Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: Pillsbury Gluten Free Pizza Crust

Oh, Pillsbury. You do so many things well, and I'm thrilled that you're getting into the gluten free market. Well, actually, I was thrilled about the pie crust blend, because that makes the best chicken pot pie ever.

Your gluten free pizza dough, sadly, is a bit of a disappointment. I was really excited to give it a shot - after all, Pizza Friday is kind of a twice-a-month event at my house - so I figured it would be worth it, since I'd been so pleased with the pie crust dough.

Don't get me wrong - the pizza crust dough has a great texture. It rolls out beautifully, although the container said I'd get two crusts out of one package, and there's no way on dog's green earth that was going to happen unless I made a pair of five-inch pizzas. Really, it was nice and stretchy and soft, easy to work with, and didn't spring back once it was stretched into place on the pizza pan. Two thumbs up so far.

I baked my crust for a few minutes just to firm it up before I loaded it with toppings, then added my sauce, pepperoni and cheese, and baked it for a few more minutes. When it came out of the oven, it was gorgeous. Look at how pretty it is!

And of course it smelled good, because pizza smells good by its very nature. It even sliced neatly and evenly. In fact, I could tell already that this pizza would be one I could eat with my hands, and not the messy crumbly pile of ingredients that my children refer to as "forkin' pizza." Again, two more thumbs up!

And then I took a few bites, which is where I discovered Pillbury Gluten Free Pizza Dough's fatal flaw.

The problem is not that it has a bad taste or unpleasant flavor. The problem is that it has NO FLAVOR AT ALL.

At first I thought I was imagining this - after all, it's Pillsbury - and figured maybe all my delicious toppings were obscuring the taste of the crust. So I broke off a few bits of un-topped crust from around the edges and nibbled on them by themselves.

Nada. Nothing. Zip.

Like I said, it's not a BAD flavor, it's simply non-existent. There's a bit of a faint aftertaste once I swallowed, which I suspect can be attributed to the millet flour, but in general, it just doesn't taste like anything at all. This crust scored a perfect ten on every other aspect, like texture and consistency, but the absence of any discernible flavor is unforgivable. Don't get me wrong, I did eat all my pizza - because the crust served as a delivery method for all my tasty cheese and pepperoni, but it was a huge let-down.

I've read the reviews on the Pillsbury website, and people have mixed feelings about this product, so I'd definitely suggest trying it for yourself... but only if you don't mind a hit or miss pizza crust. I'm hoping Pillsbury eventually revises their recipe for this and adds something -- anything -- that gives this product some flavor. Because otherwise I know I personally won't be wasting another $4 on a tub of it.

Review: Chebe Cinnamon Roll Mix

I love cinnamon rolls. Like, really love them. They're the perfect weekend breakfast food. However, they're also fairly time consuming to make from scratch, which I have to do if I want them to be gluten free, so I really haven't bothered to make them in, oh, I don't know, three years or something.

So the other day I was at Ye Olde Grocery Shoppe and saw that Chebe has a cinnamon roll mix. Hmmmm, thought I. Chebe's cheese bread and focaccia are staples in my pantry, and I keep them on hand in case I'm having a bread emergency, because they're tasty. I figured I'd give the cinnamon roll mix a shot.

Like all Chebe mix, it's pretty easy to bang out a batch of these. The mix blended easily, and I think it took me maybe five minutes to get everything combined and ready to roll out.

Here's where a lot of gluten-free mixes fail. One of the reasons that gluten is such an important thing in baking is that it's what helps bind stuff together - it's a sticky, stretchy protein that makes everything have a structure and shape instead of just being a dense loaf of flours. A problem I see with many commercially prepared GF mixes is that they haven't included enough of whatever alternate ingredients make the dough stretchy, so things tend to fall apart when you're doing important stuff like, say, using a rolling pin. I'm happy to say that the Chebe cinnamon roll dough rolled out pretty well. I use a silpat-style baking mat to roll everything out, liberally sprayed with cooking spray, and was able to easily get the dough to the recommended 8x12" dimensions. 

Topping it was easy, and even the roll-up process wasn't too bad - this part, though, is definitely a good reason to use a baking mat when you work with dough. You can simply angle the edge of the mat up and flop the dough back in over itself to get your roll rolling. Slicing it up worked pretty well, and it was no problem to get the 12 slices the box said I would get.

The box says to bake the rolls for about sixteen minutes, but honestly they didn't seem quite done, so I gave them an extra two. That's going to vary depending on your oven. Now, here's one thing that's important to remember about these cinnamon rolls. If you're expecting something that's going to quadruple in size, like those refrigerated cinnabun monstrosities that our gluten-eating family members get to eat, you're doing to be disappointed. These do not plump when you cook 'em, although they do expand out just a little bit.

Flavor-wise, they're delicious - they taste just like a cinnamon roll should. Texture-wise, mine came out a little firm on the outside - with a chewy consistency almost like a cookie - and softer on the inside, but again, that may have to do with my oven.

I like my cinnamon rolls with frosting, so I whipped up a quick batch of cream cheese topping to spread on the top, but honestly, they would have been just fine without it. On the whole, if you're going to use a mix, Chebe has a decent blend available here - like I said, they're not big or puffy or fluffy cinnamon rolls, but they're tasty, have a good consistency, and are easy to whip up if you want a quick and delicious breakfast. I'd definitely recommend these to anyone who's a fan of my "work smarter not harder" philosophy, and keep a box on hand in your pantry just in case you're having a hankering for cinnamon rolls and aren't interested in making them from scratch.