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Mixed Review: Ghirardelli Brownie Mix vs. The New Baked Brownie Mix

Ever wonder about a mix you've seen in the store? Is it any good? Could it replace something you'd otherwise make from scratch? Welcome to Mixed Review, where the whole point is putting mixes to the test! —The Mgmt.

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Ghirardelli brownies, left; Baked brownies, right. [Photos: Lucy Baker]

It's not every day that a baking mix makes it into the Wall Street Journal, so when the newspaper reported that famed Brooklyn bakery Baked had released a line of brownie mixes that were "worth every calorie," I knew I had to try them.

Here at Serious Eats, we're no strangers to Baked. We voted their cupcake the best in New York City. Their brownies are pretty outstanding, too. Redolent with the flavors of fresh butter and dark chocolate, they are so rich, dense, and moist it's practically a miracle they hold together. The overall experience of biting into one is less "brownie" and more "molten chocolate cake."

I was curious to see how the mix would measure up. The hefty $16 price tag set my expectations high. Would the brownies be worth the cost? Would they be that much better than brownies made from a supermarket Ghirardelli mix ($3.79)? I decided to compare the two.

20100129-134962-mixed-review-baked-brownie-mix-3.jpgThe Baked mix was all about the method. Melt the butter and chocolate together and then let them cool for five minutes. Beat in four room temperature eggs one by one. Sprinkle the dry mix over the butter-chocolate-egg mixture and sloooowly fold it in. Spread in a 9x13-inch pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It was by no means a complicated process, but it took about 15 minutes, and I dirtied three bowls.

By contrast, the Ghirardelli mix came together in about 3 minutes. All I had to do was stir together 1/4 of water, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, an egg, the brownie mix, and the contents of the chocolate syrup packet. Then I spread the batter in a 9x9-inch pan and baked it for the suggested 40 minutes—5 to 10 minutes longer than the Baked mix.

20100129-134962-mixed-review-ghirardelli-brownie-mix.jpgWhile the Ghirardelli brownies were crackly-topped, fudgy, and pleasantly sweet, they didn't hold a candle to the Baked brownies. They were ever-so-slightly dry, especially the edge pieces, and the chocolate flavor was a little artificial and, well, syrupy. Paired with a glass of cold milk they'd make a great snack, but any true brownie connoisseur would be able to tell they were from a mix.

The Baked brownies, on the other hand, were far more delicious than many from-scratch brownies I have prepared. They were incredibly gooey, and the chocolate flavor was near perfect: rich, dark, and ever so slightly bitter. (The mix is made with a blend of Guittard and Callebaut choloates.) The first thing I tasted was the butter, then the sugar, and finally the chocolate, which lingered with a complex, coffee-like aftertaste. And they were just as delicious the next day, and even two days later. The flavors seemed to deepen, and the brownies didn't dry out at all.

While it does cost a pretty penny, the Baked brownie mix is totally worth it. Not only did it yield approximately twice as many brownies as the Ghirardelli mix, it was about 100 times more delicious. Brownie lovers, rejoice! Now you don't have to travel all the way to Brooklyn for a taste of extraordinary, indulgent chocolate heaven. You can bake it yourself, right in your own kitchen.

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