I Try (almost) All of Wal-Mart's New Gluten-Free Cookies
Did you know that Wal-Mart* introduced gluten-free products under the Great Value brand? I had no idea! Then on Facebook my friend Julie posted a picture of her recent haul. After seeing Julie's pic, off to Wal-Mart I went! Sure enough, there's now lots of gluten-free products.
*Or, as it's often called in my area: Wal-Marts. I have no idea why people add an S. But they do. And it drives me crazy.
Today, let's look at (almost) all of the new cookies.
Each Christmas, before I needed to go gluten-free, I'd buy a sack of cheap shortbread cookies. How cheap? A dollar a bag. That's how cheap. I don't remember how these became a Christmas tradition but they were. The cookies tasted like fake almond and were topped with colored sugar.
Why am I telling you this? Good question! Because it's Christmas in July. Kidding! It's because when I tasted these cookies, my taste memory said, “These are like those cheap Christmas cookies. Only not as good.”
When I opened the package, most were broken. Then I bit into a cookie and it crumbled under my teeth. The texture was sandy and the flavor was…non-existent. Years ago, when I was a student at culinary school, I learned that granulated sugar doesn't taste like anything. It's sweet, not flavorful. At the time, it blew my mind. Plain sugar doesn't have a flavor? Say what??! Then I thought about it and realized that, duh, sugar doesn't have a flavor. It's only sweet.
That's what these cookies tasted like to me, sweet but not flavorful.
After eating one, I noticed that they left a greasy feeling in my mouth. The third ingredient, after sugar and potato starch is palm oil. Whenever a product contains palm oil as the only fat, it always tastes waxy to me. So I didn't like the flavor (which didn't really exist) and I didn't like the texture.
Now, let's talk about the price.
These cookies are what I call faux-cheap. The price of a 4.4 ounce box is $2.18. That looks inexpensive, right? But let's cost it out. That's $7.93 per pound or $0.49 per ounce. Around here, I can get a bag of Schar shortbread for $4.29. It's a 7 ounce box. That comes to $.61 per ounce. For twelve cents more per ounce, I can get a MUCH better product. Now, that's $1.92 more per pound but, to me, that's not a huge difference. Not as much as it feels like when you throw a $2.18 box of cookies into your cart.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Dating, eh? It can be not so fun. ←--understatement. You know how sometimes you find a great guy or gal but...there's that one thing. You try to overlook the one thing because without it he'd be your ideal partner. Yet, the little voice in your head tells you it's a deal breaker. And you know that voice is right. Damn it.
These cookies are like that. They are so close to being perfect BUT...they're crumbly and greasy. Really crumbly. The ones that aren't broken break into little crumbs as soon as you bite into them. This means that when you bite into a cookie, you kind of have to bite and inhale. An action that results in two outcomes: 1. you start coughing, complete with watering eyes because you just sucked cookie crumbs straight back into your windpipe. 2. you look like an idiot.
The flavor of the cookies is good. The reason they are almost perfect? At first bite, they reminded me of a Chip Ahoy cookie. Remember those from your gluten-y days? They couldn't hold a candle to homemade chocolate chip cookies but they were good for what they were.
The chocolate in these cookies, surprisingly, is real chocolate and tastes good. But I just can't get past the crumbly texture and greasy mouthfeel that the palm oil brings to the cookies. You know what the greasy texture reminds me of? Have you ever eaten a cheap piece of wedding cake and then taken a sip of a cold drink? You know how your mouth is coated in...grease? That's what this reminds me of. Starchy grease. These are soclose to being Chips Ahoy knockoffs but miss the mark enough that they make me sad. Boo!
Cocoa Sandwich Cookies
Let's face it, the yardstick most of us use for chocolate sandwich cookies is the venerable Oreo cookie. (And, um, I know Oreo has lost it's mind lately with the fruit punch cookies and the crispy treat cookies but we're gluten-free. We can just pretend they don't exist! Problem solved.)
So when I bit into a Great Value chocolate sandwich cookie, which go by the fun name of “cocoa sandwich cookies”, I immediately compared them to an Oreo. First up, they were bigger. They also weren't broken, proving that Great Value can sell non-broken cookies. But bigger isn't always better.
These cookies were meh to bad. Again with the palm oil. That meant that chocolate cookie was sandy and greasy and that the filling was soft. (note: I tried them in July. Even though I have air conditioning, the cookie filling will be softer than it would be in December. True fact.) The filling reminded me more of buttercream icing than an Oreo cookie filling. You know how Oreo filling is a little stiff? This wasn't.
The chocolate flavor was okay. There was something slightly off about it. Kind of bitter in the way a seemingly pleasant person can be bitter. Like, you don't notice it at first but after you spend time chatting with them, you realize that his smile is fake and, really, he's just kind of angry. This cookie, like a guest at a dinner party, hides it's bitterness but then you notice it and can't overlook it.
The biggest way I knew these cookies weren't to my liking? I didn't want another one. At all. One was more than enough.
They also sell these in vanilla which, sadly (or not), I didn't have a chance to try. Hence the name of this piece, “I try (almost) all of Wal-Mart's New Gluten-Free Cookies.”
UPDATE: G walked into my office last night, saw the open package of sandwich cookies and grabbed one. After chewing he looked at me and said, “Oh my god. These are greasy. Why are these greasy? I've never had a greasy sandwich cookie.”
I wanted these products to be better. I really did. I love cookies. But these...just weren't good. The palm oil made them all unpleasantly greasy to to me. And the price, while a little cheaper than other gluten-free brands, isn't that much cheaper. It would have been awesome if a big retailer like Wal-Mart could have offered good gluten-free cookies at a reasonable price. That would have been a Great Value!