The Box Arrives
When I interviewed Kyra Bussanich, the owner of Crave Gluten Free Bake Shop, I laughed when she said that her shipping boxes were tightly wrapped and covered with bright orange "fragile" stickers. But she wasn't kidding. My box arrived like it was going to war. But when I opened it, a few tasty little friends were happily looking up at me from their crisp white bakery box. Unbroken. Unharmed. Waiting to be devoured.
Those little friends were called Peanut Butter Ring Ding Swiss Rolls and Grasshopper Mint Brownies. My inner kid was clapping.
Last December, Kyra and I discussed the bake shop's process to prevent cross contamination. Kyra knows what she is doing. There is no spelt, rye, wheat, triticale in the bakery. She sources from tested gluten-free manufacturers. I had also sent her my allergen list, so I was confident that these treats would be safe for me to eat. As I speak to more restaurant and bakery owners, I"m finding that when the owner of a foodie establishment has serious food restrictions themselves, they tend to be much more knowledgeable about food allergy practices.
Peanut Butter Ring Dings
I tried the Peanut Butter Ring Dings first, partly because brownies are my favorite food of all time (wait.... no, they are pretty much my favorite food of all time) and I wanted to save them for last. I also enlisted a few non-food-allergic taste testers: my mom and my friend Val. Kyra was the first gluten-free baker to ever win Cupcake Wars, so this tasting responsibility was not to be done alone.
My mom took the first bite and exclaimed, "Oh these are amazing! These are gluten-free?" When I replied yes, she had another question, "Where are these from?" When I responded with "Oregon", she said with finality, "Oh, we are moving to Oregon."
What I appreciated most about the ring ding was that the cake was really light and fluffy. Even with the advances in gluten-free baking lately, these are two rare qualities in a gluten-free cake.
The cake and filling had also retained their moisture, even though the intended arrival was a day late (thanks Postmaster). The hard chocolate shells that surrounded each ring ding may have had something to do with that. The peanut butter, dairy-free "cream" was also light and the peanut butter taste was surprisingly delicate. I'm not used to peanut butter anything being delicate, and I liked it. The chocolate shell, however, was a little too thick to let you truly recognize the lightness of the cake and filling, so I removed half of the chocolate shell. When I did so, I could better appreciate the talent that went into the cake and the filling. Please note that this is more of an observation rather than a complaint. The peanut butter ring dings are delish.
I saved a second set of treats for the next day. They were still surprisingly fresh. I asked my friend Val stop by to get another opinion. She grew up with a celiac sister, so she has tasted many a gluten-free item, plus her taste buds are accustomed to wheat. I left off part of the shell for her first bite and she started raving and repeating the, "This is really gluten-free?" question over and over. Then she said, "Hey, where's the rest of the chocolate? Hand it over. That's mine." The ring ding, plus complete chocolate coating, was her favorite.
Grasshopper Mint Brownies
I have been searching for the world's best brownie ever since I popped forth from the womb. For nearly 10 years, I had also made it my mission to find the best 2 am. grilled cheese and bacon sandwich in Manhattan. With the onset of my allergies I've had to give up one search (seriously, a gluten-free, dairy-free grilled cheese is possible?), but not my quest for the best brownie.
Wheatless or not, my standards remain high. I still want the perfect mix of chewy, moist and only slightly cakey. I still want the chocolate to have depth and a nice finish. Yes, I'm serious. Chocolate is like wine. You don't want your brownie to leave you hanging.
I've tasted some very good gluten-free brownies within the last decade. BabyCakes Bakery in New York City serves a lovely brownie bite. My own brownie tart recipe, though quite rich, is one of my favorites, too. Until now.
Crave makes the best brownies I've ever tasted. The texture of the brownie itself was heavenly. Chewy, moist, just a hint of cakey - all there. The mint "cream" was a nice surprise. At first, I was unsure. There was a lot of it and I wanted just a little more brownie. So I tried the brownie alone. Perfect. I tried the mint cream alone and I was amazed at the perfect balance of fresh mint flavor. I absolutely loved the two layers together. I wanted more. Usually mint flavored baked goods have a rather fake taste to them, which I find offputting. Crave's mint, however, was fresh and satisfying. I miss that grasshopper mint brownie.
In fact, my annual birthday brownies are coming from Crave this year, and I"m going to order a bunch.
LOCATION: 460 5TH STREET, LAKE OSWEGO, OR 97034
PHONE: 503.212.2979 | FAX: 503.212.2978
HOURS: TUE-FRI 8am - 5pm, SAT 8am - 4pm