No one will suspect they weren't made from scratch.

By Patricia S. York
January 23, 2019

How did it happen this time? Did your child mention, on his way out the door, that it’s your turn to bring goodies to the class party this afternoon? Or it is late at night and you suddenly remembered the office potluck is tomorrow? You may not have time to make cupcakes or a layer cake from scratch, but you can still whip up a delicious plate of almost-homemade chocolate brownies. Growing up, our moms relied on boxed mix cakes for a reason – they are budget-friendly, quick and easy to make and, if you choose a good brand, mighty tasty. So, don’t panic. Grab that boxed brownie mix (that you bought for such an occasion as this) and read on for a few suggestions on how to make a boxed brownie even better. With the addition of just one ingredient (and there are many to choose from) you can take a brownie mix from good to oh-so great that no one will ever suspect those chocolatey treats came from a box. Shhh…we won’t tell!

Add strong coffee.

The water called for in the recipe instructions will not give you any additional flavor, but using the same amount of strong coffee instead of water will intensify the chocolate flavor without making the brownies taste like coffee. If you don’t have brewed coffee on hand, add just a teaspoon of espresso powder to the water to bring out deeper chocolate flavor. Using more than a teaspoon will start to bring out coffee flavors (which is fine if you are a coffee lover).

Add extra flavor with extracts and liqueurs.

An extract will add a hint of additional flavor to your brownies without undermining the chocolate flavor. Vanilla (the most commonly used extract), almond, peppermint, and orange are just a few of the extracts used extensively in baking with chocolate. Regular alcohol is also a great addition to brownie recipes (as long as you aren’t serving the baked item to minors). The addition of amaretto, rum, Kahlua, Cointreau, or bourbon will elevate your brownies from a dessert just for kids to a cocktail party treat.

Add chunks of candy bars.

Enhance the ooey-gooey texture of your brownies by adding bite-sized chopped pieces of your favorite candy bar. Chocolate-peppermint patties, peanut-butter and chocolate cups, coconut and chocolate bars, your choices are endless and, not only will you add texture, but you will change the flavor profile of a basic chocolate brownie.

Add mini-marshmallows.

Stir a cup or two of mini marshmallows into the brownie mixture and let them melt into the brownies as they bake. Or sprinkle marshmallows across the top of the brownies a few minutes before they are done and allow them to melt and brown during the last few minutes of bake time. Drizzle the finished product with chocolate sauce, sprinkle with chopped pecans, and you have Mississippi Mud Brownies!

WATCH: How to Make Andes Mint Brownies

 

Add chocolate chips, nuts, or dried fruit.

Have a look through your pantry at what is available. You can add more chocolate by mixing in a cup of your favorite morsel, be it dark, semi-sweet, mint, peanut-butter, etc. Stir in some chopped dried cranberries, cherries or other fruits. Chop up some nuts in your food processor and mix them in, as well. Or, toast the nuts, mix together with the dried fruit and chocolate morsels, and sprinkle the mixture across the pan of hot brownies right as it comes out of the oven.

Add caramel.

Pour the brownie batter into the pan then drizzle caramel sauce over the batter, using a knife to swirl the sauce throughout the batter. Top baked brownies with additional caramel sauce and toasted pecans to make turtle brownies.

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