Photos by Claire Lower. MISSING: The box of chocolate muffin mix I found much later.

Jiffy baking mixes are iconic and adorable, but you’ve probably only used one or two—and one of those was probably the corn muffin mix. But there are many other mixes to explore and, because I am a dedicated investigative food journalist, I decided to test all of the little blue boxes I could find.

Honestly, most uses I know for Jiffy mixes are “off label.” I know someone who uses the chocolate muffin mix to make cookies, and my family has been using the corn muffin mix in our corn casserole for many delicious years. An entirely separate article could be written about these off-label uses, but I wanted to give the mixes a chance to break out of their supporting roles, and really shine (or wither) in their own right. So I ordered them all.

The experiment ate up a whole day in the kitchen but—besides all the standing—it was easy work. In addition to the retro-chic packaging, the real beauty of Jiffy mixes lies in how little they cost and how easy they are to prepare. Most mixes call for an egg (never more than one), and a little milk or oil, but some need nothing more than a bit of water. They also make about half of a “normal” sized batch of whatever you’re making, which is cool if you live alone and only want to scarf down six brownies in one sitting rather than twelve. As would be expected, some were good, some were mediocre, and some bad. We’ll start with the winners.

The Things I’d Buy Again: Brownies and a Few Muffins

There were four boxes of mix that I legitimately enjoyed eating, and I will present them in order of enjoyment (from first to last):

Corn Muffin Mix

Far left: The corn muffin is the only beige muffin I cared for.

No one should be surprised that this one did well. If you take a glance at the header photo, you’ll notice that instead of the usual “Compare & Save” label there’s a confident “America’s Favorite,” and I can see why. The muffins are nice and soft soft, a touch salty, slightly sweet, and full of corny flavor. They’re not quite cornbread—which, in my Mississippi-born opinion, should only be savory—but they are delicious, and slightly addicting.

Fudge Brownie Mix

I love a good brownie mix, and this one is pretty dang delicious. It’s only fault lies in the top: it’s a bit dull and lacks the shiny, crackly topping that is so firmly associated with box brownies. In spite of this shortcoming, I was pretty pleased with the batch. The edges were crisp and chewy, the centers were rich, dense, and fudgey, and the flavor was, of course, very chocolate-y.

Blueberry and Raspberry Muffin Mixes

Apple cinnamon (far left) didn’t quite make the cut.

“Healthy” muffins are made of lies. Like, quit trying to fool people. The amount of bran you have to add to a muffin to make it legitimately good for you affects both texture and flavor in an unpleasant manner, so let’s just focus on making muffins what they should be: slightly less sweet cupcakes without frosting. Both of these muffins fit the bill in that regard, and are fairly fluffy and sweet, with fruity flavors that remind me of breakfast cereal. (Have you had Blueberry Morning? Imagine Blueberry Morning as a muffin.)

The little dehydrated fruity bits distribute evenly throughout the mix and stay there during baking, meaning every bite is populated by at least a few tiny berries. Where the blueberry delivers a classic flavor that perfectly straddles the line between “just sweet enough” and “cloying,” the raspberry muffin is a little zingier, a little brighter,and slightly unexpected, kind of like if the blueberry muffin had a slightly more fun cousin.

The Bores: Beige Muffins and Biscuits

Then there were the goods that were merely okay. These mixes weren’t offensive in any way except for how forgettable they were, but for less than a dollar a box, how offended can I be? (Not very.)

Buttermilk Biscuit Mix

You can prepare these guys two ways: drop-style or roll-em-out-and-cut-em-out-style. I did both. For how easy these are to make—you literally just add water, mix, knead like three times, and drop or roll—they ain’t bad.

That’s a good bake, Mary.

They’re also not great. Though they bake up just fine, all nice and fluffy, they’re pretty bland, and completely lack the “buttermilk” part of “buttermilk biscuit.” Blandness is pretty easily fixed however, and I had no problem eating them with a bit of butter. They’d also be a good, cheap, and easy option if you’re going to be using them as a vehicle for something super-flavorful. (Not sausage gravy though; biscuits and gravy is a dish that should be comprised of only the best biscuits and the most perfect gravy.)

The Other Beige and Brown Muffins

Besides the corn muffins (which I guess are more of a yellow anyway), all the beige and brown muffins are underwhelming. The banana reminded me of an ester oil I had to synthesize in orgo lab, the chocolate wasn’t chocolaty enough, and the oatmeal made me crave an oatmeal cookie and then failed to satisfy that craving. The apple cinnamon muffins were so forgettable that I almost forgot to mention them just now. My notes simply say “apple cinnamon—okay.”

The Disappointments: Cakes, Frosting, and Crusts

Now we must discuss the boxes that I wouldn’t mess with again. These were the baked goods I ended up tossing, because I didn’t want to eat them, and didn’t think anyone else would either. We’ll start with the least offensive.

Cake, Cake, Cake (and Frosting)

The cakes pictured on the boxes of cake mix are tall, proud, and fluffy-looking. The reality, however, is a much flatter affair. (This could be because I have no upper body strength, and thus the prescribed five minutes of manual mixing didn’t do much, but I doubt it.)

This cake is a flat circle.

The yellow cake mix calls for a whole egg, while the white only calls for a white, but both have the texture and mouthfeel of a store-bought angel food cake. Both cakes were very springy, but a bit dry, and they stuck to my teeth in a way that made me not want to eat them. They were also a little one note, with that note being sweet, without any of the other buttery, nuanced flavors that usually come along with a baked cake. The frosting didn’t fair much better.

The fudge frosting had the most problems. I kept adding boiling water to it, and it kept refusing to spread. It was dull and stiff, tasted of Tootsie Rolls, and seemed to have a greater affinity for itself than for the cake.

The white frosting was at least spreadable, but it was painfully sweet, and did nothing to help the flavorless, but also very sweet cake.

Pizza Crust Mix

I almost feel bad judging this one, as I knew going in that it wouldn’t be that good. The pizza on the box doesn’t even look that good.

Basically, this crust tasted like school cafeteria pizza crust: bland, flat, and completely lacking in chew. I ate half a slice, got sad, then gave up and picked the cheese off of the rest of the pie.

Melted cheese is always good.

But this wasn’t the worst crust.

Pie Crust Mix

Some of the issues with the pie crust are my fault. For one, my pie plate was too big. The mix is supposed to make enough dough for a 9-inch double crust pie, but I only had a 10-inch, deep dish pie plate, so I used that. For this reason, I didn’t expect to get enough for a double crust, but I still expected to have a little more dough leftover after rolling out the bottom crust.

This was all I had. I used it to make the sad pie face you saw above.

But even if had used the correct sized pan, and there had been enough dough, it still wouldn’t have been a good dough. It wasn’t flaky, it didn’t have any flavor to speak of—there wasn’t even a hint of butter—and it was dense and mealy. In short, I did not like it.

I hate ending on a sad note, however, so I’ll once again profess my love for the corn muffins. Those corn muffins are without flaw, and that little box of mix will always have a place in my cupboard. I’ll be putting those brownies into rotation too; they’re had to beat at that price point.

An interesting read via Lifehacker

Advertisements

0 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: