Homemade Brownies (that taste like a mix!)

Brownies

I feel compelled to admit that I hate homemade brownies. I am usually at the front of the line when I hear the words “homemade” and “baked goods” together, but you couldn’t pay me to eat a homemade brownie! Those who grew up with homemade brownies don’t know any better; they have no idea what they’re missing. We who grew up with boxed mixes know better. We know the deep chocolatey flavor, the rich fudgy texture, the firm chewy edges. We know what a brownie can be, and poor homemade just can’t hold a candle to its deliciously sophisticated boxed cousin.

When I get together with my closest friends, I often make brownies. They’ve become accustomed to eating slightly scalding, but deliciously gooey, cupcake brownies or the even more popular “pile-o-brownie” (too impatient to let them cool, we scoop them out of the pan in scrumptious piles of molten brownie fudge). This wondrous delight comes from a boxed mix…Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Fudge Brownies with Hershey’s Fudge and Melt-away Chips.

Once I decided to start eliminating processed foods from my life, my wondrous brownie mix was one of the first to go. Farewell my fudgy chocolate friend; I shall miss you. Then I realized that I wouldn’t be the only one losing out. How could I tell my friends that their favorite brownie goodness was gone forever? Well, frankly, I couldn’t. The only solution was to find a recipe for homemade brownies that could match everything I loved about that wonderful mix.

I searched and searched until I found several brownie recipes, like this one on Fake-It Frugal, claiming to replicate boxed mix brownies, so I decided to try them. The first step was to create my own fudge, which I did here in a dark chocolate variety. Then I started trying out the recipes. The first was a complete and total failure. The batter was more like oily cookie dough and the brownies were as hard as rocks when they finished baking. Fake-It Frugal’s mix came second, and it was almost perfect. You’d never know by tasting it that it wasn’t from a mix.

Hang out nights are saved!!!

And so, dear reader, if you are in love with boxed mixes like me but not with all of the additives, this will save your brownie-loving soul.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
**Prior to adding the wet ingredients, you can store your mix for quick baking later in a zip-loc bag or canning jar.
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp Fudge sauce

Dry Ingredients Close-up

Batter and Tin

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.** Whisk to combine. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, and fudge and stir until just moistened; do not overmix. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9 x 9 pan.

Adapted from Fake Betty Crocker Brownie Mix.

Cornbread in a Mug

Saturday, I took a batch of bite-sized brownies to my Advanced EMT class. A few of us started talking about recipes, and I mentioned my new obsession with mug cooking. One student, Kevin, asked if I would make cornbread my next mug project. Well, in honor of Kevin, here it is!

Cornbread for Kevin

Cornbread for Kevin

I’ve had jars of cornbread mix sitting in the pantry for a while. Instead of mixing up a whole bunch of ingredients, it made sense to try and use a portion of the mix I already had. For most of these mug recipes, I aim for what would amount to two muffins worth when fully cooked.

For this one, I used 1/3 Cup of cornbread mix, 1/2 an egg (lightly beaten), and a scant 1/4 Cup of milk with just enough vinegar to make 1/4 Cup. It’s light, spongey, and perfect! From now on when I make chili, I won’t bother with a whole pan of cornbread. I’ll just pop two mugs into the microwave for Boyfriend and I!

The recipe for the mix is below. I find it handy because I can just scoop out what I need. If you’d like to mix up just enough for a single serving, please see the adjustments at the bottom.

Edited to add: Boyfriend does not like cornbread, but he finally tried this and gave it 5 FORKS! This is the first time he’s ever given all 5 forks, so that says a lot!

Ingredients for Northern Cornbread Mix:
1 Cup yellow cornmeal
1 Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together all of the ingredients and store in a pint canning jar or other air-tight container.

Scant 1/4 Cup milk
Enough vinegar to make 1/4 Cup (I prefer cider vinegar, but distilled white works as well)
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 Cup cornbread mix

In the mug, combine the milk and vinegar, stir gently, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add the egg and cornbread mix, stir to combine. Microwave on high for up to 3 minutes; my microwave is 1100 watts and the cornbread was fully cooked in 90 seconds.

To make a single serving, add the following in place of 1/3 Cup of cornbread mix:
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp +2 tsp all-purpose flour
Slightly heaping 1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch baking soda
3/4 tsp sugar
Pinch salt

To make a whole pan of cornbread:
1 jar cornbread mix (see recipe above)
2 large eggs
2/3 Cup buttermilk
2/3 Cup milk
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Pour one jar of mix into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the buttermilk and milk. Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool slightly, 5 to10 minutes. Cut the cornbread into squares and serve warm. Pan can be wrapped in foil and stored a room temperature for up to 1 day. Reheat cornbread in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Golden Northern Cornbread by Kelly Rossiter.

Homemade ‘Shake-and-Pour’ Pancake Mix

Convenience Mixes

I love to make pancakes. I love to eat pancakes. I love to try different varieties of pancakes. In my recent efforts to eliminate processed foods, I was talking with my roommate about searching for a homemade version of Bisquick. He brought up his love of the ‘Shake-and-Pour’ pancake mix that they came out with years ago and raved about the brilliance of the idea. I figured there had to be a recipe somewhere for a homemade version and, lo and behold, I found one!

Jillie from One Good Thing by Jillie modified a recipe for traditional Bisquick-style baking mix from the Utah State University Extension Office to recreate this convenient mix. The mix is stored in quart-sized jars which allow enough room for the wet ingredients plus extra for shaking. It can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.

Ingredients:
9 C (38.25 oz) all-purpose flour
1/3 C (2.67 oz) double-acting baking powder
4 tsp (0.8 oz) salt
1 3/4 C (4.2 oz) non-fat dry milk
1 3/4 C (11.38 oz) shortening—which does not require refrigeration

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This can be done with a food processor, blender, electric mixer, pastry cutter, or two knives.

Place two cups of the mixture and 1 teaspoon of sugar in each of 6 quart-sized canning jars. Close the jars and shake well to combine. Include the following instructions: “Add 1 egg and 1 C water. Close the lid and shake vigorously.”

The Bisquick version only requires adding water, but to create something similar in a homemade version would require the addition of powdered eggs. However, I, like Jillie, have no experience with the stuff, so I don’t know how exactly they would work in a recipe like this. If you would like to try adding powdered eggs to the recipe, you can use the following instructions to make your own.

1. Scramble your eggs in a bowl. Pour them in a saute pan coated with cooking spray and cook until done.
2. Drain the excess grease for a few minutes on a paper towel.
3. Break the eggs into tiny pieces.
4. Spread the eggs out onto a baking sheet.
5. Dry at 135 degrees F for at least 10 hours.
6. Run the eggs through a blender until they form a fine powder.
7. Store your powdered eggs either in a heavy plastic bag, or a jar with a tight lid.

In the above recipe, add 2 Tbsp of powdered eggs to each jar. Change the directions to read:
Add 1 1/4 C water. Close the lid and shake vigorously.

Bonus Recipes!

Cornbread Mix

Ingredients:
1 C yellow cornmeal
1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the ingredients into a 1-pint canning jar and cover tightly with a lid. Store the mix for up to 6 months.

Include the following instructions:

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan with butter.
  2. Empty the contents of a jar into a large bowl and push the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl to make a well.
  3. Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the buttermilk and milk. Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Cut the cornbread into squares and serve warm. Pan can be wrapped in foil and stored a room temperature for up to 1 day. Reheat cornbread in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Adapted from Baking Illustrated by editors of Cooks Illustrated (2004, America’s Test Kitchen)

Instant Oatmeal (Brown Sugar and Cinnamon)

Ingredients:
6 cups Quick-Cooking Oats
2 tsp Salt
1 C Brown Sugar
4 tsp Cinnamon
8 Sandwich Bags

Blend 2 C of oats into a powder in a blender or food processor; if using a blender, process the oats in 1/2 C increments. Into each bag, add 1/2 C oats, 4 Tbsp oat powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Shake the bag to combine the ingredients. Label each bag with the following instructions:

Combine with 1 – 1 1/4 C of water or milk and microwave for 2 minutes.

Adapted from MYO: Instant Oatmeal – Various Flavors on Budget101.com.