Most of these ingredients are probably already in your pantry.
While homemade brownies are delicious in their own right, boxed brownies will always be my favorite. They’re simple and dependable, and in contrast to some quick options, such as canned soup, which is picked for convenience rather than flavor, they’re comparable to their homemade counterparts. Sometimes you just want a fudgy brownie with a glossy top that only Duncan Hines or Ghirardelli can provide.
While I prefer boxed brownies, there are times when I want to take the batter to the next level. Whether you want to bring them to a friend’s house or make movie night more special, sprucing up a batch of brownie mix is a cinch. I have ways of doing this, and I’m sure my coworkers do. So here are our tips for taking your boxed brownies to a new level you didn’t think was possible.
Nuts and fruits
Fruits and nuts are excellent for adding flavor and texture to brownies. When it comes to nuts, you can use whatever you have on hand, whether salted, candied, or otherwise. I like to add toasted nuts to brownies or blondies for added crunch and flavor. Any nut would suffice, but pecans and walnuts are my favorites. Chop them up, put them into the batter, or sprinkle them on top for added visual appeal.
Candied fruit, such as orange peel, ginger, or pineapple, adds sweetness and crunch. Genevieve suggests tossing preserved or fresh fruits in some flour before integrating them into the batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom. Some stem ginger in syrup would also be delicious.
Spices and Salts
Spices and salts can completely change the flavor of a brownie. Chile powder is well known for matching with chocolate, so start with a modest amount—about 1/2 teaspoon—and adjust to taste. Cinnamon and cardamom are also great partners (and known chocolate lovers!). If you’re using a flaky sea salt like Maldon, pour your brownie batter first, then finish with an even dusting over the top for added crunch and textural contrast.
Sweet, Savory, and Boozy
Swirling in additional ingredients adds flavor and gives your brownies a lovely marbled appearance. Creating unique and imaginative taste combinations simply by going through your pantry is also simple. Try pistachio or nut butter pastes, tahini, or even preserves. Caramel, such as cajeta or dulce de leche, is another excellent choice. Brownies are always better with caramel, and a quick caramel sauce stirred into the batter with a sprinkle of salt elevates the ordinary to extraordinary deliciousness.
Sprinkles are a simple substitution that can be incorporated into the batter or sprinkled on top before baking. If you like brittle, you can easily crush or cut it up and incorporate it into the batter. If you want something savory, items like crushed potato chips or pretzels work well in terms of flavor while adding texture.
Another simple alternative is to use sweetened cheeses such as cream cheese or mascarpone. If you go with this method, Genevieve recommends filtering the cheese if it’s on the wet side, otherwise, you’ll introduce undesirable moisture.
Our favorite flavor enhancers in brownie batter include malted milk powder, browned butter, and high-quality vanilla.
Stella once told me that malted milk powder is the umami bomb of the baking world, a flavor enhancer that amplifies sweet foods in delectably butterscotchy ways. So to that purpose, a slight boost from malted milk powder in a brownie mix sounds like a solid move.
Jake Dean, the Updates editor, is a big fan of browned butter. Andrea, my wife, is the baker in our family, and our friends frequently ask her to create brown butter blondies. Instead of conventional melted butter, browned butter lends a fascinating quality to simple baked items. It would be an excellent way to add variety and depth to the store-bought brownie mix. Because water evaporates when browning butter, you may need to use slightly more browned butter than the recipe calls for with regular butter.
Is there one more thing you should know? A splash of bourbon or rum is an easy and delicious way to complement the rich chocolate flavor of a packaged brownie. But, perhaps the most important question is which trick you’ll try first!
Learn more: The Best Herbs and Spices for Better Health