Shabtai Gourmet, or should I call it Cinderella Sweets Ltd., (since they apparently go by both names) of Woodmere New York, recently contacted me to see if I would review their various gluten-free desserts. I told them up-front that they should carefully consider that request, since I am quite discerning in regards to gluten-free desserts, especially having written a book on Gourmet Gluten-Free Desserts (Recipes). I let them know I compare all other gluten-free desserts to those from my own book, which I feel are the best and as good or better than even many gluten-containing ones.
So, with that disclaimer out of the way, Shabtai Gourmet / Cinderella Sweets still decided to ship me some desserts to review and compare to my own. Shabtai markets these desserts as Kosher / parve, Gluten-Free, Lactose Free, Casein Free, Dairy-Free, and Soy Free (they are labeled as such). And, their director of sales, Andrew Itzkowitz, tells me they have seen strong demand for gluten-free kosher desserts, even though these desserts are anything but "healthy". Their desserts seem to mimic many commercial desserts (gluten-containing) with their inclusion of oils (sometimes partially hydrogenated type), sugar, and eggs. But, then again, it is dessert we are talking about here, and oil, sugar and eggs are ubiquitous ingredients in many wonderful desserts!
The Gluten-Free Dessert Reviews
I will start with this one pound Seven Layer Gluten-Free Devils Food Cake. This dessert is quite nice (the layers alternate between a vanilla flavored creme filling and chocolate devils food cake, with the whole thing being coated with a fine layer of chocolate). This was one of the top couple items I had a chance to review, and I found that although it apparently shares the same devils food cake that the chocolate-covered cupcake things (see Ring Tings, below) used, this was much better, since the layering best preserved the overall moisture content and consistency and mouth-presence.
It reminds me of a giant Hostess brand Ho-Ho (tm) or similar commercial devils-food and creme cake type dessert or snack product. If you liked those types of snacks / treats / desserts, you will love this product. It's made from Whole Eggs, sugar, potato starch, partially hydrogenated palm oil, cocoa, cottonseed oil, tapioca starch, flavorings, and salt. There's 8 servings in a whole "log" like this, with each serving coming in at 220 calories (of which 100 are fat), with 18grams of sugar... and, no surprise with all those eggs: there's 75mg (i.e., 25% DV) cholesterol in a serving too. But, you are probably not interested in this for "health" reasons (aside from it fitting into your Celiac Disease / gluten-free diet). I had something similar a regional gluten-free bakery tried to create, and it was no where near as good as this. So, Shabtai gets a thumbs-up for this product, in the context that I am comparing to Ho-Ho's.
"Ring Tings" are essentially Shabtai's attempt at a Hostess (brand) cupcake or similar product. But, I found the cake to be dry / powdery. They use a whipped sugar and oil center for the cupcake's "creme filling". The devils food / chocolate cake (which, per the label is "moist chocolate cake with vanilla creme filling") is not exactly moist. It's the presence of the "creme" filling that makes the cake portion feel "moist" in the 7-layer version (which I reviewed above, and didn't mind), but with that filling only being in a single blob in the middle of this cupcake, these cupcakes don't have the same, likable texture as when the filling is evenly distributed in layers.
I would definitely suggest altering the flour composition, and upping the percentage of cocoa in the recipe, in order to get more chocolate flavor, and less powdery texture. When it comes to chocolate cake, Cocoa can be your friend (especially in gluten-free recipes and baking where added fiber/texture from cocoa is a huge plus).
This is their 12 ounce gluten-free raspberry roll, which is actually quite nice. (my picture was not the best - real life colors are better. The picture at start of this blog is the raspberry role in it's package) The liberal application of raspberry filling throughout the rolls of yellow cake make for a sweet, moist, very much unmistakably raspberry experience. The coconut on the surface was a nice touch too, and it all worked very well together.
It is casein free, soy free, lactose free, and zero trans fat - in addition to being gluten-free and safe for a Celiac diet. It contains eggs, sugar, potato starch, raspberry, oil coconut, and a few minor ingredients. The eggs are definitely making a big difference here, with their being enough to really bind the cake together and keep it moist. It's perhaps a bit more like a pound-cake recipe.
Both I and my wife enjoyed this one. I couldn't eat much of it at once due to how sweet it was, but the flavor and texture were pleasing. I'd say for a commercial packaged gluten-free dessert, this one is a winner if the flavor combination of raspberry and coconut sound good to you.
The only thing harder than photographing dark foods (like chocolate) and making it look nice is photographing a chocolate brownie in a aluminum tray like this :) Hopefully, you get the idea what the Shabtai Gourmet Gluten-Free Brownie looks like.
It's hard to go wrong with a dense chocolate brownie recipe like this. I am always into chocolate brownies, and this chewier, denser type is usually a favorite of mine. But, I must say, once again I have advise Shabtai to work on their formula - I'd increase the cocoa percentage (drop the potato starch down as an offset) and give this gluten-free brownie more chocolate flavor (something I consider rather important in a chocolate brownie). As it is now, the flavor is just "OK". I didn't mind it, and it has a somewhat typical commercial brownie taste and good chewy texture and is decent for gluten-free foods, but it could certainly be improved upon.
I guess it depends what the goal of this product is. If the goal is to be middle of the road, somewhat generic, commercial baked-goods brownie, it meets the objective. If the goal is to really stand out, it can use some work. Either way, it's OK now and I'm sure many would find it enjoyable, especially for a pre-made gluten-free dessert.
These cookies, called Gluten-Free Meltaway Crumbs, were actually pretty good. I'd give them a 7/10 rating, which is quite respectable for commercial cookies. They have a nice crunchy, solid feel with good overall texture on the palate, with a decent flavor combination with a noticeable and enjoyable presence of chocolate, pecans, and cinnamon.
Once again, these are marketed as gluten-free desserts which are also lactose-free, cassein-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. I think these cookies are good enough that if you put them out on a cookie tray at a party for the general public, they wouldn't have any reason to suspect they were gluten-free cookies. Instead, they'd assume you purchased them at your local grocery store's bakery or such. With the only common allergens remaining being nuts and eggs, this cookie should be a good option for many.
The gluten-free lady fingers (4 ounce box) - also lactose-free, casein-free, and soy-free - consist of just potato starch, sugar, eggs, natural flavor, and salt. They have a definite lemon flavor, and are super-light crispy things, much like what you may expect from a meringue cookie.
They will crumble into powder. There's just not much there for consistency beyond a light, crispy thing. I don't have much to compare these too, and they just aren't my kind of cookie. The flavor is fine (lemon), but it's not something I would normally eat. Maybe they are meant to be used to create some sort of layered-creations from. Either way, they were just "OK" for me.
Conclusion; and, Shabtai Gourmet Contact Information
In general, I feel you can certainly bake better gluten-free desserts yourself than you can purchase pre-made from Shatai Gourmet. But, I can also appreciate the fact that it is not always possible to allocate the time you need to do gluten-free baking yourself, and that a pre-made gluten-free dessert option may be all you can fit into your life.
If you like the taste of commercial / mainstream products like Hostess (brand) cakes, and perhaps a Keebler (brand) chocolate-chip cookie, or similar things, I think the Shabtai / Cinderella Sweet brand gluten-free desserts will most likely be a hit with you.
Their products are not something I would directly compare to homemade cakes and cookies, regardless of whether I was comparing gluten-free products or "regular" wheat/gluten-containing products to homemade. I think they fill a niche, and they will do fine in the market as such. Their products will probably be a hit with children - especially any kids that have been recently diagnosed with Coeliac / Celiac Disease and have had to give up snacks like Ho-Ho's.
Email Address: glutenfreebakery [at] gmail.com
ShabtaiGourmet [at] yahoo.com
Phone: (516) 374-7976 or toll-free at 1-800-SHABTAI
Address: 874 Lakeside Drive, Woodmere, NY 11598