Christine Koh

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I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

Let Them Eat Cake!

cherrybrook.jpgHappily, gone are the days where kids and adults with allergies are left out at treat time. Today, Tracy reports on her testing sessions of the allergy-friendly Cherrybrook Kitchen baking mix line. Read on for her review, and also to learn how to win a gift basket of goodies from Cherrybrook Kitchen!

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“One unexpected byproduct of my writing for Boston Mamas is that my allergy-related posts (my son Gabriel has life threatening allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts) have created some delicious opportunities to sample and review the wares of companies dedicated to providing sweet treats to folks with food allergies.

Cherrybrook Kitchen is a conscientious purveyor of baking mixes for cakes, frosting, cookies, muffins, pancakes, and more. All of these products are batch tested to guarantee that they are free from peanut, tree nut, milk, and egg proteins. They also carry a gluten-free line of products. Patsy Rosenberg and her husband Chip founded Cherrybrook after Patsy developed anaphylaxis to seafood, eggs, milk, and tree nuts as an adult. Using her own baking recipes from scratch, she developed the recipes that are now sold as baking mixes.

We sampled the following mixes from the Original Variety Pack: Chocolate Chip Cookie, Sugar Cookie, Yellow Cake, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Frosting, and Chocolate Frosting. Here is our family review:

Product Evaluation:

Cookies: As a rule, baked goods in our house are enjoyed, and these cookies were no exception. The kids liked them; I thought they were tasty, as did my hubby. I found that the chocolate chip cookies could, however, have a bit more chocolate flavor.

Cakes: Again, these were hits with the kids. Mike and I liked them too, although I think everyone preferred the chocolate cake slightly more over the yellow cake. We baked the yellow cake as a round and frosted it with the chocolate frosting, and the chocolate cake mix was made into cupcakes with the vanilla frosting. We set the latter up as a taste test against my own chocolate cupcakes and frosting recipes, which resulted in a tie among our testers. Gabriel and his friend Christian each preferred a different cupcake and Christian’s mom and I (both avid bakers) debated the merits of each cake, coming to the result that both were great, and something we’d enjoy eating again.

Overall Impressions:

What I liked: I haven’t been able to bake with a mix for almost 7 years, and I forgot how easy it was! Clean up was a breeze, and adding only 3 ingredients together made baking (even with the kids) something to look forward to, instead of an event to “manage.” The colorfully illustrated packaging and instructions allowed Gabriel, 6 years old and a beginning reader, to choose which mix he wanted to make and get the appropriate ingredients, measuring instruments, and bowls out and at the ready prior to our baking sessions. I think in one or two years, he’d be able to handle all but the oven part completely independently. In addition, Cherrybrook offers incentives for frequent bakers: clip the bottom flaps of your boxes and redeem them for cool prizes for everything from more mixes to t-shirts to an ipod Nano!

What I didn’t: The cookie mixes didn’t flatten and spread as much as most homemade cookies do, and for me, this affected texture. In the future, I would roll the batter into balls as per the instructions, but would probably flatten them with the bottom of a glass or similar, especially for the sugar cookies.

Both cake mixes required more baking time than stated on the packages (almost 15 minutes each). This isn’t unusual in baking as all ovens and baking equipment are different, but it’s worth keeping in mind, so you don’t take them out too early. The yellow cake (baked as a round caked) ended up with very crispy edges due to the extra baking time, while the middle was a perfect light and fluffy texture.

For us, the frostings were a mixed bag. The frostings tasted wonderful, but they were a bit runny and just spreadable enough to get onto the cake. The instructions do state that you should not use tub margarine to make them; however, in our area, the only allergen free margarines we can get are in tubs. These work just fine in my other baking and frosting recipes, so I was surprised when they really didn’t work. I even cut the amount of margarine in half for the second batch with the same result. If you are planning to use these, and need to ensure the frosting is allergen free, you’ll have to scout out a solid margarine first.

Conclusion:

I love baking, and maybe this puts me in the minority, but I love the process of baking from scratch. I can’t say that baking mixes will ever be my go-to thing, but if I’m going to use one, it will be these ones. For example, when I’m due to give birth to my 3rd child twelve days before my oldest turns 7? Yeah, that would be a good time to have a reliable mix on hand! I also can’t stress enough the ease of baking with these mixes. I can throw off a batch of my from-scratch cupcakes in about 15 minutes (not including baking time). These mixes cut that time at least in half! They’re great for kids who are learning to bake, less confident bakers, and anyone who wants a tasty treat, without needing to devote a lot of time to the baking process.”

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Now, here’s how to enter to win a gift basket of goodies from Cherrybrook Kitchen*!

  • Click over to the Cherrybrook Kitchen store locator, then email contests@bostonmamas.com and name a location where you can get Cherrybrook mixes.

  • One entry permitted per person; US entrants welcome.

  • Entry period closes tonight at midnight EST, Monday, April 7, 2008.

    *The winner will receive a gift basket of assorted Cherrybrook Kitchen products, valued at $50.


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