Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Versus: Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's that time again... We're long overdue for a Versus post, where we pick a gluten-free food category and have companies face off head-to-head for ultimate bragging rights. When I looked back through the blog to see when we did our last Versus face off, I couldn't believe the coincidental timing. We did it exactly one year ago tomorrow! Back then it was baking mixes for brownies. Today it's chocolate chip cookie baking mixes.

There are no shortage of gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mixes on the market, including Pamela's, Cherrybrook Kitchen, Arrowhead Mills, and Jules Gluten Free. For today's post, however, we're focusing on three:
We evaluated each cookie based on taste, texture, and how accurately the recipe created the cookie shown on the product packaging. Here's how they fared:

King Arthur Flour

The King Arthur gluten-free cookie mix is a "cookie base," meaning it creates a basic brown sugar cookie, which you supplement with what they call "add ins," such as chocolate chips. This is important to note, so you don't buy the mix (which includes a chocolate chip cookie photo on the box) and get home to the unwelcome surprise that there are no chocolate chips inside that box.

The mix includes the following ingredients: specialty flour blend (tapioca starch, rice flour), sugar, brown sugar, whole grain brown rice flour, cornstarch, molasses, salt, vanilla, leavening.

To make the recipe, you add the following: 1 stick butter, 1 egg, 2 tbsp water, chocolate chips.

The cookies had excellent taste, and a uniformly chewy texture throughout. However, the cookies did have a tendency to get a bit lacy and spread out during baking. The King Arthur instructions said to flatten the cookies to half an inch before baking. We tried a second batch leaving them as taller balls, but still had the spreading problem. Refrigerating the dough would be a next step to rectify the problem.

Betty Crocker

The mix includes the following ingredients: rice flour, chocolate chips, brown sugar, sugar, potato starch, potato flour, leavening, xantham gum, salt.

To make the recipe, you add the following: 1 stick butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg.

As the only mix in this review with xanthan gum, the Betty Crocker cookies maintained the best shape and spread the least. They were delightfully chewy in the middle, and developed a lightly crispy edge. The finished product looked the most like the picture you see on the box.

Gluten Free Pantry

The mix includes the following ingredients: white rice flour, chocolate chips, brown sugar, sugar, potato starch, potato flour, leavening, salt.

To make the recipe, you add the following: 5 tbsp butter, 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla.

It's interesting to note that the ingredients in the Gluten Free Pantry mix are identical to those in the Betty Crocker mix, except that the Gluten Free Pantry mix omits the xanthan gum. The recipe also calls for slightly less butter and an additional egg. The difference in the finished product was striking. The Gluten Free Pantry cookies spread the most - they became incredibly thin and lacy. (The packaging recommends chilling the dough for 2 hours to yield thicker cookies.) As you might expect based on similarity of ingredients, they tasted nearly identical to Betty Crocker, although the textures were quite different.


And so which gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix emerged victorious? I'm afraid the judges (Kelli and me) issued a split decision. She declared Betty Crocker victorious, for its good flavor, chewy center, and slightly crispy edges. I declared King Arthur victorious, for its equally good flavor and uniformly chewy texture.

What about you? Have you tried any of these mixes? Do you use another chocolate chip cookie mix not included in this Versus? Tell us what it is and what you like (or dislike) about it!

- Pete


Kim said...

Betty Crocker here! We love the texture & flavor!

Shannon said...

Of the three you listed, Betty crocker is our fav. But, out of all that we've tried Bob's Red Mill is our favorite brand for chocolate chip cookies.

Anonymous said...

Betty Crocker for sure. I make them all the time. The website even has some alternative recipes you can make using them like peanut butter cookie cars (think SNICKERS!)

peterbronski said...

Hi Kim and Anonymous... Glad to hear you've found a favorite in the Betty Crocker!

Hi Shannon... We'll have to try Bob's Red Mill one of these days. We love the Bob's flours, which we use to make our blend.

Cheers, Pete

Christina said...

My fiance makes Arrowhead Farms chocoloate chip cookies, but he doctors it up with coconut palm sugar, almond milk and extra chocolate chips. They come out tasting rich and just as good as regular cookies, which is a must since I never cared for the way gluten free cookies tend to come out too crunchy and crumbly.