Google Tag

Search This Blog

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Of all the gluten-free baked goods we've tried so far, I would have to say the Macarons and the Snickerdoodles have been the best.

In the case of the macarons, there's a texture we're not used to eating all the time. It's a uniquely "macaron" or "macaroon" texture. And, personally, I've had way more macarons from TJ's than from anywhere else. But in the case of the snickerdoodles, they approximated a very "normal" texture without using gluten. It's harder to imitate something that's usually made with gluten than it is to just make something different.

So making a gluten free cupcake seems like it should be pretty close to impossible. But I've gotta say, they came incredibly close.

Once again, they nailed the flavor of a chocolate cupcake. I personally liked the frosting, too, although Sonia thinks it was too heavy for her tastes. I must admit, it was thick and very buttery. But it had a nice vanilla taste, and it blended well with the chocolate cake.

The cake part was super-moist. It broke apart in the same way any chocolate cake would, but once you started chewing it, there was just a tiny hint of what I might call "starchiness." It's like portions of the cake crumbs wanted to stick together just a hair more than with a glutenful cupcake that perfectly "melts in your mouth." But that's nitpicking. Really. The effect was very subtle, and if I hadn't already known that these were gluten-free cupcakes, I might not have noticed it. I think it's gotta be the "potato starch" that you can see there in the ingredients list photo, which wound up looking like the culinary equivalent of an American Apparel ad. I washed it all down with a tasty caramel latte, and my tummy was a happy camper. And sure enough, my stomach didn't puff up the way it does when I eat regular cupcakes. I should probably do this gluten-free thing full time. With products like these, I wouldn't feel like I'm giving up the world.

The checkout guy at Trader Joe's exclaimed, "Enjoy the cupcakes. They're excellent!" when I bought them. He's certainly not wrong. Sonia's only complaint was the heaviness of the buttercream, although I was a fan of the icing. And my only complaint is the oh-so-barely-there weirdness of the cake texture. Definitely, if you're eating gluten-free out of necessity, these cupcakes will be your friends.

Sonia gives them 4 stars. I think they're worthy of a 4.5.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trader Joe's Dried Kimchi

I've mentioned my feelings about kimchi in one or two previous posts. It scares me. It's foreign, it's fermented, and it's cabbage. It's just a bit intimidating. 

And it's not just kimchi that terrifies me, but all forms of fermented cabbage, like sauerkraut.

But you can't say I'm not a trooper. I've eaten sauerkraut on hotdogs and with porkchops. I've tried kimchi in fine Asian restaurants, mostly Korean barbecue places. And I've tried multiple different kinds of it. I did appreciate some of the varieties a little more than the traditional cabbage-based one, but none so much that I'd snack on them on any normal occasion. I just can't get into it.

Recently, an excellent article about fermented foods by Ellen Byron went up on the Wall Street Journal site. (If that link takes you to a "Get the Full Story" screen, that means they've placed the article behind their paid subscriber wall). And it really got me thinking. It got me thinking that if a delicious condiment like Sriracha is actually fermented, a fact I was previously unaware of, that maybe I should give this whole kimchi thing another whirl. 

I thought that maybe the dryness of this Trader Joe's product would cut down on the grossness of the kimchi. When it's all wet, I just can't get it out of my mind that it's cabbage being broken down into a liquid slowly by millions of little bacteria. So, after postponing the consumption of the dried kimchi as long as possible, I finally decided to be brave and open the bag. There were dozens of chunks of dried kimchi with a dusting of a powdered version of the traditional red spices you'd find on any regular kimchi. It looked and felt like the bag of kale chips I reviewed a while back. The taste, however, was very different from the kale chips.

Chalk it up to my aversion to kimchi if you must, but I simply can't recommend this stuff like I did that delicious bag of dried kale coated in a weird nacho sauce. This stuff STILL TASTES LIKE ROTTING CABBAGE!

I found it a shade more palatable when I ate it in a bowl of ramen instead of straight out of the bag, but in the former case, it gets wet again. I imagine that the millions of little bacteria responsible for the sourness of the cabbage have been in suspended animation for months, and then when I drop it into my bowl of warm soup, they come to life again like a package of Amazing Live Sea Monkeys and begin swimming about, devouring bits of cabbage and ramen, rushing to establish a culture of their own in my bowl before I can gag them all down and digest them.

My wife Sonia, who generally appreciates regular kimchi, felt like TJ's Dried Kimchi was mostly flavorless. I disagree. I think it tastes sour like authentic rotting cabbage. And I also tasted the spices, which I might have actually enjoyed if they were sprinkled onto, say kale, instead of ... rotting cabbage. Neither Sonia nor I could ever feature ourselves buying this again, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. I can only recommend trying this product if you're a big fan of regular cabbage-based kimchi. I know you kimchi fans are out there, and I wish I could join your ranks. But this is one food I fear I may never fully develop an appreciation for.

Sonia gives it 3 stars. I give it 2.5.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

You Might Like: