Archive for: brownie mix
Brownie mixes are a convenient thing to keep in the back of your pantry when you need a quick brownie fix. What could be easier than a mix, where you just add a few ingredients and stir? The answer is a mix that you don’t need to add anything to. I spotted these Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Brownies on a recent shopping trip. The mix already has eggs and oil incorporated into it, so you simply pour it straight into the pan and bake in a preheated oven. Foolproof.
I picked this up because I was curious as to how it would stand up to a regular brownie mix, especially since I’ve gotten pretty good results from other Trader Joe’s mixes. I was concerned that, since the mix had flour already incorporated into it, it might end up being a little tough. This concern wasn’t entirely unfounded, as these brownies turned out to be a slightly spongier and less tender than even most brownie mixes are. They still had a good chocolate flavor and were very moist, but it would have been nicer if they were a bit more tender and fudgy. Homemade brownies are going to give you a better texture and more flavor every time, especially when they’re made with real butter and melted chocolate.
That said, the only thing easier than this is buying a package of brownies that are already baked – and you don’t get the smell of freshly baked brownies in your kitchen when you buy them already baked. They also freeze well, so these are actually pretty good for using to make a batch of brownie ice cream sandwiches, and they can also be chopped up an incorporated into a batch of ice cream for a brownie-sundae.
Cake and brownie mixes can offer a lot of convenience when you need a foolproof treat quickly, and it’s not a bad idea to keep one in the back of your pantry. I’m usually a little more interested in seeing how upscale brownie mixes compare both to homemade and other box mixes, since I’ve been seeing more and more chocolate makers branch out into brownie and cake mixes. This Spicy Maya Brownie Mix is from Chuao Chocolatier, a San Diego-based artisan chocolate company. I happened to get this box as a gift from a friend who picked it up at a specialty retailer (though it’s sold online) because she knew that I had a soft spot for spicy chocolate treats.
These dark chocolate brownies are spiced with pasilla chilies, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, and you simply add melted butter and eggs to the mix before putting it into the oven. The brownies bake up to be thick and chewy, with a dense and fudgy center. The main ingredient is dark chocolate and you can really feel that in the density and richness of the brownies, which did remind me more of a bar of chocolate than a piece of chocolate cake. The chilies and spices are not too aggressive, but leave a lasting heat in your mouth that grows once you have taken a few bites.
I have to admit that I prefer my own Mexican Chocolate Brownies to these, but this mix is a good one that packs a lot of chocolate punch, a great consistency and a very unusual flavor (for a mix) into one package. They’re worth a try for a chocoholic and would make a great addition to a gift pack for chocolate lovers!
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.
Cake mixes – as you might guess from the fact that I run a baking blog – are not something that I use very often. If I’m going to use a mix, I’d much rather it be a brownie mix. Most brownie mixes produce good, consistent results (I particularly like Ghirardelli brownie mixes) and are really easy to whip up when you need something. Plus, it’s easy to modify a brownie mix into a batch of cheesecake brownies, with or without a raspberry swirl, for a no-fuss treat.
Trader Joe’s Brownie Truffle Baking Mix is their version of a box brownie mix and I thought I’d give it a try afer trying TJ’s Gluten Free Brownie Mix. All you need to do with this mix is to stir in melted butter and some eggs, and you’re ready to go. It features dutch process cocoa powder and chocolate chips, in addition to other all natural ingredients, and sounded pretty promising. The finished brownies had a deep chocolate flavor and a fudgy, not chewy, texture that meant that the brownies kind of melted in your mouth. They were good – and a hit with my volunteer taste testers – although I think I would stir in some additional chips next time, as the ones included weren’t all that noticeable in the finished brownie.
As you might guess from the fact that it’s called a baking mix and not just a brownie mix, suggestions are given for some alternative preparations on the box. These are certainly worth a try if you’re looking for an easy mix fo fudgy brownies to keep on hand in the kitchen.
Mixes, as you might guess, are really not my thing. I always prefer to make something from scratch if I can. That said, I don’t think that mixes are inherently bad or anything.They’re certainly useful in a pinch because they can be made very quickly and with little fuss. And there are some pretty good mixes out there – I like the Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownie mix quite well, for instance. So every once in a while I’ll give a new one a shot.
I picked up this bag of Trader Joe’s new Gluten Free Brownie Mix the last time I was in the market. Gluten free cooking isn’t something I do a whole lot of and because good GF recipes often call for unusual flours/ingredients to get a good consistency, a mix is a nice thing to have on hand.
These brownies primarily use brown rice flour and evaporated cane juice. They’re free of wheat, nuts, milk/dairy, soy and corn, so they’re a good option for almost any allergy-specific diet. All you do is mix in oil, an egg and some water to the powdered mix, pour it into a pan, and bake. Chocolate chips are optional, and you can replace sone of the oil with applesauce (as per the directions) to make a lower fat batch. Mine took a bit longer than directed because I used a heart-shaped pan instead of the 8×8″ pan called for, but the brownies ended up turning out very nicely. They were moist, fudgy – very fudgy, actually - and tender, and though they don’t have quite the same texture as “real” brownies (if you’ve ever used brown rice flour, you might have noticed that it can give a very slightly grainy feel to some baked goods), they’re very good for a quick and gf fix.
I’d buy them again and experiment with different add ins - cinnamon and spices, dried cherries, white chocolate chips – in the future, and I’ll definitely keep it in mind when I want to bake something easy and tasty for my gluten intolerant friends.