In an earlier post I lauded King Arthur Flour for finally introducing gluten-free products. My enthusiasm has been slightly dampened with the arrival of the first catalog highlighting their new product line. Let me tell you why.
I think of King Arthur Flour as the Frederick's of Hollywood of flour. They provide fairly vanilla forms of flour -- although at crazy prices -- but also carry flours and related products you don't recognize, don't know how to use and fear, a little. A brief journey through the recent catalog uncovers Italian-style flour (Italians have special flour?), dried buttermilk powder, cake enhancer, french lames (you use them to score bread because, as you know, a knife is useless in those critical situations) and some kind of liquid that you add to cookies to make them taste like cookies. See? Just like adding garter belts as complicated as suspension bridges to already undressed people makes them sexier.
In other words, King Arthur Flour, already credible in the exotic baking products racket, should carry gluten-free products. I was very excited when the catalog arrived today.
And I'm disappointed. Oh, sure -- the catalog lists all of the standard flours and mixes, from tapioca starch to chocolate cake mix. That's the problem! In terms of standard gluten-free products, Bob's Red Mill has that market wrapped up. I don't need a vendor for standard stuff. I expect a company that sells lilac sugar pearls (you use them to decorate cupcakes, in case that wasn't self-evident in the description) to move beyond gluten-free pancake mix.
KAF deepened my disappointment on page 6. And 7. And 8. In the two-page gluten-free spread, there's a recipe for white sandwich bread (the very food used to illustrate ubiquity). There's a sweet column by the product development manager, and a promise that everyone -- gluten-free diet or no -- will enjoy the products. But when you turn the page, it's as if the gluten-free section never existed. The very next recipe in the catalog calls for hi-gluten flours, in fact, and none of the other recipes or columns suggest ways to substitute gluten-free flour in your baking.
Pages 4 and 5. The gluten-free ghetto. Nice try, King Arthur. I expect more, and I think you're missing a market -- gluten-free bakers (especially those that have already demonstrated their willingness to purchase expensive baking supplies) are childishly excited to be able to use conventional baking recipes. They're willing to experiment and try new products. And yet there's nothing in your catalog I can't find at the local health food store. Why pay $6.50 (that's minimum, by the way) in shipping for the same supplies?
My final assessment? I appreciate the effort, KAF, but I need a better reason to weed through the elephant-face underwear and fuzzy handcuffs when I can shop at Target for less money and in broad daylight.
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