Gluten-free and well-fed: Baking outside the box
April 14th, 2011
09:30 AM ET
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Jennie Bragg is an Editorial Producer in CNN’s Money Unit. Previously - When did G-free get

Where I come from, baked goods only happen on birthdays and other such special occasions, and they come with a little help from Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. Many critics would agree that my mom makes the best brownies in the world and if anyone is still wondering about her big secret, they come from a box. So, it was slightly out of character that I baked chocolate chip cookies this weekend - from scratch.

Why stray from tradition? Because gluten-free baking mixes taste like cardboard.

My first try at a G-free baking mix was just shortly after I had been diagnosed with celiac disease. It was Thanksgiving and I thought, “Hey, why not add a gluten-free option to our turkey day feast?” The cake came out so rock hard, I assumed I must have left out an ingredient or two.

I have since come to realize that the consistency of that cake is pretty much the norm for boxed G-free baked goods. I have tested multiple brands and various products over the years, from cookies to cakes to brownies. They all come out pretty much the same: like a fifth grade science experiment gone wrong.

So, this weekend, I embarked on a new journey - a little thing they call "baking from scratch." I am not going to pretend I liked it. For me, simplicity in the kitchen is key. These cookies had more ingredients than I was willing to work with and I probably have the smallest kitchen in Manhattan - and NYC kitchens are microscopic.

But in the end, I got some really good cookies. These chocolaty, delicious cookies, unlike every gluten-free product I have ever made from a box, did not turn into hard, inedible buffalo chips just moments after removal from the oven. In fact, they were still pretty delicious the next day. I brought them to a non G-free friend who was not only astounded that I had made them, but that they didn’t contain gluten. Big win.

And now I know I can bake from scratch - but it will probably be Christmas before I do it again. What a pain.

Jennie used Alton Brown's recipe for Chewy Gluten-Free Cookies

Read – Will a gluten-free diet improve your health? on CNN Health

Previously - When did G-free get, Gluten defined, Celiac? To heck with that! and The sneaky stuff

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Filed under: Dietary Restrictions • Gluten-free

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Lois

    Can you say Betty Crocker ? I have tried the brownie mix, cake mixes, chocolate chip cookie mix and all are delicious. My gluten eating husband said that if I didn't hid the GF chocolate chip cookies, he would eat all of them. I served the GF brownies to my gluten eating family and they couldn't believe that they were GF. I used Betty Crocker frosting [cream cheese] on the brownies and took them to a friends house for a bring a dish lucheon , for the dessert. Everyone raved about them and most people ate two.

    February 28, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
  2. elirogosa

    Eli Rogosa: After years of suffering, I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy by my doctor. I began a journey to research ancient grains from the dawn of agriculture, that are pure and untainted by modern breeding. It is wonderful to be able to baked delicious artisan breads of EINKORN. Einkorn is has a form of gluten that is safe for most allergies but not advised for celia disease. I collected einkorn seeds in Europe, and now grow acres of einkorn in NY, and offer einkorn flour and artisan breads. See: for details.

    August 5, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  3. gluten free snacks

    Gluten free eating gets surprisingly tastier over time... I think it's a combination of getting used it (a little bit) and learn to navigate slightly new flavors and ways of cooking :)

    August 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  4. gulten free baking

    Nice article! It will me more chose what I will buy and What I will select for me.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  5. Cristine

    What a pointless article.

    April 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  6. D'Santo

    Gluten free baking can be really tough.
    Here is for a savory excellent dish – gluten free of course!

    Frenchie and the Yankee

    April 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  7. Jenrose

    Cravings Place mixes ALWAYS work for us. They taste like what they're supposed to be. The brownies are heavenly. The cake mix and pancake mixes are fantastic. And they're not only gluten free, but egg free as well, and dairy free unless you use butter.

    April 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  8. Lauren

    Pamela's is my go to for crepes as well. I feel that I can't mess up with it regardless of how off script I go. Pancakes, waffles and other baked stuff happens effortlessly.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  9. JJ

    I've found that Pamela's Baking mix always turns out fabulous cakes/cookies. Follow the instructions on the side of the bag for cookies pancakes etc and you can't tell the difference! Pamela's is a mix of about 4 different flours so it eliminates the buying of allllll those flours!

    April 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Sandi

    Namaste cake mixes are divine. We use their spice cake for carrot – which is coming up here in no time. And their chocolate is so light and airy, so moist, that my gluten-eating family never knows the difference. In this case, I'll leave the work to the pros :)

    April 14, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  11. AleeD

    Alton Brown is The Man!

    April 14, 2011 at 10:33 am |
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