If there is one hill I will die on, it is that boxed mix brownies are usually the only brownies worth my time — but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get fancy with them. If you’re looking to pass yours off as a little more gourmand, simply change the oil.
Just as there are 'process' killers and 'product' killers, I like to think that there are process bakers and product bakers. Process people take comfort and joy in the execution of their favourite hobby, whereas product people are in it for the result. Like Jeffrey Dahmer, I’m a product person, but our goals are very different. Dahmer wanted a comatose sex slave; I just want some brownies.
This tip comes from a reader, who suggested it to our managing editor after reading this piece. The clever woman subs in olive oil for the standard vegetable, giving the fudgy chocolate squares a more refined flavour. That, paired with a sprinkling of really fancy, really flaky salt, and you have a bakery-worthy creation.
There’s also no guessing involved — use the amount of oil instructed by the box (just, you know, a different oil), mix as usual, and scrape the batter into a pan. Sprinkle on some Maldon (or maybe even some sel gris) and bake per the packaging instructions.
Once you’ve tried olive oil, you can expand your lazy-but-fancy brownie repertoire even further by trying even more fancy oils. Pistachio oil brownies are my current obsession, as the cooking fat imparts a slightly nutty, faintly savoury flavour. Not only is it delicious, but it tames any salty sharpness that’s usually associated with boxed mixes. I haven’t tried it yet, but pumpkin seed oil probably warrants an investigation as well.