The $4 Boxed Brownie Mix That’s “Even Better than Homemade,” According to Broma Bakery’s Founder

published Dec 20, 2023
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9 chocolate chip brownies arranged in a grid
Credit: Joe Lingeman

As someone who enjoys baking way more than cooking, I’m usually in charge of dessert. Some holidays, that means poring over new and classic cookbooks, saved recipes (thank you, Recipe Box), and beloved blog posts to curate a menu (one is just not enough!) of FOMO-inducing bites. For Thanksgiving I made McDonald’s-style apple pies (from Stella Parks’ award-winning cookbook, BraveTart) and this no-bake Oreo cheesecake, for strategic reasons (there’s only so much oven space) and show-stopping results (my sister thought I’d bought it at a bakery, which is also equal parts flattering and insulting).

Other holidays, like the ones quickly approaching, I just can’t be bothered. I throw planning (and caution) to the wind, and turn to reliable shortcuts to close out the meal — and 2023 — with a sweet spread. 

For some fresh inspo this year, I reached out to Sarah Fennel, founder of Broma, a (mostly) baking blog with expectation-defying desserts in all shapes and (serving) sizes. While she’s no stranger to a totally from-scratch situation, Sarah also loves a good shortcut. Here are three of her absolute favorites and ways to make them your own for the holidays.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

1. Brownie Mix

“My go-to is brownie mix,” says Sarah, and more specifically, Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix. “I think it’s the best because it has some chocolate chips in it (but really any of the Ghirardelli mixes).” 

“Brownie mix specifically is sometimes even better than homemade,” she says. “It’s just a little bit lighter, and sort of chewier, and it’s just awesome.” It’s also endlessly riffable, as Sarah adds that “there are so many ways to make things that are semi-homemade.” (Have you tried these one-ingredient upgrades?) “Instead of making any sort of pie bars, like a pecan pie bar, you can do brownies on the bottom and just use brownie mix. Or if you are doing a pie, you can just put brownie mix as the filling and bake it off. It feels like it’s homemade … and it’s amazing.” 

Buy: Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, $4.39 for 18 ounces at Target

Credit: Mara Weinraub

2. Cookie Dough (sold in logs or tubs)

“Cookie dough is also one that you can mess around with,” says Sarah. While she doesn’t have a favorite brand (“I feel like they’re all pretty similar”), she prefers to buy cookie dough that’s sold in a log or even a tub over one that’s pre-cut. “It’s less exposed to air so it’s going to be a little bit fresher.” 

She uses it as a base and then gets “creative with it” by breaking the cookie dough into little balls, placing them in a baking pan and then swirling them with Nutella, peanut butter, fluff, or even some combo of the three before baking everything off.

Buy: Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, $4.00 for 30 ounces at Kroger

Credit: Mara Weinraub

3. Frozen Pie Crust

Another favorite? “Frozen pie dough that’s already in a tin pan.” It’s nonnegotiable for brownie pie, naturally; classic apple pie; or even a New Year’s Day quiche because “it cuts down on prep time” in a way refrigerated or rolled-up pie crusts don’t. (Those doughs “can get too sticky” or “break as you roll [them] out.”) Plus, you don’t have to fold it over the pie dish and make it look pretty.

Buy: Oronoque Orchards Deep Dish Pie Crusts, $4.79 for 2 (9-inch) pie crusts at Instacart

Do your holidays include any of these store-bought desserts? Tell us in the comments below!