Monday, October 18, 2010

Kim Stagliano's GF Bisquick vs. GF King Arthur Flour Pancake Mix Showdown

This weekend I decided to test two new gluten free pancake mixes. Bisquick, from General Mills, the Betty Crocker people who launched several GF mixes under the BC name last year, and King Arthur Flour's new mix, which is also part of an extensive brand line of GF products. I made both mixes using So Delicious coconut milk, organic free range eggs and vegetable oil. Read on!

OK, I mixed the batters and noticed that the Bisquick is much thicker and lighter in color. The KAF is a darker color and thinner.
On the griddle - the Bisquick pancake puffed up and bubbled fairly quickly. It remained pale in color even when the center was cooked. The KAF pancake took a bit longer to cook and browned to a classic golden diner color.
On the plate - you can see that the Bisquick pancake (bottom of dish) is yellow golden while the KAF is golden brown.
Ah, cutting the pancakes open. The Bisquick pancake on left has an amazing melt in your mouth consistency. It's thick, fluffy and completely delicious - you would never know this is a GF pancake. It's fantastic. No off taste, no grittiness. Just a perfect pancake. The KAF on the right is a drop dead ringer for your favorite restaurant's pancakes. It's thin and super springy inside. No funky taste and no grit at all either. The KAF pancake was to die for in terms of taste.
On the plate you can see the color and thickness difference. Remember to use real maple syrup and never that fake corn syrup crap, OK? I like Mrs. Butterworth as an ad icon, but really, a good pancake requires real maple syrup. Sorry Aunt Jemima and Vermont Maid too.
Now for the differences in grading. We have two scrumptious pancakes so far. The KAF offers 15 ounces per box. It costs $6.95 for the box. The box is larger than the Bisquick box, which is misleading as it contains less product. The packaging is attractive - but they could save a lot of trees by scaling back the box size - and have more product on the shelf.
The Bisquick has 16 ounces per box. The box is smaller than the KAF box, despite the fact that it has an extra ounce of product in it. It costs $3.99 for the box at my local store but can cost as much $5.98. That's a pretty big price difference from the KAF, especially for an extra ounce of product. Both boxes are small - by the way - a trick of all GF products so you don't faint at the price.
So what are you paying for? Here's where KAF moves ahead of Bisquick in my mind - the ingredients. Bisquick uses rice flour (that's why the product is so pale) and modified potato starch (ix-nay on the odified-may) and worse, aluminum baking powder. Damn. I made the biscuit recipe and let me tell you, they are just delicious too - which bums me out completely since I hate using anything with aluminum baking powder. People who are GF are likely to be health conscious - so I suggest to General Mills (who I'm sure is listening to a lady in CT) to use another baking powder.
King Arthur Flour uses whole grain brown rice - a healthier choice than the plain rice flour found in Bisquick and a non aluminum baking powder. Their potato starch does not say modified. Three wins for our friends in Vermont.

RESULTS: Both mixes make outstanding gluten free pancakes.

The Bisquick wins for mouth feel in my opinion, because I love a fat, fluffy melt in your mouth pancake. Bisquick also wins for price and more environmental packaging. And the mix makes kick ass biscuits which has been a wonderful addition to our dinner table.

The Bisquick loses for quality of ingredients.

The King Arthur Flour wins for making a perfect diner style thin springy pancake and for its ingredients.

KAF loses on price and packaging. You can not make biscuits with the mix. I tried. Big time fail. I ended up with baked pancakes.

Buy the mix that makes your favorite style pancake and that meets your budget. I'll buy both from time to time. I'm am completely OVER mixing my own flours and hoping I don't get a gelatinous beany kids-won't-eat-it result.

Thank you to General Mills and King Arthur Flour alike for meeting a huge market need.


Lisa said...

Another plus for King Arthur flours is that all of their flour is made from ingredients grown in the US and it's manufactured in the US.

Great review of the products - now you've got me wanting to bake!

Heather said...

Thanks for doing the investigating on this for the rest of us :) Question (though I could just look it up I'm sure): are either of these mixes also soy-free?

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Ingredient indicate yes, although soy warning is there de rigeur.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

I'm not sure US grown means anything any longer. In fact, I'm pretty sure it does not. K

Allison said...

Thanks for the review! I'm glad you liked our mix. Did you let the batter sit for 10 minutes while your pan/griddle heated up? That time allows the batter to absorb more of the liquid and become thicker - which, in turn, creates a thicker pancake. I know some people skip that step, but it does make a big difference in the fluffiness of the pancakes. Thanks again for trying!

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

I sure did, Allison. With a timer! And the pancakes were delicious. Golden brown, a perfect spring, round, and indistinguishable from wheat flour pancakes. I can't wait to try the chocolate cake mix - I LOVE that you make TWO rounds, not just one like old Betty. :)

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

I just bought the KAF GF chocolate cake mix - it makes TWO ROUNDS and kicks BC's butt in price because of that. Can't wait to bake up holiday ghost cupcake for the girls!

Anonymous said...

Awesome review! I love King Arthur Flour's Gluten-Free Pancake Mix. And you're right! You'd never know it's gluten-free. And is there anything you can't make with So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk beverage? I don't think so! It's been wonderful in everything I've tried.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

I'm becoming the MacGuyver of So Delicious coconut milk - I swear. When I found I could make killer ganache with it (frosting and truffles!) I nearly fainted with joy.

Anonymous said...

KAF also sells a gluten-free flour mix that I hear is very good, and their site has many GF recipes. Since they go through an extensive testing and tasting process, would expect their recipes to have consistent results. They have very strict quality guidelines, so in their case grown in the US would be the best of quality. Could be mistaken, but suspect none of their mixes has soy as an ingredient.

Laura said...

Great review, Kim! I am beginning to realize that GF baking isn't so bad! I rely on enzymes a lot, but DH loves to make pancakes on the weekends, and this way we can all eat better. The other day I made some GF corn bread that looked funky but was so tasty! I made a batch of regular, too, and the GF one was actually better.

Larry Russick said...

Kim, your next book should be a cookbook. You could call it 'The Autistic Chef' or 'Food for the Other 10% — a cookbook for the finicky, lactose/wheat/egg/etc. intolerant'. Include in it your typicaly funny short articles about your kid's eating practices and also include those of others, I could even provide some.

Anonymous said...

It is so cool that they are both delicious! An interesting post!