Crave Bakery Product Review… and Giveaway!

I was an EXTREMELY lucky gal recently when I received some complimentary gluten-free baked goods from Crave Bakery, to review on my blog. I say lucky because had I not been able to sample them, I may never have known just how great they are! My local Whole Foods Market carries the Crave Cheesecake, but I have never been able to swallow the price tag, $17.99. Even though gluten-free packaged foods have advanced light years since I was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, I am still very much in the “probably tastes like cardboard” state-of-mind! It is difficult to shell out $18 for a cheesecake when you are afraid it will just end up in the trash (like so many of its gluten-free predecessors), and especially in this economy!

I love to cook and I can cook many things, but for the life of me, I cannot bake a cheesecake! 🙂 I had been eyeing that Crave Cheesecake for months, every time I went into Whole Foods. I even put it in my cart a couple of times because it looked so good, (only to put it back before heading to the checkout lane)! A light bulb went off one day as I was writing another product review. I contacted Crave and asked if they would be interested in sending me a sample to review on my blog (I REALLY had to try that cheesecake, it had become an obsession! 😉 My husband actually started to call me “Ralphie” (from the movie “A Christmas Story“). Mike said I was like Ralphie on his quest for an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle,” only for Crave’s cheesecake!

Well, if I am Ralphie, then Mike, Sam and Luke were every bit Ralphie’s buddies in this picture (that would be Luke to the far right):

Before I go into my review of Crave’s products, I want to tell you a bit about the bakery and the bakery’s owner, Cameo Edwards. Cameo founded Crave, a San Francisco Bakery, in 2003. Like many other gluten-free entrepreneurs, Cameo had suffered numerous health problems, and the year prior had finally figured out that the culprit was gluten. Cameo was frustrated with the lack of tasty options (cardboard!) that were available on the market, which only left her “craving” for them. Cameo had limited baking experience at the time, but she didn’t let that stop her (I love that attitude! 😉 ). Cameo set out to create delicious desserts for herself that where wheat-free, gluten-free, and casein-free (the cheesecake I mentioned above is not dairy-free). After much experimentation, her perfect brownie was born and the rest is history.

Crave’s philosophy is based on choosing simple, high-quality and organic ingredients. Not only are Crave products gluten-free (they test to below 20ppm!!), you will not find any trans-fats or preservatives in their products. Crave supports small, local and family-owned producers, and they only choose ingredients that are animal-conscious, like eggs that come from free-range chickens. Once I read about Crave’s ingredients, the price tag made complete sense. High-quality ingredients (like gluten-free ingredients) cost more, but I would rather my money go there than to our increasing cost of health-care, which is not nearly as delicious! 😉

I am sure everyone is well aware by now how much the films Food, Inc. and King Corn knocked my socks off! Since seeing those eye-opening documentaries just 2 months ago, I have been trying to educate myself on the food industry. What I have seen and read (even if only 10% of it is true), has rattled me to my core. That knowledge has really made me appreciate the companies that do better. Companies that aren’t so into the mass production of “cheap” food (as in using “cheap” ingredients like HFCS, etc.) that they skimp on the quality of ingredients they use. I would rather eat out less and cook more so I can splurge here and there on treats like Crave’s cheesecake! 😀

I better move along and mention Crave’s other gluten-free products! We also sampled the Vanilla Cupcakes, Monster Cookie, Dark Chocolate Brownies, Lemon Tart, Apple Frangipane, and Mama Z’s Chocolate Cake (they even do GF wedding cakes. Makes me want to fly to San Fran and re-new my vows!). They were all absolutely delicious! The four that REALLY impressed me were the cupcakes, Mama Z’s chocolate cake, the cheesecake and the brownies, simply for the reaction they received by my little boys! I have compiled a photo montage for this portion of my review! 😀

This is how the cupcakes look in their original form. The flavor is great and the cake itself is beautifully moist.

The Crave products arrived the day before Sam had a birthday party to attend. It was perfect timing because I had just run out of my stash of frozen homemade cupcakes that I keep on hand to grab and decorate as needed for birthday parties, etc. I had to add icing because I like to embellish the boy’s cupcakes with figurines, etc. and they needed a little extra icing “glue” to hold them in place. The party was on Super Bowl Sunday and the birthday boys (twins) were having a football themed party, so I tried to “match up” Sam and Luke’s cupcake.

The football player on the left was made tilted, I swear! 😉

Sam was feeling really “cool” because he had overheard a couple kids asking where Sam got his cupcake.

Luke would not remove his football “dude” for anything!

One of the twins’ football themed birthday cakes.

Mike and I took the Mama Z’s Chocolate cake to the party for us to split, but unfortunately for us, we didn’t get much!  ↓↓

Luke could eat any chocoholic under the table!

The following pictures are not the best but it happened so fast, I did not have time to set up my shots! 😉 I had pulled the cheesecake out of the freezer to thaw so I could take my pictures and then we could sample it. While it was on the counter thawing, I stepped away to fold some laundry. Apparently, Sam took an interest in the cheesecake and decided to taste test before I was ready! There are two funny things about this. One, Sam NEVER grabs a bite of anything without asking first (he is very much a “by the book” kid). And two, Sam’s “sweet tooth” is geared toward candy, most specifically Surf Sweets Sour Gummy Worms. Sam has never been much of a baked “sweets” kid, let alone cheesecake. That being said, this is the scene I walked in on:

OMG, he is cheesecake “drunk!”

My first instinct was to freak out because I hadn’t yet taken any photographs, but that feeling quickly faded and was replaced with pure joy and laughter! 🙂

So, I decided to get creative with what was left of my cheesecake:

I would be lost without my cookie cutters! 😉 The crust is unbelievable, made with almond meal and cinnamon, yum.

Mike has already requested Crave’s cheesecake for his birthday this year. This would also be great for holiday parties, etc.

The Dark Chocolate Brownie and the Monster Cookie are perfectly packaged to throw in your child’s lunch box or to send to school for a special celebration, etc. I am going to order a case to keep in my freezer! Seriously, 50 individually wrapped organic, preservative-free and trans-fat free brownies (and they are a hefty size!) for $60.00. That is only $1.20 a brownie! How much are regular candy bars going for these days??

My “Cookie Monster” LOVED Crave’s Cookie Monster! 😉

I am not really a lemon dessert person (but love Key Lime pie, go figure), but I was impressed by the balanced lemon flavor in this tart. Very clean and the perfect palette cleanser (not like some lemon tarts that just make you pucker)! My picture doesn’t really convey the size of the tart, but they are perfectly sized for two. Mike and I shared this on Valentine’s Day (after he cooked me dinner!).

Yummy, “Autumn in a pastry shell!”

Interested in trying some of Crave’s goodies? Crave has offered a 12-pack of their individually wrapped Dark Chocolate Brownies to one of my lucky readers!

I really enjoyed the responses everyone gave to the Cerealvit giveaway, so I would like to extend that same dialogue to this giveaway. Crave is also interested in what gluten-free consumers would love to see come available on the market! Companies are listening, so lets take advantage and get our wishes out in the open!

To enter for a chance to win a 12-pack of Crave Bakery’s Individually Wrapped Dark Chocolate Brownies, leave a comment to this post about what products you would love to see a gluten-free version of come to market.

For bonus entries to this contest:

  • Tweet about this contest. Be sure to include a link to this post and include @adventuresgfmom in your Tweet. (2 bonus entries)
  • Become a fan of Crave Bakery on Facebook. (2 bonus entries)

If you are a blogger:

  • Mention this giveaway in a post (and include a link back). (5 bonus entries)

For all bonus entries: Please email me at heidikelly13@gmail.com to let me know which bonus entry tasks you have completed and qualify for.

Using a Random Number Generator, I will pick the winner on Friday, March, 5, 2010.

Good Luck! 😀


Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ohhhh…it simply does not get any better than this! Back in my pre-GF days, I used to LOVE it when Red Lobster would have their seasonal Pumpkin Cheesecake on the menu. When I was in college and I lived with my childhood BFF, we would spend our entire weekly grocery budget and go to Red Lobster and chow down on Crab Legs and Pumpkin Cheesecake (I know, interesting combination). Then we went to her mom’s house and “grocery shopped” in her pantry! Those were the days…

Nowadays, if I want Pumpkin Cheesecake, I have to make it myself and a cheesecake maker, I am not! This is where I am thankful for celiac disease (this is Thanksgiving after-all!). As we all know, most things gluten-free look a little…different than their gluten containing alter egos. A few years on the diet and your expectations in the presentation category are greatly reduced. LOL! But ugly cheesecake does not necessarily mean yucky cheesecake! We, in the gluten-free community, can be fairly easy to please. We can be SO easy to please that when we come across something like say bread that really tastes like bread, right out of the bag (thank you Udi’s!) we may be prone to conniptions of ecstasy. Something a non-gluten free person just doesn’t understand…”What’s the big deal, it’s just bread Heidi. And why are you dancing like that? You are making my eyes hurt!” 😀 This is where I like to have a little fun at their expense and I give the glutenator a slice of shelf-stable GF bread, straight from the bag (just for comparison purposes 😉 )! Oh, it makes me laugh just thinking about it!

Anyhoo…

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cheesecake

2 cups Gingersnap Cookie Crumbs (I used Pamela’s Simple Bites Ginger Mini Snapz)
4 tablespoons Butter or Margarine, melted (I used Smart Balance in the tub)
3 (8-oz.) packages Cream Cheese, softened (I used lowfat Neufchatel)
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons Flour (I used Tom Sawyer’s GF All-Purpose Flour)
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 Eggs
1 (14.5-oz) can Pumpkin

  • Combine gingersnap crumbs and butter or margarine in a medium mixing bowl. Place mixture in a 10-inch springform pan. Press crumbs evenly over bottom and 2-inches up the sides of pan; set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugars, GF flour and pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add eggs and pumpkin; mix well. Pour into crust.
  • Place pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour (I decided to attempt my first ever water bath, see below). Turn off oven and let cheesecake remain in oven 1 hour longer. Remove from oven; cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours.
  • Carefully remove sides of pan from cheesecake. Makes 12 servings. Top with GF Whipped Topping if desired.

Cheesecake lesson learned: The night before making this cheesecake, I happened to watch a Good Eats episode on making cheesecake in a water bath. Unfortunately, I did not follow his directions and use a high-sided cake pan. I used my spring-form pan lined with foil instead. Alton Brown also said to leave the cheesecake in the turned off oven for an extra hour after the cheesecake is done baking. Well, I did this but forgot about it and went out to run my errands. 5 hours later, my cheesecake crust was rather soggy. So, as you can see in the following photos, my cheesecake is sans a bottom crust! The filling was so good though, that I just scraped it off and ate it anyway! 🙂 See what I mean about being easy to please?? LOL! So, learn from my mistake if you attempt a water bath for the first time: DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHEESECAKE IN THE OVEN LONGER THAN AN HOUR (and don’t use a spring-form pan)!

My ego really wanted to remake the cheesecake before posting this but I want to stress how much I am not a trained professional in the kitchen. Just a mom on a mission. So, if you do not like to cook because you do not think you are good at it, that’s okay…give it a shot and go on this adventure with me. We can share a few good laughs along the way. 🙂

Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

It ain’t pretty but it sure does taste good!

I have never tried to make a real cheesecake before. I have been intimidated and rightfully so… I fought the cheesecake and the cheesecake won! LOL! Gotta love cold medication, everything is uber funny when I am on it 🙂

Anyhoo… I found this recipe in the Taste of Home Fall Baking Cookbook.

Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/3 cups Chocolate Wafer Crumbs (I used Pamela’s Simplebites Extreme Chocolate Mini Cookies)

1/4 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Butter (I used Smart Balance)

Filling:

2 packages (8-ounces each) Cream Cheese, softened (I used Kroger brand Neufchatel)

1/2 cup Sugar

3/4 cup Sour Cream (I used Kroger brand Lowfat Sour Cream)

1 Tbs. Cornstarch

2 Eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce (I used homemade)

  • In a small bowl, combine wafer crumbs, sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sour cream and cornstarch; beat well. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Fold in cranberry sauce (This is where I think I goofed…I beat in the cranberry sauce instead of folding it in). Pour into crust. Place pan on a baking sheet.
  • Bake at 325° F. for 30 – 35 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.
Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

My cheesecake is much more pink than the cheesecake in the cookbook, LOL! It also did not set as well, but it tasted great!

I wonder if using a water bath would have been helpful? I also live at high altitude, 5,282 feet above sea level, so I might need to adjust for that but I am not sure. If anyone has any cheesecake advice, I would love to learn 😉