How’s it going in your kitchen? Because my kitchen is also my office and because I’ve had a few exciting work opportunities come my way in the last couple weeks, mine’s been bustling with very thrilling activity. Stay tuned!
Before we dive all the way in, a quick reminder that Abigail and I will be in the kitchen cooking up the final in our summer series of meal prep classes. By way of an endorsement, my friend and cooking class attendee Alyssa recently told me, “I don’t think people understand, you’ve taken the need for any thought out of the entire meal prep process. One moment, I was chopping onions, then suddenly six dishes appeared in front of me!” So, if you want six dishes to suddenly appear in front of you this weekend…
Okay, now that we’ve got the business covered, more kitchen updates: I’m still going strong with my once weekly dinner parties (you know my definition of what constitutes a dinner party is very loose) and am so enjoying flexing my hostess muscle with regularity. Last week, I had some pals over for a Bachelorette viewing party and of course, took the opportunity to make things feel a little bit special. Yes, we were eating pizza off our laps in front of television that can at best be described as a problematic fave and at worst, just plain problematic. But that didn’t stop me from making an occasion of it by lighting a few candles, making an elaborate chopped salad, and whipping up a batch of…the subject of today’s newsletter!
Boxed brownies. That’s this week’s tip. Boxed brownies: serve them well and serve them often.
And more specifically, I want to run down a few ways to dress up this store-bought goodie to make it feel dinner party appropriate. I’ll also share my recipe (“recipe”) for the Honeyed Tahini Brownies with Flakey Sea Salt I served last week!
The inspiration for my dressy brownies comes directly from my always-genius work wife, Abigail, who served a batch of still-slightly-warm boxed brownies (gussied up with additional chocolate chips) at a gathering for Julia’s birthday a few weeks ago. She brought them out topped with flickering birthday candles for the birthday girl to out. After Julia made her birthday wish and the brownies were cut and served, Abigail mentioned that she’d almost topped this batch with a tahini swirl but decided against it when she realized the candles would be the star of the show anyway. A few weeks later I took her comment and ran with it.
So let’s talk about that tahini swirl and just how to accomplish it:
Honeyed Tahini Brownies with Flakey Sea Salt
1 box of your favorite brownie mix and any of the additional ingredients called for on the back of the box (I usually opt for Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate)
3 Tbsp well-stirred tahini
1 Tbsp honey
Water to thin if necessary
2 very large 4-finger pinches of flakey sea salt
Make the brownie mix according to the package instructions and transfer the batter to a greased baking dish.
Whisk together the tahini and honey. If the mixture seizes up, you can use water, 1 tsp at a time to slightly thin. You want the honeyed tahini to be about the same consistency as the brownie batter* and every jar of tahini is different, so adjust slowly and carefully if necessary.
Dollop ½ Tbsp scoops of the tahini mixture on top of the brownie batter, spaced relatively evenly about 1-2 inches apart.
Stick the sharp end of a butter knife about ½ inch into the top of the brownie batter and run it through the dollops of tahini in long, swirling patterns. The key to this step is to not overthink it. Swirl a few times and it’ll look nice no matter what! But you can also take a quick peek here if you’d like more of a visual guide.
Top the brownies off with the flakey sea salt then bake according to package instructions.
Now, to be sure you and your guests experience a little brownie-induced-wow-factor, this final step is key: bring the brownies out to your guests fully intact in their pan. I repeat! Don’t cut into them yet. Let your guests ooh and ah at your stunning work. Then tell everyone they were incredibly simple to make and only took you a total of 5 minutes hands on time (or let them stay very impressed and don’t!). Okay, now you can serve them up.
*See the consistency I aim for here.
And now, a few other ways you can instantly dress up your standard (but always delicious) box of brownies:
In my opinion, flakey sea salt is a must every single time. Two large pinches sprinkled on top of the batter before baking does the trick.
Make them in a round pan. Abigail did hers in a round springform pan to make them more birthday cake-like and they did immediately feel a little more dressed up. I iterated. Now, catch every batch of brownies I make from here on out baked in a ceramic pie dish.
Add chocolate chips. This is a no brainer. As many as your heart desires.
No tahini? Follow the instructions above, but with whatever nut butter suits your fancy.
Before baking, top with a dusting of freeze-dried fruit. Raspberries would be especially beautiful and delicious.
Why not top your store-bought brownies off with some store-bought frosting? But also, imagine how next-level they’d taste if you used a homemade buttercream. Just a thought!
Serve the brownies warm out of the oven with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. If you want to take your little at home brownie sundae situation over the top…
Some homemade hot fudge is never a bad idea. (Open link in a private browser if necessary ;)). Or go for store bought. You know I’m in favor of that!
Speaking of, a little caramel sauce couldn’t hurt.
And finally, a quick hit list of some fun mix-in ideas: butterscotch chips, M&Ms, crumbled Oreos (or cookies of any kind for that matter), Reese’s Pieces, crushed candy canes (hello, Christmas in August), roughly chopped Butterfingers…I could go on forever but I’ll leave it here.
Okay, love bugs, we’ve covered it. I hope you buy yourself a box of brownies this week and if you give the tahini swirl a try, please let me know how it goes! You can respond directly to this email or shoot me a DM over on Instagram. Until next time, wishing you a well-fed, semi-homemade week ahead.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,
me on Instagram, pop over to my YouTube channel, or check out my blog where you can find my tips-laden e-book collection.
I am a huge fan of sprucing up boxed brownie mix! I like to add some finely ground coffee. And a trick I learned while working at Coldstone Creamery is to not overmix your brownie batter, leaving a little powder unmixed somehow makes them more fudgey.
Yumm!! Boxed brownies for life!!