Friday, June 13, 2008

ValpiForm Chocolate Chip Cookies

This review is long over due. I received two boxes of these ValpiForm cookies in my goody bag from the first Worry Free Dinner and I was trying to save them, for what, I’m not sure.

The last two weeks were incredibly stressful, between my aunts memorial, my boss getting back to the office and the ensuing drama, having these cookies in my office was a mistake.

I’m not sure what they’re actually called, but they ought to be called Way, Way, Way Too Good Chocolate Chip Cookies. They come in three packs of three in each box and despite all my best intentions I didn’t even have the willpower to save one for photography. These are seriously too good. I managed to eat both boxes in four days. Which might have had something to do with the amount of stress I was under.

But I digress. These cookies have a fantastic; they have a light crispy texture and smooth taste. They crumble a little but crumbs are the best part, right? And the chocolate chips are soft and sweet.

Not only are they gluten free they are also milk free and nut free.

The only reason I wouldn’t buy these cookies would be because I was afraid that I would eat them all at one time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

First BBQ of the Season

Featuring Pamela’s Products Cake and Frosting Mixes

Yesterday Alyssa hosted a long overdue apartment warming BBQ with her new roommate. She was with me as I was being diagnosed and she helped me through my recovery and did a lot of research with me when we lived together. She used to work for a publishing house that did health and fitness books, and she even worked on a few early gluten free cookbooks. I had really felt lucky knowing that I wouldn’t really have to worry about the food being served, or at lest the items that they were providing.

But, I had several packages of Pamela’s cake mixes that were sent to me for sampling and I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to share them, so I offered to bring a cake to the BBQ.

Now, as hard as I try, it seems that nothing I do is ever simple and this cake was no exception. It was a three-day ordeal that began on Thursday with baking the cake layers and ended Saturday, with me hand carrying an enormous cake on the subway to the gym and then on the New Jersey Transit bus to her apartment.

The BBQ was great. Alyssa and Deb had a cheese plate, home made gazpacho, fruit and meat ready to be grilled. It seems that Alyssa talks about me quite a bit and everyone knew I was the Girl Who Can’t Eat Bread. They all had questions, but they were all also very good about not contaminating the cheese knives with cracker crumbs. Each new person who arrived was quickly apprised of the situation by the other guests. It was wonderful to meet such considerate and interesting new people.

It turns out that Deb, and others there were already interested or aware of the gluten free lifestyle. It was really hard to see Deb, who admits to having a minor gluten intolerance herself, eating bread and crackers. One of Deb’s past jobs included designing the logo and website for GlutenFree Passport, a website resource for dinning out gluten free in the US and also all around the world.

All in all I had a great time. I hope Alyssa and Deb have a few more BBQs this summer. My cake was a big hit. Everyone liked it and said they would never have guessed that it was anything other than a regular cake if no one had told them. Deb said it was the best gluten free cake she had ever had. The general consensus was that over all the chocolate cake layer was a little bit better than the yellow layer, which I thought was a tad dry. The chocolate frosting was amazing and the fruit added that extra touch.

The Cake Odyssey

I started with a bag each of Pamela’s Classic Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Frosting and Dark Chocolate Frosting mixes. My first idea was to make two marbled layers, but the cooking times and temperatures are different for the two cake mixes, so it became a two flavor, two-layer cake.

I unloaded all the pots and pans and started the oven. The yellow cake came first, in my 10” spring form pan. When that one was finished I slipped the chocolate cake, in the 9” spring form pan in. I followed the bag recipes in each case, not wanting to experiment too much the first time.

The batter tasted good, since I had to lick the bowl, and both cakes came out looking delicious. When my boyfriend got home, he looked at them and made devouring noises and motions. The cakes got covered up and packed away in our bedroom, to keep them away from the mice.

Friday was assembly day. I picked up some fresh fruits on the way home from work. I decide to put the yellow cake on the bottom, since it was bigger and it would be easier to trim that way, using the chocolate cake as a guide.

I mixed up the chocolate frosting, again following the directions on the bag, and ended up with a very thick fudgy frosting that didn’t spread very well. I managed to coax it out to the edges of the first layer; it was just enough to cover the top.

I covered that with halved raspberries and blueberries, trying to be as artistically random as I could.

While taking the chocolate cake off of its pan and placing it on top of the fruit layer, I succeeded in getting a very delicious handprint. The cake was, I hope, baked for the proper amount of time, but the top was nice and moist. The chocolate layer fit perfectly on top of the yellow, so at least I trimmed well.

I mixed up the vanilla frosting, adding about 2 additional tablespoons of water than the recipe on the bag called for. This gave me a softer, more spreadable frosting for the top of the cake. I think, perhaps I should have added even more water, since I didn’t have quite enough frosting to completely cover the sides of the cake. As it turned out, in transporting the cake most of the side frosting got stuck to the foil and I had to ‘reapply’ it when I got to New Jersey.

As an artist, I simply cannot pass up a blank canvass like the top of this cake. Along with the berries I got for the purpose I pilfered two strawberries from the refrigerator and used them to decorate the top. The end result looked pretty good, if home made, and I’m glad that no one in our house decided to sample it Friday night.

*****A special thank you to Alyssa and Deb for having this BBQ and the Pamela's Products for the cake and frosting mixes*****