Photo: Kevin Pang

Granted, I have an unusual situation as a food writer, as I made some delicious from-scratch, celebrity-endorsed brownies just last week. My kids may be even luckier, living in a house where Mom has to bake all the time “for work.” We’re not coming at Ghirardelli’s new Salted Caramel Brownie mix from an unbiased space, really, as we recently have been more indoctrinated to the comforts of home, less focused on convenience.

So when my at-home helpers assisted with the admittedly simple mix, the chemical-like smell made even our resident chocoholic turn up her nose. “Does anyone else get the feeling these aren’t going to turn out well?” she savvily asked. “This mix doesn’t smell good. It smells like yogurt.” No one even clamored to lick the bowl. Not even me, as I did get a distinct synthetic feel from one of my favorite things in the world: brownie batter.

That other brownie recipe also had the advantage of being extremely quick and simple, but this one is hard to top for convenience: One egg, some water and oil, and the mix, with the extra added bonus of some salted caramel for the batter and to decorate on top. I have had good experiences with Ghirardelli mix previously: For the chocoholic’s birthday one year I bought a brownie mix pack from Costco (surprise) that I remember as being so easy and delicious, I wondered why I should ever make brownies from scratch ever again. Obviously, I got over it.

Adding caramel to the mix (Photo: Gwen Ihnat)

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People perked up once the brownies came out of the oven, with the chance to drizzle what was left of the salted caramel over the top. But even that fun add didn’t elevate these brownies much. They had a nice crust on the edge (maybe too nice; I had to pull them out before they were all the way done in the middle for fear they’d get singed) and a definite puffiness in the middle. But unless you were lucky enough to snag a piece that had a giant glob of caramel on it, you would likely not wax poetic about these brownies, or even think they were different from any other run-of-the-mill mix. They might fit the bill for a block party or something, but no one would ever mistake them for homemade. I should point out that the Onion office staff enjoyed them and thought they were fine (although it’s hard to find fault with a free work brownie). But my little chocoholic at home only gave them a B-. And she’d eat chocolate dirt.

Photo: Gwen Ihnat