Wednesday, November 28

Box Mix Brownies from Scratch

I'm not sure what started it, but for the past 2 or 3 years I've been rather obsessed with brownies. Perhaps it was that coworker who is always bringing in yummy baked goods, or maybe it's because of that Perfect Brownie pan that Neural Clone got me for Christmas a few years ago, or maybe it's just the natural evolution of a lifetime chocoholic. Regardless, I do love me some brownies, especially the box mix variety we used to make when I was growing up. Duncan Hines really did something beautiful when they came up with that recipe--so perfectly fudgy and delicious.

But oh, the additives! If you're joining me here on Bake or Dare because of Crochet Kitten, thank you! And you probably already know that Retro Nick and I had a baby girl last year. While I was pregnant with her, we became hyper aware of what we were eating, and we decided we'd like to avoid artificial ingredients and corn syrup whenever possible, and that it would be nice if we could start incorporating more whole grains in our diets. No biggie, as far as brownies are concerned, right? I could just start making them from scratch.

Le sigh... I don't know how many brownie recipes I tried in my search for the perfect one. My criteria was pretty simple: must taste like box mix brownies. But alas, no recipe I tried ever quite got it. How could that be? Isn't homemade supposed to be better than the prepackaged stuff?

Apparently America's Test Kitchen had the same conundrum, so they set out to figure out just what it was that made box mix brownies so great. The conclusion they came to is that it's the ratio of saturated fat (abundant in animal fats) to unsaturated fat (abundant in plant fats). The average box mix brownie recipe is 28% saturated fat and 72% unsaturated, whereas the average homemade brownie recipe is 64% saturated fat and 36% unsaturated.


Well I'm no nutritionist, but it makes sense if you don't think about it too hard. Box mix brownies call for oil (high in unsaturated fat), while most homemade brownie recipes call for butter (high in saturated fat). A-ha!

With that in mind, I do believe I've finally perfected my homemade brownie recipe. It uses more oil than butter, and whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. Don't let the "whole wheat" scare you though--I use white whole wheat, which is similar in nutrition to regular whole wheat flour, but a lot lighter in flavor. In fact, the brownies are so chocolatey, you don't even taste the difference in flour. And the texture is just as chewy and the taste just as fudgey as the beloved box mix brownies.

But first, a fun trick. Before baking, prepare your brownie pans by lining them with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over the sides by one inch, like so:

Grease the foil as you would the brownie pan and bake as usual. Then, after you pull them out of the oven, simply lift the foil to remove them from the pan. Whee!

And now back to our regularly scheduled recipe. Enjoy!

Note: If you'd like to try the original recipe from America's Test Kitchen, Brown Eyed Baker has it posted in full on her blog. It was a bit complicated for my tastes though, and I really do prefer whole wheat. Here is my simplified version.

Box Mix Brownies from Scratch
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sunflower oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups raw or white sugar
1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease two 8-inch square pans or two 11x7-inch brownie pans or one 9x13-inch pan with canola oil.
3. Whisk cocoa and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth. Add butter, oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar, and continue to whisk until well-blended.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and salt. Add to liquid mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Allow to cool, and cut into squares.
Yield: 24 browniesCalories per serving: 195

Or do what I do and eat them fresh out of the oven, warm and delicious.


  1. So glad you enjoyed these brownies! One of my favorites! :)

  2. 1. they are even better with double-dutched cocoa.
    2. they are even better-er if you can let them sit overnight before eating.
    3. THANK YOU!