Friday, October 9, 2015

Tasty Review - Simple Mills

So most of the time when I’m in the kitchen, I'm working on my own creations for my blog.  But recently, I’ve been asked to write up some product reviews and share my opinion on some of the different gluten-free and vegan products that are available.  Since I had this new idea for the blog brewing in the back of my mind, when I stumbled upon Simple Mills baking mixes, I figured it was the perfect time to post my first product review!

       So where to start?  How about discussing the, well, simplicity of Simple Mills!  I was actually shocked to see that their vanilla cake, for example, “simply” has only six ingredients.  Did I mention that it is also grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free, low in carbs, and yes, it’s even also paleo-friendly!!!  Whew… I’m not sure if you can tell but I was extremely excited to come across such a simple, clean line of baking mixes.  Now, as you can probably guess, as a baker I am NOT usually a fan of box mix anything.  To me, it seems almost like cheating, but I also understand that there are many people who lack the time or the confidence to just go into the kitchen and attempt to bake something from scratch. 

            I decided I would whip up two Simple Mills mixes, so I chose both their Vanilla and Chocolate Cake.  If you follow the directions on the package exactly, you'll need to add eggs, oil, water, and vanilla to complete the mix.  I chose instead to replace the oil and water with butter and milk, since none of my test group for this cake needed it to be vegan.

        *Baking tip: If you need to make this vegan and are looking for a good egg replacement, just try using 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree per egg.*

        Prep time is a breeze!  Just whip all the liquid ingredients together then slowly stir in the dry mix, and TADAAA…you have the batter ready to pour into an 8" or 9" round pan.  Then just place in the oven and bake for…?

            Okay, so this will be the first not-so-good thing I have to say regarding the mix.  If I would have followed the baking instructions on either cake mix, they would have been BURNT!!!  I warn you ahead of time...always bake for five minutes less than the recommended time on any package you might try using.  If it’s not finished at that point, you can always allow it to bake longer while keeping an eye on it.  But for these mixes especially, if I had allowed it to bake for the full 30-35 minutes, it would have been buh-bye delicious grain-free cake. 

       Even though I didn't accidently bake the cakes too long, they were both still on the dry end of the spectrum, in my opinion.  Next time, I would have to play around with the mix and add different ingredients to fix this problem I personally had with the cakes.

            Now on to the part where I let you know if it’s good or not, right?  The answer is, Yes!  So here’s my opinion, both the chocolate and vanilla cakes were quite delicious, in a healthy way.  And no, that is not me saying nicely that they were actually gross.  What I mean, is that you can truly taste the simplicity and purity of the ingredients.  They aren’t very sweet by any means, but that’s to be expected when you’re using a mix that has coconut sugar as the only sweetener.  This being the case, Simple Mills may not be the cake mix for everyone, especially if you’re trying to serve guests who are used to the good old standard Betty Crocker type cakes.

       But there is a way around this dilemma!  Now, since I knew that my own guests wouldn't be thrilled with being invited over, expecting a decadent dessert, then having an almost non-sweetened slice of cake handed to them, I decided to make a sweeter frosting to complement the plainness of the cake.  This created an amazing balance between the less sweet, slightly dry cake and the almost overly-sweet, creamy frosting!
      In a nutshell, I have to say I am a fan of Simple Mills mixes.

The Pros:

 -      Clean Ingredients

-      Friendly for most diets

-      Easy to make

-      Good variety of baking mix options, including cookies, pizza crust, muffins, and of course cakes.

The Cons:

-      The mixes aren’t for everyone.  Those who expect a cake with a standard level of sweetness would probably be disappointed.

-      A bit too dry.  For some, this may not be a con but in my opinion, a cake should be more moist than these are.

-      These are pricey! For one mix, I’ve seen the prices range from $7.99 to $9.99.  Since a mix only makes one 8" or 9" round cake, that’s pretty expensive. But for someone who is looking for a truly clean pre-mixed cake, that price is well worth it.
       In conclusion, Simple Mills is a brand that I approve.  Pricey, yes, but to me it’s worth it to spend a little extra and make sure that not only I, but the people I serve my baked goods to are eating clean food that is still delicious.  If you give one of their mixes a try, leave a comment  below and let me know what you think about Simple Mills!