Better than Boxed?

Although I love to bake from scratch, there is one baked good that always seems to taste better baked from a box.  Brownies!  I’ve tried many different from-scratch recipes, but nothing seems to compare to good old Better Crocker and Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies. Aren’t homemade recipes supposed to taste better?  They certainly take longer to make and are composed of “real” food instead of hard to pronounce ingredients that come in a box. But for some reason, I always find them lacking in texture and in taste.

However, baking from a box just feels like cheating to me.  Can I really take credit for a dessert that I just whipped up from a pre-made mix? I do feel a little guilty when complimented on a brownie that Ghirardelli created.  So I decided to search for a from-scratch recipe that is as good, if not better, than boxed brownies. But where to start?

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to look far as I just received some mail from Cook’s Illustrated which included a recipe for, what else, brownies! The Best Classic Brownies, to be exact, which Cook’s Illustrated claims to have good flavor and texture without being cakey or fudgey. I figured this would be the perfect place to start my quest (not to mention convenient).

Classic Brownies:

from Cook’s Illustrated


1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts chopped medium (optional)

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

12 tablespoons (1 1/2  sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six pieces

2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 13 x 9 inch baking pan with foil, allowing excess to overhang the pan edges. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of almost simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15 second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When  chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days)

Phew! That’s a lot of detailed directions. I didn’t want to leave anything out for you though. I did spare you the lengthy paragraph on exactly how to line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil. You’re welcome 😉  So what’s the verdict? Were these brownies worth all the work?

Well first off, I have to admit that I left out the nuts and added a cup of chocolate chips instead.  I’ve never been a huge nut-in-my-brownie fan and the chunks of chocolate are my favorite part of the Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate brownies, so I knew I had to add them to give these brownies a fighting chance. And let me tell you, it worked!  They are delicious and in my opinion, better than boxed.  Hopefully the lucky folks I share them with will agree (and comment on what they think!) I also wanted to warn you that mine took over 40 minutes to bake, so don’t worry if yours take longer as well. I hope you ditch the box and try this homemade version. You won’t be disappointed 🙂

That was one easy quest. What should be next on my list?


4 thoughts on “Better than Boxed?

  1. New Challenge: A good tasting healthy cake. Preferably one without fruit. Sorry Fruit lovers. 🙂

  2. These are delicious! TJ’s didn’t have unsweetened chocolate, so I substituted the big bar of dark chocolate and skipped adding the sugar. Not as sweet as normal but still really good! Gave plates as gifts to my husband and my office, and both were gobbled up! Delicious topped with ice cream too:)

  3. Pingback: Kel-Beany Brownie Bites | kellybaked

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