I kept hearing about a brand called Kodiak Cakes. They sell a boxed mix, hard to find, and you just add water. Results, everyone agrees, are awesome. Perfect. Beyond all reasonable expectation. Their Amazon reviews are almost entirely 5-star, and even chowhounds breathlessly praise them. I was very very suspicious.
My favorite food writer, John Thorne, once wrote a typically wise essay* about "Truly Awful Recipes".
"...like perpetual motion machines and no-diet weight-loss schemes, [they're] recognized by what they promise: something always a little too good, too easy to be true. Recipes that conjure instant elegance from dross: scrumptious canapés from biscuit mix and processed cheese; creamy casseroles from canned soups and celery salt; magically moist chicken from flavored bread crumbs and Hellmann's mayonnaise."We're easily suckered by such prospects, he notes. Every cook seems to harbor the secret yearning for really stupid, really easy recipes that produce magical results. Thorne never quite discredits this sort of thing. In fact, he has just such a recipe of his own - a nauseating-sounding combination he whips into chocolate cake that's "rich, moist, and fairly oozing chocolate flavor." Yet ever since I first read this essay, years ago, I've remained tightly skeptical toward too-convenient-to-be-true, too-stupid-to-be-delicious food propositions. And so I resisted the temptation of the Kodiak mixes.
But then I tried them. And the pancakes were unbelievable. Add water. Whisk. Go. Perfect pancakes. Walla.
Their brownie mix seems equally good, if you believe the reviews. Again, just add water. They're low fat, low-sugar, and made from healthful ingredients. These guys appear to have solved something no one else has ever solved. Why they're not a titanic billion dollar corporation, I do not understand. But since they remain a sleepy little company, we have no choice but to order their stuff online, in multiple boxes (exception: the pancake mix is available at Target).
I wrote to Kodiak Cakes to confirm that there's nowhere in the northeast to buy a single box of brownie mix (which I haven't tried), or, for that matter, the just-add-water oatmeal dark chocolate cookie mix. Amazon sells all the stuff, but who wants six boxes of cookie mixes?
The marketing director wrote back, commiserating about the spotty availability, and offering a whopping 40% discount on web orders, good through 2/28. Just use coupon code CHOWHOUND
I just ordered a flapjack sampler pack, a dessert mix sampler, and, only because I really really trust these guys, a syrup sampler pack (raspberry, mountain berry, and marion berry). The $70 order, discounted, came to only $49. Not cheap, but I can delve into the full range of goodness. I'm hoarding water as I await delivery.
* - Thorne's essay appears in his first book, "Simple Cooking", which you should own - especially for a lousy $8 on Kindle).