Craving brownies but short on time? Or maybe you’re having a dinner party, have lots of dishes to prepare and want an easy dessert that everyone will love? It’s a no-brainer: You reach for a box of brownie mix.
Whether you’re a budding baker or make everything from scratch, a premade mix can help in a pinch and save time. “Boxed brownie mix is convenient and gets the job done,” said Joshua Coleman, the pastry chef at Halifax in Hoboken, New Jersey. “It’s quick, easy, everyone can make it and enjoy a sweet treat.”
Plus, using a mix can be a stepping stone to becoming more comfortable with baking. “Brownie mix is a great step into the world of baking; using it as a building block to try new flavors and test how slight changes can create a new product is what makes it really exciting and versatile,” said Olivia McCoy, the head chef of Daily Chew in Atlanta.
If you’re used to always making everything from scratch, using a box may seem strange at first ― but even professionals occasionally reach for a mix.
“I tend to make everything from scratch. I love it,” said Tiffany Lewis, a classically trained Le Cordon Bleu chef and the founder of Cookies With Tiffany. “But the reality is, sometimes you need something real quick and you want to be able to put your name behind it, so you put your own spin on it; bring a boxed dessert to life.”
First, let’s start with the pros’ favorite boxed mixes. Then scroll down to find out how they jazz them up.
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Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Brownie Mix
“This mix uses the chocolate I always use for home baking — it comes with dark chocolate chips in the mix, and I love the richness and decadence of the brownie,” McCoy said. Want to jazz up the brownies? “If you want to play with the recipe, there is room to add [ingredients] to punch up the flavors and textures,” McCoy said. She offered ideas such as “exchanging the water for milk, adding espresso powder, which deepens the chocolate flavor, or hitting the top with flaky sea salt.” She also frequently adds different candies, such as Rolos, Reese’s peanut butter cups or mints. “The ideas are endless,” Lewis said.
Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix
Betty Crocker is a cheaper alternative but doesn’t lack in flavor or texture, Coleman said. And it’s a runner-up for McCoy, as well: “I love the amount of variety they have in their brownie line; there’s salted caramel, added nuts, triple chocolate, Reese’s, s’mores, and the list goes on,” Coleman said. “The differences really allow a theme to carry through depending on what you choose — if you’re having a bonfire night, choose the s’mores brownies and add those on to your s’mores creation to really pump up the ooey-gooey chocolate level!”
Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix
“My only, and by far favorite, brownie mix brand is Ghirardelli,” Lewis said. The reason is simple. “It’s a perfect combination of a crispy edge, nicely chewy in the middle, decadent and really chocolatey brownie.” She usually has a box of Chocolate Supreme on hand for when she’s low on time and typically makes it uniquely her own by adding in other ingredients. “One favorite combination is to take mini marshmallows and fold them in, and when you pull it apart, the marshmallows stretch,” she said.
Ghirardelli Caramel Walnut Turtle Premium Brownie Mix
Coleman is a fan of all the Ghirardelli brownie mixes. “I love the different flavors and they always provide a fudgy brownie,” he said. But if he has to choose, he is partial to Ghirardelli Caramel Walnut Truffle. “In terms of quality, it’s top tier and it stays the perfect texture longer than most brownie mixes,” Coleman said.
Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix
How To Jazz Up Boxed Brownie Mix
If you’re all about DIY, using a brownie mix may be new for you, but even trained pastry chefs view brownie mixes as an easy jumping-off point. “Brownie mix is like a canvas and then you pick up a paintbrush and you start painting,” Lewis said.
There are so many possibilities when using a brownie mix that when you’re finished, no one will guess the base came from a box. “I add toasted nuts or chocolate chip cookie pieces if I’m in the mood for a brownie with a different texture,” Coleman said. “When I feel like going all out, I will add in a swirl of cheesecake, different fruit or caramel sauces.”
McCoy likes to tinker with the ingredients to create layers of flavor. “I love to add brown butter to my brownies ― substitute half of the oil needed in the brownie mix for butter that you have browned (just pop the butter in a pan on medium-low and wait for the rich, nutty smell); that’s going to add a great depth of flavor to the store-bought mix.” She also often substitutes water for coffee “to boost the chocolate flavor and offset the sweetness.”
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