Whereas brownies made out of scratch are scrumptious in their very own proper, for me, boxed brownies will all the time reign supreme. They’re straightforward and dependable, and—opposite to different fast alternate options, like canned soup, which are chosen extra for comfort than taste—are literally fairly equal to their home made counterparts. Generally there’s a longing for a fudgy brownie with a shiny high that solely a field of Duncan Hines or Ghirardelli can fulfill.
However whereas I’m loyal to boxed brownies, there are many instances that decision for taking the batter to the following degree. Whether or not you wish to deliver them over to a good friend’s home, or simply make film night time a bit extra particular, sprucing up a field of brownie batter is an extremely easy activity. I’ve my very own methods for doing this, and I additionally know my colleagues do, too. Listed below are our favourite ideas for elevating the boxed brownies you already like to a degree you didn’t even assume was attainable.
Fruits and Nuts
Fruits and nuts are nice for introducing extra taste and texture to your brownies. In the case of nuts, you possibly can attain for no matter you could have in your pantry—salted, candied, or in any other case. “Once I make brownies or blondies, I like so as to add toasted nuts for additional crunch and taste,” says culinary editor Genevieve Yam. “Any nut will do, however my favorites are pecans and walnuts.” Be happy to cut them up and blend them into the batter, or add them on high for much more visible enchantment.
Candied fruit like orange peel, ginger, or pineapple are nice for additional sweetness and chew. When mixing in preserved or contemporary fruits, Genevieve recommends tossing them in a little bit of flour earlier than incorporating into the batter to forestall them from sinking to the underside. Some stem ginger in syrup would even be an exquisite addition.
Spices and Salts
Spices and salts can actually rework the general taste of a brownie. Chile powder is legendary for pairing nicely with chocolate, so you can begin by including a small quantity—about 1/2 teaspoon—and adjusting to your liking. Cinnamon and cardamom are additionally glorious pairings (and recognized associates of chocolate!). If utilizing a flaky sea salt like Maldon, pour your brownie batter into the pan first after which end it off with a fair sprinkling excessive of the batter for additional crunch and textural distinction.
Candy, Savory, and Boozy
Swirling in new substances doesn’t simply add taste, it may additionally give your brownies a fantastically marbled look. It’s additionally straightforward to seek out new and creative taste mixtures simply by wanting in your pantry. Attempt pastes like pistachio or nut butters, tahini, and even jams. Caramel is one other nice choice, together with cajeta or dulce de leche. “Brownies are all the time higher with caramel, and a fast caramel sauce swirled into the batter with a sprinkle of salt provides excessive decadence to the strange,” says commerce author Jesse Raub.
Sprinkles are an easy swap-in (and ones that kids will especially love), which you can either incorporate into the batter or sprinkle on top before baking. If you’re a fan of brittle, you can easily crush or chop it up and mix it into the batter. And if you want something savory, ingredients like crushed up potato chips or pretzels also work well flavor-wise while simultaneously adding an element of texture.
Another easy (if perhaps less common) option is incorporating sweetened cheeses like cream cheese or mascarpone. When going this route, Genevieve notes the importance of straining the cheese if it’s on the wet side (i.e. ricotta), or you’ll end up introducing unwanted moisture.
Some of our team’s favorite ways to spruce up brownie batter involve using flavor enhancers like malted milk powder, browned butter, and high-quality vanilla (either extract or from the bean).
“I’ll never forget when Stella told me that malted milk powder is basically the umami bomb of the baking world—a flavor enhancer that maximizes sweet foods in deliciously butterscotchy ways,” says senior culinary director Daniel Gritzer. “To that end, spiking a brownie mix with some malted milk powder sounds like a pro move for a subtle boost. According to Stella, you can add it to most desserts without throwing off the rest of the recipe, making it an easy add-in.”
Updates editor Jake Dean loves to go the browned butter route. “My wife Andrea is the baker in our house, and our friends often request she make brown butter blondies,” he says. “I think using browned butter in place of regular melted butter adds an intriguing quality to easy baked goods, and would be a great way to add nuance and depth to store-bought brownie mix.” Genevieve notes that since water evaporates when you brown butter, you may need to add a little more browned butter than what the box calls for with regular butter.
One final tip that shouldn’t be missed? A splash of a dark liquor like bourbon or rum is a simple and boozy way to round out the rich chocolate flavor of a boxed brownie. Perhaps the biggest question left to answer is which trick you’ll try first!