Homemade brownies are unquestionably delicious, but box mix brownies are a standby for even avid at-home bakers (and chefs on reality TV shows who are scared of baking) because they are reliable, take seconds to mix and generally turn out a finished product that will satisfy any chocolate craving. I generally like box mix brownies better than box cake mixes, and I know that I’m not the only one with that preference. In a recent issue (August 2011) Consumer Reports had a brownie bake-off to rate more than 10 different brownie mixes, including two gluten free varieties, and see which mixes came out on top in terms of taste and texture.
The top rated mix in the taste test was Trader Joe’s Brownie Truffle Baking Mix, which I’ve also reviewed with great results. The Barefoot Contessa’s Outrageous Brownie Mix also had a top rating, but is triple the price of the TJ’s mix. Both of the top rated mixes contained chocolate chips and were made with butter instead of oil. These two simple things led to brownies that were dense and chewy, had an intense chocolate flavor and gave a fresh, home-baked impression to tasters.
Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge, Market Pantry (Target) Fudge and Betty Crocker Fudge brownies all received very good ratings and were marked as best buys, due to their low per-serving prices. Duncan Hines Double Fudge Decadent and Ghirardelli Double Chocolate (a mix that I’ve always had good results with) were also very well liked by CR taste testers. The peanut, dairy, egg and nut-free Cherrybrook Kitchen Buster Fudge brownies were marked down as being not very sweet and fairly dry, especially compared to the other brands. The two gluten free mixes didn’t score nearly as well as the regular mixes. Pamela’s Products Chocolate Brownies were “dry, gritty and chalky” and they found the Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Brownies to have “off notes” and an “almost baconlike taste.”
In short? Look for a brownie mix that calls for butter and adds chocolate, rather than just cocoa powder, to the mix for the most like homemade brownies – but know that there are some good value mixes that still turn out a very satisfying product. Add chocolate chips to your mix brownies to make them even more chocolaty, and if you don’t care for the texture of a gluten free brownie mix, but want something without gluten, try making a Flourless Chocolate Cake instead.