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Sunday, August 22, 2010

O'Dough's Chocolate Chip Banana Cake

When is a cake not a cake? When it's served in a loaf that is wrapped in paper? When it is made up of something that is naturally referred to as bread? Does the presence of chocolate chips automatically tip the balance? These questions and more plagued me as I tested a new type of banana loaf, available from the fine folks at O'Dough's, a canadian company who list the usual suspects of buns, breads, and cakes among their products. I found their Chocolate Chip Banana Cake at R Downs, and resolved to review it. My thought was that, even though it was named "cake," it's banana quality would make it a good breakfast food. Of course, now that I see O'Dough's website, I realize my mistake, as the banana cake is described as a "desert cake." Oops.

So! Now that I've got that figured out, how did it fare as a breakfast option? Not bad. The texture falls somewhere between bread and cake (another reason why this stuff is so confusing), and when presented with butter, it slides a bit too far in the direction of "mushy." Of course, that's more on me than it is the breadcake. However, it has a solid, banana breadcake taste to it. The chocolate chips are of the "small" variety, which is the right call here, as large chips would have been too overwhelming to the loaf as a whole. It toasts up nicely, which, given that it's cake, is kind of a surprise.

In the end, I think that this is a product which is caught up in between worlds, so to speak. If you treat it like banana bread, and thusly as a breakfast food, it does all right, but there are better and more easily-obtainable options out there. However, I don't know who would want to eat it as a cake. It's tasty enough, but not in a "dessert cake" way, despite the presence of the chocolate chips. But if I want cake, I'm going to want cake. This... isn't cake, as much as it would have you believe.

Quick rundown of the nutrition facts before we go, and yes, the fact that it's a cake means that some levels aren't tremendously good. A serving of this cake weighs in at 1.4oz (or 40g). They claim 10 servings per loaf; I wish I had been paying more attention when I was slicing it up to see how many slices I got out of my loat, but... anyway. In your single serving, you get 155 calories, 65 of those from fat. Cake! You've also got 7g of fat (1.5g) of that being saturated. Cholesterol? Yup, 40mg worth. There's also 250mg of sodium per serving, and 22g of carbs (surprise, most of that is sugar, at 11g). And remember, that's just one slice. Given that the folks at O'Dough's brag that "you can't eat just one slice," you'll probably be doubling those numbers. Then again, it's cake. Have it, eat it, or both (if you can), it's cake. Read on!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mariposa Baking Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I'm going to cut right to the chase. Mariposa Baking's Sour Cream Coffee Cake is, quite simply, the best coffee cake I've ever had. Now, a cynic might point out that I have never had any other coffee cakes. Still, that doesn't make it any less true: it's the best coffee cake I've ever had. But first, let's talk about the bakers. Mariposa Baking are a small bakery run out of Oakland, California, and appear to have been around since at least 2004. They strive to create "artisan"- quality products (using mostly organic ingredients), producing small batches of food rather than assembly lining their way through the creation process. They claim that their food was blind taste-tested against comparable wheat products by a panel of culinary experts, and they only finished tinkering with the recipies when the panel couldn't tell the GDF food from the non-GF food (for more about the bakery, I recommend taking a look at their FAQ). They also, apparently, donate 2% of their annual profits to "community & world organizations," though it does not seem to be specified anywhere what that means. But, I'm being nitpicky. Anyway, their food is slowly starting to creep out, and you can find this coffee cake, along with a few different types of brownies, in the freezer of R Downs, who seem to have a knack at getting great GF treats before anyone else in town. You'll note on Mariposa's website that they also offer many other delectable-looking foods; if those bagels ever make it out here, it'll be time for another bagel battle!

However, we're here to talk about coffee cake. Said coffee cake comes in a 4.5" wide, circular bundle of deliciousness. It measures about a couple inches thick, and when you look at it, it's all about layers. The top is layered with cinnamon and small walnut pieces. Then you have a cake layer, then a cinnamon streusel layer, and a final cake layer. Given the thickness involved, I kind of expected the cake layers to be a little dense; I was pleasantly surprised when the cake turned out to be not only relatively light, but moist as well. The cinnamon layers are delicious, and the walnuts provide just enough of a crunchy texture without being difficult to handle. In fact, I'd like to see similarly-sized walnuts sold in bulk in supermarkets!

Is there a downside to this coffee cake? Well, it's not a downside per se, but I would recommend against attempting to eat the entire thing in one sitting, as it's quite rich. Now, this is the point in the review where I would regale you with nutritional information, but there's a snag: the labels I have don't have any nutritional information on them, and Mariposa's website does not include said information in their nutrition section! Whoops! I'd argue that the fact alone that the coffee cake is so very good is an indication that it can't be remotely healthy, but again, that would be cynical of me. I will say that the first two ingredients listed are sour cream, and organic unrefined cane sugar. That's quite a start! Perhaps I will look into this matter a little further. For now, though, I will just recommend that you slice the thing up and enjoy it over several occasions. That way it'll last longer, and with a coffee cake this good, why wouldn't you want to spread the joy as long as possible? Read on!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Whole Foods Gluten-Free Almond Scones

We're back with another breakfast product from the folks over at Whole Foods, and I promise that I absolutely did not choose this one because I realized I had fallen asleep at the blog (so to speak) and had not thrown up a post in more than a week and a half. I swear. That said- Whole Foods Almond Scones! These scones are another example of the selection found in the Whole Foods Gluten-Free freezer section. But when we talk about scones, what're we talking about, really? Well, a simple Google image search is... not that helpful, actually. More than half the scones listed have a roundish, almost biscuit-like appearance, as opposed to their triangularly-wedged cohorts. Wikipedia tells me that both types are correct, kind of. This is good news, as I don't want the gluten-free version of a scone to be markedly different from the "real" version. Looking further, there's also a great deal of savory-ness going on. Really a lot of savory-ness. That's partially because of the jam and clotted cream that have been liberally applied in several of the pictures. I'll admit, I have never tried Whole Foods' scones with jam or clotted cream. No jam, because I'm not a huge jam fan. No clotted cream because, well, that sounds like a good way to get a heart attack; also, I have no idea where one purchases clotted cream. My loss, I guess.

Okay, so, the actual scones. Well, you can get a nice look at their size over to the right, here. You'll notice they're sized fairly decently, but they're not terribly thick. We'll be coming back to that point, later. First, let's talk taste. Despite not being "savory," these scones taste pretty good. Their general flavor is slightly sweet, with the thin almond slices providing an additional nuttiness that is quite pleasing. Texture-wise, the scones are fairly firm, and make for good chewing. I, um, mean that in a good way. Scones really aren't supposed to be terribly complicated (at least in their unjammed, un-clotted-cream form), and these scones are no exception. They strike me as being a bit too big for a snack, but they make for a fairly excellent breakfast.

Is there a downside? Well, I mentioned it earlier, but, yes, there is. They're thin. My memory is somewhat hazy on this, but I don't think they were always quite so thin. Yes, they look thick enough in the middle (actually, I'd say they are thick enough in the middle), but their edges tend to be on the narrow side. Is this important? Only if you like slicing your scones in half! If that's the case, you'lld find these scones somewhat problematic. My hazy memory tells me that this wasn't always the case; they used to be about the perfect thickness for splitting in twain! Somehwere, something in the formula changed, and now you have to be skilled and luck to get the perfect slice. I guess that might not matter if you're not a perfectionist in such matters but... well... I kinda am. So the scones get minus points.

I said before that the scones weren't "savory." What does that mean for their nutrition facts? I'm actually a little surprised. Each scone weighs in at 380 calories, with a cool 200 of those calories derived from fat. Yikes. Then again, two of the first three ingredients listed are butter and cream, so there ya go. Aside from the fat, you're getting 22g total fat, and 12g saturated fat, which is... well, I'd call it "okay." On the plus side, 0g trans fat! Then again, I don't know what does have trans fat in it, these days. Maybe they used to have trans fats, then got rid of them, and the scones collapsed as a result. Hmmm. Anyway, to complete the nutritional round-up, they give you 41g carbs, which actually seems low, 100mg cholesterol, and 240mg sodium. So, even if you're not clotting them up, these scones need to be part of a complete, balanced breakfast.

In the end, I won't complain. Good, gluten-free scones are a rarity on the market nowadays (at least, in my neck of the woods), so despite a few flaws, I'll gladly grab a pack of these every few months to shake things up a bit. Maybe one day I'll break out the clotted cream. Maybe. Read on!