I’ve not posted a product review on this blog yet – mostly because that’s not what I’m here to do, by my choosing, and people don’t send me free stuff! And I’m more of a fan of making things from scratch, because taking a ‘normal’ recipe and removing the gluten, or finding something delicious that is naturally gluten-free is just more interesting to me. This is therefore likely to be one of very few indeed. But I have recently been away a little bit, (term has now started so normal service will shortly be resumed), pretty much for the first time since going gluten-free and where “self-catering” has been the order of the day. Although I think I’ve found a flour blend that works for most cakes, and a different one that works for most cookies, I still find myself dipping into various jars when I’m testing out how to convert a recipe. No one would take 10 different flours on holiday, would they? So what should you do when you’re not familiar with an area, and are not sure what the local shops will sell you, but being gluten-free means you’re unlikely to just find brown rice flour at the nearest corner shop? I also think this sort of box mix might be the middle ground answer for anyone catering for someone gluten-free who doesn’t want to buy something ready made, but doesn’t want to spend money on a ton of different flours they’ll likely not use again. Usual disclaimer stuff – I didn’t get the product free, I’m not being paid, and I don’t know anyone who works for the company.
So, is it worth it? I liked the look of Hale & Hearty’s offering right off the bat. Gluten-free, wheat free, GMO free, organic. The thickener is organic carob bean gum – therefore not the worst thing in the world. Of course the ingredient listed first is sugar, admittedly raw cane sugar. But then you do also add a fine lump of butter or margarine AND milk AND eggs. It is, however, super easy to make. I went with Pure Sunflower and Alpro almond milk. They boast it’ll take you five minutes to make this. I’d say that is generous! I didn’t use butter mostly because I’m too lazy to soften it first. I’m not sure whether this would work with egg replacer because I haven’t tried it, but the hens’ eggs worked well. Therefore, I’m not sure how veganizing it would turn out. From the allergy advice “may contain traces of soya and milk protein…” it suggests even the chocolate drops included in the sachet (they are more like small shards of chocolate) aren’t milk so it could be possible. In the meantime it was easiest for me to use dairy-free alternatives and eggs to get a lactose-free result. The second time I made them I added a sliced banana (as recommended on the packet) and this was a really nice addition. They also suggest walnuts, or additional chocolate chips, or marshmallows (which unless you have easy access to them, will stop the brownies even being vegetarian). The box also gives instructions for turning this brownie mix into muffins, which I like as it shows a bit of versatility. You’ll need additional corn starch and baking powder though to make these.
Most important, of course, is the taste. I think it has a good chocolate flavour and a fine squishy, brownie texture. You do also occasionally notice one of those dinky chocolate shard things in there. One friend was keen and thought them very good. Another said even though they were ok, they weren’t all that. One thing I do know is that these brownies do not keep well, and are a sticky lump on day two. Not inedible (obviously) but you probably wouldn’t serve them to company. On balance then I’d say, especially if you take Hale & Hearty’s advice to add extra bits, this box mix is well worth a go. I’m going to keep a one or two in my cupboard in case I have a complete baking disaster when I’m supposed to be bringing the snacks to some gathering. I’d also happily take this mix away with me, say on a self-catering holiday, so a gluten-free dessert or afternoon tea could be created without taking half the contents of my rather overstuffed kitchen with me.
A good, solid: 7/10
Hale & Hearty banana brownies
Prep time 5 minutes Cook time 25 minutes Makes 16 servings
Line an 8″ square cake tin, or equivalent size brownie pan, with parchment paper leaving ‘tails’ at either end to help lift out the finished cake. Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan-assisted
- 1 box Hale & Hearty Rich Chocolate Brownie Mix
- 200g butter, softened or 200g dairy-free alternative (I used Pure Sunflower)
- 2 eggs
- 100ml milk or dairy-free alternative (I used Alpro almond milk)
- 1 banana, sliced
In a large bowl mix the contents of the sachet with the butter or dairy-free alternative and the eggs until you get a thick paste. Now add the milk or dairy-free alternative and mix again. Add the sliced banana, stir, and pour the batter into the prepared tin. Level it off and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the edges are set and the middle is a little gooey still. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing into sixteen squares and serving.