Happy Valentine’s Day! (Part One)
When it comes to most baked goods, I like starting from scratch. The two exceptions to that are brownies and cake. I’ve made decent—and occasionally excellent—homemade variations of each. However, the few that have turned out well typically took a lot of work. On the other hand, boxed brownie and cake mixes produce terrific taste and texture almost every time.
Creating killer brownies from scratch or a Food Network-style cake masterpiece can take a significant amount time, something in short supply for most parents—and pretty much everyone else. I have to say that I prefer the homemade-with-help route: using boxed mixes with one or two beneficial add-ins.
Easy, Speedy Better-for-You Brownies
In an effort to reduce fat and calories while boosting nutrition, I’ve tried several oil substitutes and add-ins for brownies, with varying degrees of success. Banana instead of oil tastes fine, but the texture isn’t quite right. The same is true for applesauce, which works really well as an oil substitute in cake mixes but, by itself, changes the consistency of brownies a bit too much for me.
I’ve used pureed carrots and sweet potatoes instead of oil with some success, but estimating cooking times for these veggie add-ins can be tricky. They tend to require a longer cooking time, yet getting it wrong by a minute or two can equate to either undercooked or over baked, thereby ruining most of the batch.
The worst substitute I’ve tried so far, in my opinion, involved using a can of black beans instead of the recommended ingredients on the back of the brownie box. Yeah, I know; in retrospect it doesn’t exactly sound like a great idea, but other people had recommended it on the Internet, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. It was a nutritious but unpleasant experiment. While “earthy” might be a desired quality in some wines, I want nothing of it in my brownies, yet that’s probably the best way to describe the “character” of black bean brownies. The texture wasn’t so great either. (Shudder.) Believe it or not, my kids each finished one. Just one.
So, at last, here is what I do recommend.
Start with 1 box of brownie mix.
Follow the directions on the back of the box, replacing all but 1 tablespoon of the oil with apples and blueberries baby food or pears and blueberries baby food.
If you like nuts in your brownies, add 1/4 – 1/3 cup crushed walnuts as well.
Bake as directed, following the upper end of the range for recommended bake times.
Cool and cut as directed.
Photo note: obviously, putting chocolate candies all over the brownies doesn’t help reduce the fat and calorie content, but it is perfect for special occasions like today!
© Liesl K. Bohan | SavvyBaker.com