Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brownie powder mixes

My confection of choice to indulge my sweet tooth has been brownies made from boxed brownie powder mixes, which I've been buying when they're on sale for $1 to $1.50 a box. The brownies are dense, sweet, and chocolatey enough compared to off-the-shelf cakes and cookies. I could buy, instead, a 13-ounce box of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, a 19.6-ounce box of Pepperidge Farm Golden 3-Layer Cake, a 27-ounce box of Mrs. Smith's Classic Sweet Potato Pie, a 14-ounce box of cereal, or a 12-ounce tin of butter cookies on sale for $2.50. In comparison, my present batch of brownies is made from an 18.3-ounce box of Betty Crocker fudge brownie mix with the addition of approximately 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of water, 5.33 ounces (2/3 cup) of vegetable (corn) oil, and 4 ounces of (2 large) eggs, or approximately 29.63 ounces of brownie batter. I bought the box of brownie powder mix on sale for $1, and I'll estimate the 5.33 ounces of corn oil to be worth 42 cents and the 2 large eggs to be worth 30 cents, for an estimated cost of less than $2 for just under 30 ounces of brownie. I haven't worked out what the same amount of brownie made from scratch might cost.

Best Yet brownie: (post) "Impulsively indulging my sweet tooth, I passed on the Chips Ahoy on sale and bought a cheaper box of brownie mix instead. The prep instructions called for 2 eggs and 2/3 cup of vegetable oil, and hey, I have those things. With my fingertips on the bottle of Canola oil, I changed my mind and took out the gross vegetable (soybean) oil. I figured I won't use it for anything else, and here's my chance to use the remainder at one shot. Problem solved - I won't be annoyed anymore by the bottle of gross vegetable (soybean) oil in my cupboard. However, the unintended, though predictable, consequence is the brownies taste like gross vegetable (soybean) oil. Oh well." [I use corn oil now.]

Betty Crocker dark chocolate: (post) "Brownies made from Betty Crocker dark chocolate brownie mix aren't bad." (post) "I added a few drops of hot sauce to my last Betty Crocker dark chocolate brownie. Interesting flavor." (post) "I experimented adding a big dollop of plain yogurt to my over-watered, 1 egg, Betty Crocker dark chocolate brownie batter in the 1-quart mixing bowl, cooked in the Nesco. I wanted a denser brownie. I thought adding 1 egg only would make the brownie less cake-like since adding an extra egg is supposed to make brownies more cake-like. Instead, 1 egg just made the brownies flatter while still cakelike. It turns out the way to make brownies denser is adding a milk product, not by reducing the egg content. I've added evaporated milk before with the same effect. The yogurt worked just as well." (post) "Decadent dessert: Betty Crocker dark chocolate brownie baked with banana and Super A smooth peanut butter, topped à la mode with Exceptional Value chocolate light ice cream. The banana was a trade-off, both adding cooked banana flavor and taking away some chocolate brownie flavor. Cooked peanut butter has a stronger flavor than uncooked peanut butter out of the jar spread on a baked brownie. I could barely taste the uncooked peanut butter on the brownie."

Betty Crocker milk chocolate: (post) "Betty Crocker milk chocolate brownie mix is good, perhaps even my favorite brownie mix so far." (post) "Lesson learned: Reduce the water called for in brownie mix directions for thicker, more chocolatey brownies. The directions on the Betty Crocker milk chocolate brownie mix box calls for 3 tablespoons of water. According to the table of cooking measurements, 1 tablespoon = .5 ounce. Based on 3 tablespoons = 1.5 ounces, I added 1/4 cup, ie, 2 ounces or 4 tablespoons, of water and a splash over the directed 1/2 cup of oil in an attempt to stretch my latest brownie batter with negligible loss of flavor. My previous BC milk chocolate brownies, made with 3 spoonfuls of water from an actual spoon, were thick and chocolatey. Not my latest batch, though. Based on previous experience, I knew I didn't add enough extra corn oil to reduce the flavor that much. I then took out the spoon I had used to measure water for my previous batches of BC milk chocolate brownie and scooped water into my measuring cup. It turns out 1/4 cup = 10 spoonfuls from the actual spoon, ie, the 1/4 cup of water had increased the water from my previous BC milk chocolate brownie batches by 3.33 times the amount instead of the 1.33 times the amount I intended. I believe the spoon is a teaspoon (.166 ounces), not a tablespoon (.5 ounces). The confirmation is 10 spoonfuls of water = 50 milliliters in my measuring cup. The implication is my BC milk chocolate brownies have been thick and chocolately because I added 3 teaspoons or .5 ounces of water instead of the 3 tablespoons or 1.5 ounces of water in the directions on the box. I haven't decided yet that reducing the water to a third of the amount called for in brownie mix directions is a golden ratio, but I plan on reducing the amount of water in my future brownie batters and seeing what difference it makes." Update: Water amount makes a significant difference where less water seems to increase density and flavor. Mashed a banana into the oil and water before mixing in the eggs and then brownie powder; it made for smooth banana-flavored brownies. Update: BC milk chocolate brownies taste best when baked on the George Foreman grill for 5 min - crunchy and chewy when cooled. It doesn't bake well in the 1-quart mixing bowl in the bottom-burner only toaster oven at 300°: burned at the bottom and liquid on top. It bakes okay on the pan at 7 minutes, but still tends to burn at the bottom while liquid on top.

Betty Crocker fudge: (post) "The Betty Crocker fudge brownie mix is okay. Update: I baked it just long enough so the consistency was just past batter and more brownie-fudge than brownie-cake. I then placed it in the fridge until it was cold - not intentionally, I only wanted to cool it faster to room temp out of the toaster oven, but I left it too long in the fridge. I spread grape jelly and sour cream on top. The BC fudge brownie was decadent: chocolatey and thick." I made a BC fudge brownie with ginger and garlic flakes. The ginger, which I've used before with brownies, added a nice tang. The garlic flavor was the same as for garlic bread, which added a savory flavor. Garlic doesn't enhance the dessert character of brownies like ginger does, but it's different and not bad.

The differences among the 3 Betty Crocker brownie mixes are interesting. The listed weights are milk chocolate at 18.4 ounces, fudge at 18.3 ounces, and dark chocolate at 19.9 ounces. Their instructions each call for 2 eggs. The dark chocolate and fudge instructions call for 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of water, while the milk chocolate instructions call for 3 tablespoons or 1.5 ounces of water. The milk chocolate and dark chocolate instructions call for 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, while the fudge instructions call for 2/3 cup of vegetable oil. Their ingredients are the same, except milk chocolate and fudge contain carob powder, while dark chocolate does not; only milk chocolate contains nonfat milk; milk chocolate contains cocoa in the 2% of less group in addition to the common cocoa processed with alkali; and dark chocolate lists corn starch in the 2% or less group, while milk chocolate and fudge list corn starch in the main group of ingredients. Contrast with Pillsbury chocolate fudge and milk chocolate brownie mixes where weight, instructions, and ingredients are the same except the milk chocolate adds nonfat milk in the ingredients.

Betty Crocker original supreme brownie: (post) "Betty Crocker® Original Supreme Brownie tastes pretty good. The batter was exceptionally thick. The pouch of chocolate syrup that comes with the powder mix is different."

Betty Crocker french vanilla cake: (post) "I'm pleasantly surprised by Betty Crocker's 15.25 oz box "super moist" french vanilla cake mix. I bought a box on sale for $1 to try as a contrast with my usual purchases of chocolate brownie and cake mixes. The box-mix chocolate cakes have been fluffier, ie, cake-like, with weaker chocolate flavor than the brownies. The french vanilla cake is also cake-like, of course, but I'm pleased with its solid flavor. It's on par with the brownies, just different. Compared to uncooked brownie batter, which tastes like MRE ranger pudding, the uncooked cake batter has much less flavor. It tastes better cooked. There are also more artificial ingredients in the cake mix than the brownie mix. The best-tasting version of the french vanilla cake has been pan-fried, which makes it thick, crunchy, and a little gooey. The pan-fried version reminds me strongly in taste and texture of the sweet mini-cakes that were sold at the small street stand off of Canal Street. Note: I used 2 eggs for the french vanilla cake batter rather than 3 eggs as instructed on the box, which may have caused the cake to be less dense."

Betty Crocker carrot cake: (post) "Using half the water (4 oz) instructed in the recipe (1 cup) makes a difference in the flavor of Betty Crocker carrot-cake mix batter. It tastes better. For flour-based cake, brownies, and bannock, the amount of liquid in the dough or batter makes a big difference. Err with too little water rather than too much. Pan-frying the carrot cake batter yields a drier cake-like texture with a crispy crust, though pan-frying doesn't change the flavor. I doubt I'll buy the BC carrot cake again. The only distinct flavor is cinnamon. There is no discernable carrot-cake flavor."

Duncan Hines milk chocolate: (post) "Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie mix - lacks flavor." (post) "I experimented and found that adding sour cream or yogurt to Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie mix dilutes the already relatively weak-flavored brownie flavor without a noticeable change to the texture. I haven't experimented with evaporated milk this time, although with my past addition of evaporated milk to brownies, my impression was it thickened the brownie texture without changing the taste. . . . For dessert, Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie mixed with Best Yet chunky peanut butter. The chocolate flavor of the brownie was diluted by the peanut butter, but it was okay." (post) "I'm having a change of heart about Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie mix. I've reviewed it before as lacking flavor, but I like the current batch. It's more sugary than chocolatey, but it's tasty and crusts well. Maybe my tastes are changing or maybe the mix formula has improved."

Duncan Hines chewy fudge: (post) "Duncan Hines chewy fudge brownie mix - not bad." In 1-qt mixing bowl, bake for 11 minutes at 350º for a brownie that's still wet. Undercooked batter-like is edible but underwhelming. The best texture is wet near-fudgy brownie, between batter-like and dry. Dry loses flavor. Vegetable oil-based hazelnut chocolate spread baked on tastes better than hazelnut spread added after baking, but like the similarly sugar-heavy barbeque sauce, be careful not to burn it to a charcoal crisp. Spread it on with about, maybe, 5 minutes left while baking. Refrigerate and eat cool for the correct dense texture.

Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge: (post) "Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge brownie mix is unexpectedly weak flavored. Too bad I didn't grab a 2nd chewy fudge brownie mix instead. The dark chocolate fudge brownie mix instructs adding 1 large egg, 1/3 cup oil, and 1/3 cup water for chewy brownies, while the chewy fudge brownie mix instruct adding 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup water, and 3/4 cup oil for chewy brownies (the amounts differ for "cake like" or "cookie like" texture). I planned to exchange the 2nd box of dark chocolate fudge brownie mix, and would have, had the store not been sold out of chewy fudge brownie mix. Instead, I decided to experiment. Since the listed ingredients are the same for both brownie mixes, although it's implied the amounts of the various ingredients differ, I tried adding 2 eggs, 1/4 cup water, and 3/4 cup oil to the 2nd dark chocolate fudge brownie mix in order to find out whether the result would taste like chewy fudge brownies. Nope, still weak flavored. I'm adding grape jelly and sour cream for flavor." (post) "I learned that chilled bannock dough, like chilled brownie batter, also flour based, is easier to work with than just-made bannock dough. . . . This time, I let the Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge brownie cool completely before eating it. Cooled, but not cold, the texture was more brownie-like and seemed to taste better, too. I tried mixing evaporated milk into my last dark chocolate brownie mix. The result was the consistency was more brownie like. Still low on taste, though."

Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge cake: (post) "I bought Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge cake mix on sale for 1.25 for a 16.5 ounce box. Ugh. It's tasteless, more tasteless even than the Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge brownie mix. Granted, cakes are meant to be frosted, but the cake portion should have at least some flavor. The texture is cake texture rather than the relatively denser brownie. Adding evaporated milk to the cake batter makes the cake spongier."

Pillsbury chocolate fudge: (post) "Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie mix brownies are okay." (post) "For dessert, a Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie made on the griddle pan, which turned out burnt on one side and gooey on the other side. It was a tasty way to break a 24-hour fast. The day before for dessert, I made a Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie with evaporated milk, topped with chunky peanut butter and sour cream. I washed it down with whole milk. That was a very rich dessert; too rich, in fact. It triggered my 24-hour fast a day earlier than I had planned. . . . I'm going to bake more of my brownies so they're mostly done but still hot and gooey on top, like a lava cake." (post) "I'm eating my current batch of brownies, made from Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie mix, a la mode with Exceptional Value (a C&S wholesaler brand) chocolate light ice cream. I prefer vanilla ice cream, but only chocolate light ice cream was on sale, a 1.75-quart/1.65-liter/56-ounce box for $1.67. The ice cream is light-flavored and cheap quality, made with guar gum and artificial ingredients. I changed how I mix the brownie batter. I now pour the corn oil directly into the mixing bowl rather than into a measuring cup first. I didn't like that oil stuck to the measuring cup, which was a waste and annoying to clean up." (post) "I added hot sauce, 2 ripe bananas, and ginger flakes to a batch of Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownies. I don't taste the hot sauce. I can taste the banana and ginger flakes; they're good additions. The bananas made the batter more runny and the cooked brownies more pancake-like. I considered adding flour to thicken the batter, but opted not to for the risk of diluting the flavor. I bought a 48-oz carton of Turkey Hill rum raisin ice cream on sale for $2.50 to indulge in brownie a la mode, but I gobbled up the ice cream before I mixed the brownie batter. Oh well. It would have been good. I wonder how brownies would taste with orange juice mixed into the batter? Update: I added 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) of Minute Maid low pulp orange juice in place of water to a batch of Betty Crocker milk chocolate brownie batter in which I also added sour cream, ginger flakes, and 1 banana. I can't taste any orange juice flavor in the brownies."

Pillsbury milk chocolate: (post) "Pillsbury milk chocolate brownie mix (19.5 oz) is surprisingly decent. Not as fudgy as I like, but the flavor holds its own. I've been mixing in evaporated milk before baking and the result has been a satisfactorily thick brownie texture. I wonder whether mixing in milk or sour cream before baking would similarly boost the brownie texture. Allow it to cool before eating. A sour cream spread on top gives it a nice flavor kick." (post) "Pillsbury milk chocolate brownie with evaporated milk topped with sour cream and chunky peanut butter . . . I've been using the toaster oven to make 5-minute, cookie-flat brownies, too."

Pillsbury mocha fudge brownie: (post) "Pillsbury Mocha Fudge Brownie is different due to a mild coffee flavor. However, its chocolate flavor is also mild, which may be purposely calibrated that way to not overpower the mild coffee flavor."

Pillsbury funfetti chocolate fudge: Pillsbury™ Funfetti® Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix comes with a standard bag of chocolate fudge brownie mix and a packet of miniature candy-coated chocolate chips. The "funfetti" is not worth the extra cost. I could not taste a difference due to the chips, except perhaps imagined, when added to the brownie. The color also bleeds off the chips into puddles when baked so they're less visually attractive than advertised. Eating the "funfetti" separately provides a sliver of MM-like flavor. Unlike other brownie mixes, the batter has baked better on a toaster-oven pan than in the 1-quart mixing bowl. Usually, the trade-off of baking brownie batter on the pan is speed (5-6 minutes vs 10-12 minutes) but a drier cookie-like consistency and less brownie flavor, while baking in the 1-quart mixing bowl usually produces a brownie-like consistency. This time, though, the consistency has been more brownie-like on the pan but, in the 1-quart mixing bowl, it's been undercooked in the middle-top while burned on the edges when baking time is added to cook the middle. Add: The fix is to switch from bake to broil, which heats from the top, to finish baking the middle-top.

Pillsbury german chocolate cake: (post) "My sweet tooth is toning down, I think. I bought a 15.25-oz box of Pillsbury german chocolate cake mix on sale for $1. I used 2 eggs, instead of 3 eggs, reduced the water, and increased the oil to roughly match brownie mix water, oil, and egg amounts. I added yogurt for density, but it puffed up like cake, anyway. In the past, boxed mix cake was unsatisfactorily low in flavor as a brownie substitute. This time, I was satisfied with the cake. There are many more artificial ingredients in the cake mix than brownie mix, though. Update: I added sour cream, which is thicker than yogurt, to the german chocolate batter; the result was cake noticeably moister and thicker though still cake-like. Update: A mom says reducing sugary products in her family's diet heightened their taste and physical reactive sensitivity to sugar and improved their energy and health."

(Post) "Impulse buyer's remorse: The 19.6-ounce box of Pepperidge Farm Golden 3-Layer Cake I bought on sale for $2.50 is tasteless. Powder-box brownies are cheaper, thicker, and taste better. Well, now I know. I hope the 27-ounce box of Mrs. Smith's Classic Sweet Potato Pie that I also impulsively bought on sale for $2.50 tastes better. Update: The Mrs. Smith's sweet potato pie wasn't bad. A bonus is I can re-use the aluminum pan that held the pie." (post) "Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Fudge 3-layer cake is as tasteless as the Golden 3-layer cake. That's 5 dollars - total for both cakes - that could have been spent on better, cheaper, and a greater amount of food. I was considering trying the Vanilla 3-layer cake - not anymore."

After I've mixed a box of brownie powder into a bowl of brownie batter, it seems to lose flavor the longer it sits in the refrigerator, so there's little benefit from a delay in consuming it. Once battered, the brownies will be eaten with pace. The way to moderate consumption is stretching out the intervals between mixing boxes of brownie powder into batter. Brownies are undoubtedly an unhealthy indulgence only made indulgently unhealthier by the condiments I add such as ice cream, peanut butter, grape jelly, and sour cream. Eating brownies makes me feel afterwards like I just ate an over-sugared, over-oiled, over-processed junk food. They also add pounds when I'm trying to lose them.

I tried baking brownie batter, using Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie mix, with the instructed amount of water and oil but no eggs. My theory was it would bake up like bannock, which is made from mostly flour and water. The main ingredient of powdered brownie mix must be sugar, because the eggless brownie batter boiled and hardened like melted sugar. The result was like a hard, chewy fudge - not bad, but not the way I prefer eating it. It's an option to keep in mind, anyway.

(Post) "I've taken to eating uncooked brownie batter. Positive: It's like eating MRE ranger pudding. Negatives: The eater's remorse after-feeling from uncooked brownie batter is worse than the usual eater's remorse after-feeling from baked brownies and the risk of eating the raw eggs mixed in the batter."

(Post) "If I can buy the ingredients on sale, I may try making mix-style brownies from scratch. The hurdle is the cocoa powder. The scratch recipe at the linked site for the equivalent of a box of brownie mix says to use 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, or about 2.7 ounces. The regular price for a 9-oz box of Hersheys cocoa powder at my local supermarket is $4.19. In other words, 1/3 cup of regular-priced cocoa powder alone costs about the same or more than a box of brownie mix on sale. The linked blogger says the ingredients she used totaled 30¢. Hm."

Fix for too much oil: The Betty Crocker fudge brownie mix calls for 2/3 cup vegetable oil, but my measuring stick is set to 1/2 cup. I guesstimate 2/3 cup oil and usually go over 2/3 cup. It results in a tangible flavor of oil and the batter burns to a crisp quickly on the edges. The fix is to add flour to the batter, which restores the correct flavor, with maybe some dilution of flavor, and the batter no longer burns quickly. Flour also thickens the brownie batter.

Beware of burning peanut butter, or more specifically, the oil used to process peanut butter, which tastes gross. Fold the peanut butter inside the brownie, Reeses pieces style, as much as possible. Peanut butter made from ground peanuts without processing oil, such as Smucker's Natural chunky peanut butter, bakes well with brownies and doesn't burn.

Washing down a brownie with cold whole milk is at least as decadent as brownie a la mode.

I cook brownies with a George Foreman grill, on a baking pan in the toaster oven, in a mixing bowl in the toaster oven, and rarely, with a frying pan over the burner, or on a plate in the microwave oven.

Currently, my toaster oven is bottom coil only because the top heating coil broke. Baking Betty Crocker milk chocolate brownie on a pan at 275° rather than the instructed 350° takes longer, a little over 10 minutes, but burns less. Baking Pillsbury dark chocolate brownie on a pan takes about 5 minutes at 275°.

Interestingly, different brands of brownie mixes cook differently on different cooking medium. Pillsbury brownies cook well on the George Foreman grill (7 minutes, scoops off easily with good texture), but Betty Crocker brownies cook poorly on the George Foreman grill (falls apart, sticks, needs to be scraped off). Betty Crocker brownies bake better in the mixing bowl.

Non-instruction use: With my last 4 boxes of brownie powder mix, 2 boxes of Pillsbury chocolate fudge, 1 box of Betty Crocker milk chocolate, and 1 box of Pillsbury dark chocolate mix, I've experimented with different uses besides baking brownies from the brownie powder, oil, water, and eggs mixture instructed on the box. The dark chocolate is generally less flavorful. Mixing brownie powder with oil, not baked, makes an approximation of MRE ranger pudding. Mixing brownie powder with oil, baked, makes for a hard sugar cookie - adding sour cream makes it more chewy. Mixing brownie powder with a little water (MRE hot chocolate powder mixed with less water than instructed makes ranger pudding), not baked, has the consistency of MRE ranger pudding but tastes like wet brownie powder. Mixing too much water makes for a slosh. Mixing brownie powder with a little water, baked, makes for a Trader Joe's Lacey-like cookie. Despite the similar consistency, brownie powder mixed with oil tastes like chocolate icing, with icing-like texture, while brownie powder mixed with water tastes like wet brownie powder. Mixing brownie powder with (Smuckers) grape jam, not baked, tastes like water mixed with brownie powder except sweeter. Mixing brownie powder with sour cream, not baked, makes milk chocolate flavor. Mixing brownie powder with mayonnaise, not baked, makes for a jelly-like texture and tastes like a mix of mayonnaise and brownie powder - flavor not preferred over a sour cream mix but doesn't taste bad. Mixing brownie powder with a little water and mayonnaise, which is egg white and soybean oil, baked, makes for a fudgy brownie. Mixing brownie powder into bannock dough, baked, makes a slightly chocolate flavored bannock. Brownie powder + bannock dough + oil or better yet, mayonnaise, bakes into a flaky, plush, pastry or pie crust-like consistency bannock. The chocolate flavor holds up fairly well when brownie powder is stirred into (La Yogurt) plain unsweetened whole-milk yogurt. Eating brownie powder straight by licking it off a wet spoon is like a chocolate-flavored sugar candy. Interestingly, it takes about 10 days to consume a box of brownie powder with the alternative methods, the same as baking the instructed brownie mix. There's less cruddy after feeling from the alternative methods, including the brownie powder + oil pseudo-MRE ranger pudding, than eating regularly mixed baked brownies. I tried making hot chocolate with Pillsbury dark chocolate and chocolate fudge mix - it was weak flavored. Quasi-ranger pudding mixed with rice works, like a chocolate rice pudding, but boiling brownie powder mix while cooking rice doesn't work - the flavor disappears. Brownie-mix ranger pudding with banana tastes good and, as batter, tastes okay when baked. A mix of brownie powder, banana, sour cream, and chunky peanut butter is tasty. Smooth peanut butter is significantly weaker flavored without the peanut bits. Aunt Jemima artificial maple syrup replaces, not complements, the brownie flavor.



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