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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

Judging by my family's history, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I'm going to have to stop eating dairy and gluten. (Unfortunately, you can develop celiac disease at any age.) My approach to this unsettling idea has been two-fold: a) to unapologetically eat as much ice cream and cookies as possible before that happens, and b) to prepare by seeking out acceptable alternatives. So, when I got the chance to sample Cup 4 Cup's gluten-free brownie mix, I was all over it.

Besides the mix ($9.95 from Cooking.com), all you need is two eggs, two tablespoons of water, 1/2 cup of coconut oil or one stick of butter (melted), and a teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional). If you're looking for a treat that's both dairy and gluten-free, go with the coconut oil. The mix itself contains no dairy, so you're all good. I didn't have any on hand, so I used melted butter.

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The glossy, chocolatey batter came together easily with only a few minutes of mixing. It smelled delicious, and passed the spoon-licking test. When poured into my 9- x 9- inch pan, it was only about an inch deep, so to avoid overcooking the brownies, I set the timer to 30 minutes (the recommended cooking time is 35-45 minutes).

That was a smart move. After half an hour, the top layer was slightly crinkly and the edges were just beginning to crisp, but the brownies were still moist all the way through. With nowhere to hide from the aromas wafting through my small, open-concept apartment, waiting for the brownies to completely cool before taking the first taste was torture.

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It was so worth it. These brownies are deeply chocolatey, with a satisfying, fudge-like texture. On the first day, they did have a subtle, ashy after-taste, but by day two, that was gone.

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The package lists a few tips, like adding an extra egg for cake-like brownies, or lining the batter with caramel chews and sprinkling with sea salt before baking, which sounds like a great idea, mostly because of the salt. A few other ideas that could work are sprinkling the brownies with a dash of fleur de sel right when they come out of the oven, or adding a tablespoon of espresso powder to the mix. Still, even straight-up, these are some excellent brownies, and they come together with almost zero effort and a very quick clean up. Hooray!

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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