Chewy or gooey? Cakey or fudgey? Sweet or dark? Edge or middle? Brownies are a divisive matter. Still food companies sell millions of brownie mixes each year whicj seem to cater to that middle of the road brownie lover. For Celiacs growing up on Betty Crocker, there are tons of options out there to fulfill that brownie nostalgia. I admit I had stuck my nose up at box mixes the first time I made brownies from scratch many many years ago. It was so easy and cheap, it hardly seemed worth the mix. Plus I am a dark chocolate dense brownie lover - which isn't the typical mix option.
So, I went into this tasting with just one preconceived notion - I would like the homemade the best. OK, I suspected I would like butter better than oil, but other than that - no clue. We tested nine mixes and one homemade brownie recipe. As a control, I used two store brands, which were in fact manufactured by one of the brand names. The tasting panel included six adults and five kids. Yes, Gabriel tasted too, but at one year old he just wanted more of everything and wasn't too discriminating.
We tasted the brownies straight up, prepared according to package directions. The identities of the brownies were hidden. Most mixes called for butter and eggs, but a few were made with oil. All were very easy to throw together - taking less than 5 minutes each. The homemade of course took 5 or 10 minutes longer to measure flour and melt the chocolate. Tasters all pretty much honed in on the same brownies, so without much ado - here are the results.
365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods) Gluten Free Brownie Mix: ( This mix received high marks, which isn't surprising given that it is the same as the gluten-free pantry mix. However, rumors are that Whole Foods is discontinuing its label on this mix. For now though, tasters liked the middle of the road texture, a bit chewy, nice crust, and good chocolate flavor. The mix calls for 7 TB butter and makes a 8 inch square pan.
Gluten Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix: ($3.75) Tasters were consistent with the generic version of this mix, praising its texture and chocolatey flavor. A few tasters felt this mix was a bit sweet. This packaging also calls for 7 TB of butter and makes an 8 inch square pan.
Betty Crocker Brownie Mix ($3.69) Tasters felt that this was a perfectly decent brownie. Tasters tended to praise the texture, but want a bit more chocolate flavor. However, tasters were very pleased to have a good quality mix so readily available. It calls for 4 TB butter or oil (I made with butter) and eggs and makes an 8 inch square pan.
Really Great Food Company ($7.29) This mix was a favorite of one taster that brought it by ahead of time. They wanted to see if it held up in a blind taste test, and it did. While it wasn't the highest rated, it had a middle of the road texture, and strong vanilla, almost marshmallow-y overtones. A few tasters felt it was too sweet. It calls for butter and eggs and makes a 9 x 13 pan.
Homemade Brownie: (cost of ingredients that would have been in a mix was about $2) Tasters correctly identified this as the most chocolate content and rich brownie. Many felt it wasn't a brownie one would want to eat straight, but would be the best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They felt it was too rich to want often, but appreciated the unique very chocolatey taste. It had a fudgey texture, with a nice crisp top. (In case you were wondering I did like this brownie the best, but I might play with the flour mixture to get a chewier texture).
BRANDS NOT RECOMMENDED:
Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix: ($5.50) "No chocolate flavor" "Sawdust" This mix was generally disliked, the brownie was on the cakey side, but still brownie. It called for oil, butter and eggs and makes a 9 x 13 pan.
Cherrybrook Kitchen Fudge Brownie Mix: ($4.30) This mix is allergen free, and calls only for oil without eggs. The package directions call for a short baking time, 12-14 minutes, which resulted in a rather unpleasant dense gooey texture. Tasters complained of no chocolate flavor.
Namaste Brownie Mix: ($3.40) This mix was also generally disliked. Although it had an initial chocolatey taste, taster complained of strong and off-tasting flavors, grainy texture and its unappealing black dense appearance. This is an allergen free mix but does call for oil and eggs. It makes a 9 x 13 pan.
Trader Joes: ($2.99) This mix also provided a control, since it is clearly made by Namaste. Tasters had the same comments on the mix, which calls for oil, egg and makes a 8 inch square pan.
Pamela's Chocolate Brownie Mix: ($4.00) This mix received very low marks, with comments such as "this doesn't seem like a brownie, its too cakey" and "no chocolate taste". It calls for butter, oil and eggs and makes an 8 inch pan.
Gluten-Free Supernatural Brownies (pictured at top of post)
Adapted from Nick Malgieri
- 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 30 grams (1/4 cup) sweet rice flour
- 30 grams (1/4 cup) fine white rice flour
- 30 grams (1/4 cup) tapioca starch
- 30 grams (1/4 cup) potato starch
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Line one 13x9x2-inch pan with parchment
- Mix together flours, starches and xanthan gum in a bowl and set aside.
- Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler, don't allow to get too hot. Cool slightly. Add vanilla extract.
- Mix eggs and salt, sugar in bowl and beat until well combined and the sugar is somewhat dissolved.
- Mix in chocolate mixture.
- Fold in flour mixture.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top crusts over and the batter is "moderately firm".
- Allow to cool in pan, and WAIT FOR ONE DAY before cutting and indulging.