Until my recent diagnosis with adult-onset celiac disease, I was a junk food goddess. And while I’ve had to give up Twix candy bars and Pepperidge Farm cookies, thanks to a few innovative companies focused on providing sweets to those maintaining a gluten-free diet, my vices can continue, just in a whole new way.
Gluten-free baked goods are, as any celiac who has tried to convert recipes to accommodate rice or other alternative flours knows, somewhat problematic. Getting taste and texture to mimic goods made with wheat can be exceptionally difficult. And what if a gluten-containing substance is the main concept of the baked good, such as in oatmeal cookies? Luckily, with a great deal of trial and error (as some gluten-free baked goods just don’t measure up, as we’ll see in a bit), I can provide you with some delicious gluten-free recommendations.
My top choice has to be the cookies from Pamela’s. I would eat these even if I weren’t gluten-free. They are flavorful and have an excellent and satisfying texture, which is often a problem when it comes to gluten-free products. At no point do you feel as if you are eating a cookie made to conform to special dietary needs. I am particularly fond of their gluten-free shortbread cookies that come in regular, vanilla/chocolate swirl and lemon. Although the gluten-free lemon shortbreads are only appropriate for true lemon lovers, as they are very tart. Also good are Pamela’s gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. The dough tastes exactly right, the chocolate is good (although I’d prefer it to be darker) and the texture is great. They’re very light though and lack the density that I remember from wheat-based chocolate chip cookies.
Pamela’s also makes a number of cake and cookie mixes for those who like to bake and want a slightly better guarantee of gluten-free success. I’ve not yet tried these products, and so can’t speak to them directly, but in general, I can attest to the quality of Pamela’s. The product line also contains a wheat-free oatmeal cookie. This product is NOT gluten-free and is appropriate only for those who have a wheat allergy, but not full-blown celiac disease which includes an intolerance to oats. Because I am a celiac, I cannot speak to the quality of these cookies either. Pamela’s does a thorough job of listing potential allergens in all products, and many of their gluten-free products are also dairy-free. More information on all of Pamela’s products can be found at: http://www.pamelasproducts.com
I also give a big thumbs up to the products from Enjoy Life which aren’t just gluten-free but eliminate seven major common allergens, meaning almost everyone with a special dietary need can eat their goods. The product line includes cereals (which I haven’t tried yet), breakfast bars (which I haven’t been able to locate yet), breads, and several types of fantastic, chewy, gluten-free cookies. The oatmeal cookies in particular (which are truly gluten-free, not just wheat-free – they contain no oats at all) are spectacular. I eat them all the time and still can’t believe they are safe for a gluten-free diet. My only complaint about them is that they are unattractive (even more so than regular oatmeal cookies) and unlike Pamela’s products, cannot really be gracefully served to someone else.
Enjoy Life also makes a chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that I have a mixed opinion on. It does taste marginally like a health food cookie, and the texture, while chewy, isn’t quite what you think of when you think of a chewy chocolate chip cookie. On the other hand, when broken up and added to vanilla ice cream it simulates chocolate cookie dough ice cream perfectly and in a way that, as long as you choose the right brand of ice cream, is entirely gluten-free. More information about Enjoy Life products is available at http://www.enjoylifefoods.com
Now I want to take a moment to discuss two gluten-free brands I don’t recommend. The first is Nana’s. The gluten-free cookies from Nana’s have the gritty texture celiacs so often complain about in their baked goods. Additionally, some products are gluten-free while others are only wheat-free and the labeling is not as clear as it could be. Finally, the gluten-free products are made on equipment that processes goods containing flour, and I have had a reaction to trace gluten in Nana’s products in the past. The quality of the cookies is not good enough to risk the suffering.
I also have some concerns about Josef’s gluten-free products. Josef’s also makes sugar-free products, that are packages extremely similarly to the gluten-free ones – be careful when shopping! I haven not had any cross contamination issues with Josef’s; however products are not sealed in plastic wrapping but rather in snap open containers; the possibility for gluten contamination exists. Finally, these cookies have that dry, dusty texture that can make gluten-free living less than fun. I don’t recommend them.
Know of a great gluten-free product that’s not discussed here? Please leave your recommendation in the comments.