Eat Your Heart Out—February 14, 2006

By Lauren Shockey

So it’s Valentine’s Day—a great day if you’re in a relationship, and kind of a crappy one if you aren’t.

Now for those of you who read this column and are currently dating someone, you might want to think back to the chocolate body paint taste test (Eat Your Heart Out, November 15, 2005). If there’s ever a day for chocolate body paint, it’s Valentine’s Day. Nevertheless, I realize that some people just might not be into body paint, and they might be seeking some tasty fun that is a bit more PG-13. That’s why brownies are a good alternative.

Although you can instantly taste the difference between homemade brownies and boxed ones, I’ll admit that I do have a soft spot for instant brownie mixes: They are cheap, quick, and generally hit the spot. So I figured a taste test of some of the popular brands of brownie mixes would be appropriate for today. There are myriad brownie options in the supermarket: brownies with nuts, with caramel swirls, with cream cheese swirls, or extra-fudgy. But I thought simpler was better, so I chose four types of plain fudge-style brownies.

The overall winner was—rather surprisingly—the No Pudge brownies. But the others had certain winning qualities as well. So if you’re not going to make brownies from scratch, go out and buy a boxed mix. Make brownies for your significant other, your crush, your roommate, or your classmates. It’s Valentine’s Day, so go on and share the love.

Duncan Hines Family Style Brownies, Chewy Fudge flavor

$2.61 for a 21-oz. box (at the 55th Street Co-Op)

This mix made a large number of brownies (so use a large pan), and while they were tasty, they weren’t anything out of the ordinary. I would have preferred a more resonant chocolate taste, but the brownies had a nice overall chewy texture, moist enough without being too heavy or dense.

No Pudge Original Fudge Brownie Mix

$3.29 for 13.7 oz.

I admit that when I first saw these in the store, I was slightly skeptical. After all, things that are usually high in fat are also high in taste. But I went along and made the mix anyway and was very pleased with the results. These brownies had the most pronounced chocolate taste and were fudgier than all the others. The only thing I did not love about these brownies was that they had a slightly grainy texture. But overall, these were the clear winner. And because they are fat free, there is less guilt involved when you eat the whole pan!

Pillsbury Brownie Classics, Traditional Fudge flavor

$2.73 for 19.5 oz.

For some reason, when I was done making the mix, the batter was extremely thick and the brownies never achieved the right consistency when baked. Instead, they came out looking like a hunk of oily mud that was burnt on the top and undercooked on the bottom. I do not know what caused this; I’ve had Pillsbury brownies in the past and this has never occurred. But these were inedible and not worthy of Valentine’s Day, even for your worst enemy.

Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies

$2.61 for 19.8 oz

Like the Duncan Hines mix, this also made a large quantity of brownies. The brownies were more cake-like than the others I tried, but they were also lacking in chocolate flavor and intensity. The top was also not as crispy as the other brownies and left me with a feeling of wanting something more.