It seems obvious that coconut macaroons should taste first and foremost of coconut. But too often their aching sweetness obliterates any other flavors. One bad experience with a cloying macaroon has led many people to write them off entirely, and that's a shame. Macaroons done right are delicious—light, sticky, and full of tropical coconut flavor.
'baking mixes' on Serious Eats
Have you ever heard of brookies? The irresistible love child of a brownie and a cookie, the best brookies have crisp edges, tender centers, and a deep, rich fudgy flavor. Achieving the perfect brookie consistency can be tricky. They have to strike the perfect balance between cakey and crunchy, while still retaining hints of gooey chocolate. Just how outrageous were the Barefoot Contessa's brookies?
Thick, creamy peanut butter mousse sandwiched between an Oreo cookie crust and a hard chocolate shell? A prep time of only fifteen minutes? Jell-O's No Bake Peanut Butter Cup Dessert mix ($3.29) sounded almost too good to be true.
German streusel cake, or streusel küchen, is a lot like good ol' American crumb-topped coffee cake. A light, moist layer of butter cake is topped with fruit (usually apples) and sprinkled generously with streusel topping. While I think all cakes can--and should--be eaten anywhere and anytime, this one falls solidly into the breakfast/brunch category. With brunch-friendly holidays like Easter and Mother's Day on the horizon, I decided to try out Dr. Oetker's German Streusel Cake Mix ($2.49) for this week's Mixed Review.
The cookies were crispy, sweet, and scented faintly with vanilla. Each bite began with a slick of rich dark chocolate and ended in a satisfying crunch. I was impressed that the cookies had absolutely no hint of artificial, cloying, from-a-mix flavor. Seriously, you could say you baked them from scratch and no one would be the wiser.
No matter how you bake it, frost it, or slice it, after a while cakes from supermarket mixes can get a little boring. The flavor options are always the same: golden vanilla or Dutch chocolate, with the occasional lemon or carrot thrown in. That's why I was excited—astounded, really—to discover Cake Chalet, a website that prepares cake mixes to order and boasts a roster of 93 flavors ($7.95 each, plus shipping). These are cakes beyond your wildest dreams: grape soda, fig Danish, tangy taco, and even potato chips and dip.
Somehow, the cake ball phenomenon managed to escape me. Until now. For this week's Mixed Review I decided to give you a detailed account of just what it takes to whip up a batch of the impressive looking yet deceptively simple bite-sized treats. Cupcakes, meet your match.
Who doesn't love lemon pie (with or without the meringue topping)? It's certainly always been a favorite of mine. But sometimes you just don't want to make the curd. It's not that it's hard, exactly, though it does involve separating a whole lot of eggs. That's why I was excited to try out Durkee's Lemon Pie Filling mix ($1.18). Just two egg yolks and few tablespoons of sugar would yield a smooth-yet-stable curd filling with real citrus flavor. Was it too good to be true?
After a recent visit to the Harry & David outlet store in Wrentham, Massachusetts, I bought their Blackberry Jam Cake Mix ($8.95, available at your local Harry & David outlet). What can I say? I'm partial to anything baked with swirls. As I stood over the bowl stirring, it smelled distinctly like yellow cake, in an overwhelming and artificial way. It smelled like cake the way Auntie Anne's smells like pretzels.
Like most supermarket cookie mixes, Pillsbury Funfetti Cookies ($3.19) come together very quickly and require only a stick of butter and an egg. They have a flavor all their own: they taste even sweeter than sugar cookies, and more like cake batter than actual cake batter.
I'm a skeptic when it comes to baking with whole wheat flour. Too often, I find the consistency of such "healthy" desserts leaden and granular, the flavors a bit woody and dull.Still, I couldn't resist the funky, Adirondack-style packaging of Kodiak Cakes Bear Country Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Cookie Mix ($5.75).
Once baked, the cake turned out to be pretty flat, only about an inch thick at its heartiest point. It had an odd, rubbery consistency, vaguely reminiscent of a foam couch cushion—it was as dense and tightly woven as foam, too. I felt like I could hold the entire cake casually in one hand without fear of it crumbling or breaking.
The problem with bran muffins is that they are often dry to the point of being sandy. Taking a bite can be like filling your mouth with woodchips—not exactly an appealing breakfast option. So when I saw that the Sun Maid Honey Raisin Bran Muffin Mix ($4.19) was labeled "extra moist," I decided to give it a try.
"The combination of cakey chocolate and creamy vanilla was sublime—like a cross between a cupcake and an Oreo cookie." After reading the whoopie pie piece in last week's New York Times, I couldn't stop thinking about the pillowy pastries. Visions...