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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) —Boxed brownies are easy to make, but sometimes, dessert lovers want more from these popular treats. It’s not always practical to bake a homemade batch with fancy ingredients, which leaves many people wondering how to take basic brownies to the next level. 

BestReviews’ baking expert Andrea Boudewijn joins Gary Gelfand and Scott Moak of “Studio40 Live” to explain how easy it is to dress up box brownies with everyday, affordable ingredients. 

Boudewijn introduces walnuts and pecans as simple ingredients that introduce a crunch to the soft, gooey brownie texture. She says bakers can “get fancy” and toast nuts to bring out their flavors, or they can add plain chopped nuts to the mix. However, before serving brownies with nuts to guests, she recommends making sure no one has nut allergies.

Although most boxed brownies call for vegetable oil, Boudewijn says bakers should consider coconut oil instead. She says it’s easy to “get a little coconut-chocolate action going” and likens the new flavor to Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars. 

While coconut oil is a subtle choice, Boudewijn says that a couple tablespoons of instant coffee or espresso powder deliver a bold kick with memorable flavor. “It’s all one meal,” she explains. “You’ve got your coffee, you’ve got your brownie, and you’re out the door.” Boudewijn also says bakers shouldn’t just add the instant powder to brownie batter, though. Instead, it’s better to brew it first, and then add the liquid mixture to the batter for best results. 

Another way to add flavor — and color — to brownies is with peanut butter. Boudewijn mixes it with olive oil to thin the consistency before swirling it on top of an oven-ready batch. “It’s sort of a Reese’s thing going on,” she says. Peanut butter drippings can also be dragged through the upper layer with a knife, which gives them marbled, gourmet-inspired appearance. 

Boudewijn’s next recommendation is a baking and pantry staple: chips. She says, “All are welcome here,” noting that chocolate, white chocolate and even butterscotch chips can all be added either to the brownie batter or sprinkled over a batch fresh out of the oven.

Boudewijn ends the segment with a crucial piece of baking advice. When asked how long it takes to bake brownies, Boudewijn emphasizes the importance of following directions for best results. “Whatever your recipe says. If you’re doing scratch follow that. If you’re doing a box, follow that.”

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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.