I know what you’re about to say and I don’t want to hear it. Box mixes are not cheating, they’re just the pre-measured dry ingredients! However, what I will hear you out about is how box mixes are kind of basic without adding some pizzazz. Let me share some tips and tricks for adding a bit more magic to your box brownies.
I think one of the best ways to level up your brownies is to get that espresso machine out of the back of your cupboard, purchase your favorite type of espresso, and see just how wonderfully a freshly brewed shot of espresso can deepen the flavor of your brownies. All you have to do is replace those sweet three tablespoons of water with fresh espresso (cooled enough to where you don’t accidentally cook your eggs).
Personally, I like using a lower-intensity espresso when baking these brownies for guests. One of my favorite espresso choices is Starbucks’ Nespresso line. Their Blonde Espresso Roast has an intensity of 4-6 which isn’t terribly strong or bitter for people who aren’t big fans of coffee. Medium-intensity espresso like the Pike Place roast also blends well with most brownie mixes.
Expanding your flavor profiles and figuring out what works and what doesn’t is a huge part of mastering baking of any kind. To do that with brownies, take advantage of the convenience and variety of baking chips. Besides choosing classic semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter baking chips or butterscotch baking chips can add a little more “oomph” to your baking. For most mixes, all you need is half a cup to a full cup of chips stirred into the mixture after you finish mixing your wet and dry ingredients. Most baking chips hold their shape and texture despite the heat, so each bite should have a burst of flavor and maybe a little crunch.
The third tip is the most basic: frosting. You really can’t go wrong with the flavor of frosting when it comes to brownies since chocolate pairs well with most flavors. Vanilla, buttercream, strawberry, chocolate, peanut butter… anything goes. With Christmas approaching, I would jump for peppermint frosting (yum!).
However, the only stipulation is that you can’t simply dump your can of frosting on top of the brownies and call it a day. No, we’re professionals and professional bakers will tell you to spoon that frosting into a separate bowl and whip it with a hand mixer for a minute or two. Whipping your frosting introduces air back into the mixture, making it taste and look creamier and fluffier (this is also a great trick for frosting cupcakes).
Sometimes, presentation and creativity are all you need. S’mores brownies are a great place to start. Make your brownies as normal, then sprinkle mini marshmallows and crushed graham crackers on top. Then, broil the brownies until the marshmallows are golden brown. Watch them carefully though, the broiler will burn the marshmallows quickly!
With all these tips in mind, get cracking and make the best brownies ever!