter but into 1/2 inch pieces
Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend well. If your food processor is not big enough, blend the dry ingredients in a bowl with the whisk. Then put a few cups of the flour with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. Blend well, and then whisk into the rest of the flour.