Staying gluten free is a challenge at the best of times, but between my love of baking and partner’s Italian background, I’ve fallen off the gluten free wagon more times than I can count.
It started with an incorrect diagnosis of coeliac disease around ten years ago. That was followed by a new diagnosis of crohn’s disease, and while I believe in the importance of food as medicine as a frontline weapon in the war against poor health, crohn’s is one digestive disease that is claimed to not have links to diet. So after years of being very restricted in my food, I lashed out and ate every loaf of bread in sight.
Crohn’s is a weird one because there are some foods that trigger a reaction some times, yet can safely be eaten at other times. But new research is starting to tell the story that many sufferers have worked out for themselves: that gluten does play a part in Crohn’s disease because it’s an autoimmune disorder.
My symptoms improved beyond measure when I started treatment for pyrrole disorder, also known as pyroluria. I still have it, and I recently found out that it’s still doing it’s damage inside me. I also have thyroiditis, another autoimmune disorder that first showed up in tests around 15 years ago. The more I learn about these three interconnected conditions, the more I realise how important is is for me to get off gluten.
So in a near panic after getting my latest test results, I bought up nearly every gluten free item I could find at Woolworths and Aldi. This is how I came to be hoarding a pantry full of packet mixes after spending years looking down my nose at them.
But enough of the gas-bagging; you’re here to read if the chocolate cake mix in Aldi’s once a year range of gluten free products is any good. So, read on.
The mix is allergy friendly for many common allergies (gluten, wheat, egg, soy, dairy, yeast) and can be made without eggs or dairy. But in this house we use eggs and real butter so that’s how I made the mix. I followed the instructions to the letter but had to use a round pan instead of a square one (same size).
As you can see above, the cake shrank away from the sides of the tin considerably. It also didn’t rise a whole lot. It was considerably flatter than the illustration on the front of the box, around half the height of a regular cake.
I left it to cool in the tin, recommended for most gluten free baking to avoid half the product from sticking to the pan. I cut a slice and ate it unadorned. Sigh. Not a terribly pleasant flavour, undersweetened and vaguely “beany”.
Luckily I am in the habit of stashing emergency frosting in my freezer, and if there was ever a frosting emergency, this was it. With frosting, the cake became worth eating. This might say something about how desperate I was for the comforting familiarity of baked goods after going without for several days.
While I admit that packet mixes are still processed food and that most are junk, they can be a useful tool for transitioning to gluten free diet and avoiding the temptations and feelings of missing out that often lead to relapses. Just maybe not this packet mix.
I’ve read a few postings on blogs and forums about Aldi’s range of gluten free products. Apparently, many of their house branded GF products are manufactured by Orgran, a major brand in gluten free and allergy friendly foods. If that’s true, I am quite disappointed. Especially after testing an Orgran packet mix for gluten free chocolate brownies (review coming soon). [UPDATE: Just to clarify, I meant that the Orgran brownies got me more disappointed about this cake – the brownies were fab!]
What do you think? Are you a fan of the packet mix? Do you have a favourite gluten free mix? Share in the comments below!