From the moment I spied the oversized white cardboard box on my doorstep, I knew exactly what was waiting for me. How appropriate, I thought, that the box was covered in bright yellow stickers that read “PRIORITY.”
It was a package from KNOW foods, purveyors of low-carbohydrate, gluten-free, and almost-everything-else-free baked goods. I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for 26 years, and celiac disease for just over one. So waffles (and delicious baked goods in general) induce some major anxiety recently. But KNOW Better Bread’s stuff is free of so many things, you start to wonder what it’s actually made of when you read the front of the package. Their waffles, muffins, bread and bites are all grain-free, soy-free, peanut-free, dairy-free, cholesterol-free and yeast-free. So what are they made of? “Superfoods,” according to the label, which include almonds, coconuts, egg whites, flax seeds and chia seeds. It’s a wholesome list, but it still contains two things my husband is allergic to. More waffles for me.
I tore into the box to find enough gluten-free goodies to feed a small celiac nation. In addition to the waffles, there were Bites (which reminded me in shape and size of those Entenmann’s Little Bites), buns, bread slices and donuts. There was also pancake mix, included (I’m guessing) in case I’d rather whisk, ladle and cook my breakfast instead of shoving it directly into my face from the bag.
I dug into the waffles right away. They were amazing, even without pretenses like forks, knives, syrup or plates. They’re the fat, square, Belgian-y kind—with deep crevices a chewy, satisfying texture. And while I can’t say which superfood ingredient is responsible for the texture, I’m quite certain that the flavor comes from the chocolate chips buried in each bite. The other source of sweetness in KNOW foods is allulose, a new-ish low-calorie sweetener is made from fermented corn. I’d seen reports of the stuff causing tummy issues, so I made absolutely sure to take it easy. I didn’t experience any noticeable effects, but anyone who’s had an unfortunate experience with sugar-free chocolate or jelly beans knows how much damage artificial sweeteners can do to one’s intestinal health and dignity. Use caution.
In our house – especially with my four-year-old – the donuts and muffins were a hit. The donuts were full of chocolate chips, but also had some chocolate-y flavor in the base. Based on the outside texture, it’d be easy to mistake them for bagels, but each bite had a light, true donut sensation and taste. The muffins offered more of the same: cake-like texture and just enough sweetness.
The next day, I brought my KNOW trunk o’ goodies to work—to get some more opinions, and to keep myself from eating nine pounds of gluten-free chocolate chip donuts over the course of a week. Reactions were favorable, if not as enthusiastic as mine, and I had to remind myself that I was dealing with people who had the freedom to eat any kind of waffles at any time they desired; I chalked up their moderate reviews to a lack of desperation. The bites—sweetened with allulose and apple puree but lacking in chocolate chips—seemed to be the least popular of the offerings. They’re chewy and substantial, but there’s a lack of flavor there that makes them seem more like health food than a real treat.
The bread slices and buns, too, were lacking in what I’d call traditional flavor and texture. They had the same density and texture as the donuts, waffles and muffins, but without any pronounced flavor. Some people may like that about the KNOW bread, but I wouldn’t try to give any to Oprah.
Fortunately, when those KNOW products are dried and crumbled up, it’s a hit. I received one bag each of croutons and bread crumbs, and they filled a void that I didn’t even know existed in my life. The croutons were a welcome addition to the very boring salad I bring to work each day, and I used the bread crumbs – which I mixed with grated parmesan cheese – to add more interest meat sauce and brown rice linguine. So much for that low-carb thing.
Judging from KNOW Foods’ website, though, their target market is probably not people who have (or wish they had) a serious relationship with sourdough. There are motivational quotes, promises of “guilt-free” eating, and lots of anti-carb and “obesity epidemic” propaganda.
I’ve still got a hefty stash of KNOW treats in the freezer. I’m going to skip the bread slices and guilt talk and focus on what’s most important in my life right now: sensible portions of gluten-free waffles, croutons, and muffins.