What is a Baking Mix?

Welcome to Delicious or Distressing, where we rate recent food memes, videos, and other decidedly unserious news. Last week, we looked into Restoration Hardware’s questionable ban on black pepper at its restaurants.

Two recurring characters in the simulation that is life emerged as protagonists this week, and it’s a duo I personally wouldn’t want to cross: grumpy everyman Ben Affleck and controversy maven Chrissy Teigen. Ben, infamous for his perilous Dunkin’ jaunts, initiated his new wife Jennifer Lopez into the ritual. Meanwhile, Teigen was accused of plagiarizing the branding and components of a fancy boxed cake mix.

A baking mix is a mix of ingredients to which liquid, and sometimes oil, eggs or other ingredients are added to produce baked goods like muffins, biscuits, cakes and brownies. The earliest ones were made during the Industrial Revolution and proved helpful to those who lacked the time to stay home and carefully prepare food. These were commonly recipes for puddings or gelatin.

Biscuit and muffin baking mixes were soon offered, and were developed almost simultaneously. The big names in the US for these early mix forms were brands that are still familiar, like Jiffy® and Bisquick®. Betty Crocker® offered the first mix varieties for cake in the 1920s.

Baking soda and baking powder, which are commonly used in baking.

In addition to saving time, many cooks, primarily women, preferred the predictability of the baking mix. With properly measured ingredients, the likelihood of turning out nice looking baked goods could be a big help. Early mixes often asked for the addition of numerous ingredients, but soon, many mixes came with powdered eggs, rendering the separating, cracking or beating of eggs unnecessary. You’ll still find some varieties that require quite a bit of additional work. In fact, some are only slightly easier than the dry ingredients you’d mix on your own.

Other baking mix types leave very little to add, perhaps a cup of milk or water. The goal toward creating more convenient but still “home-baked” food has driven the baking industry to where it is today. It now leans toward even less work by the baker, by selling items like cookie dough that can simply be placed onto pans, or pre-baked pie shells.

One thing that baking mixes of today tend to have in common is a number of stabilizers that keep the results relatively uniform. When we bake from scratch, small differences in ingredients can lead to chaotic and unpredictable results. Stabilizers help keep cakes moist, muffins high and biscuits crunchy.

A combination of gluten-free flours are frequently combined to create a celiac-safe baking mix for cookies and other treats.

The opposite end of the baking mix spectrum offers mixes that are made of not overly processed ingredients. In specialty and natural foods stores, a variety of mixes exist that are made from organic flours, are vegan or vegetarian, are gluten-free, or contain very simple ingredient lists with few chemical additions. Mixes for scones are a popular choice.

A sort of art has flourished around the baking mix industry. Housewives in the 1930s and onward might enjoy the convenience of the mix, but were deft at adding and improving upon mixes by adding fruit, spices, flavorings, or homemade frostings. Still some bakers tend to feel that even the best mix is imperfect, and that most recipes really don’t require that much more work than the mix. It is true if you’re used to true “from scratch recipes” you may notice a chemical-like taste to the more commercial mixes. Others who’ve been raised on foods produced from baking mixes may, conversely, prefer them to baked goods made from scratch.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent DelightedCooking
contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include
medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently
working on her first novel.

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What is wrong with me? When I read a headline about a man eating 40 rotisserie chickens in 40 days, my reaction was an emphatic: I could totally do this. On November 6, Philadelphia man Alexander Tominsky will complete his quest to eat a full bird every day for—I simply must repeat—40 days straight. While there’s really nothing relatable about this particular feat, I can’t help but relate. Isn’t it normal to eat nothing but rotisserie chicken? When we say we’re “eating at home tonight,” don’t we all just mean buying a trusty rotisserie chick and roasting some broccoli? If this isn’t a man of the people, I don’t know who is. In an interview with The Takeout, Tominsky admitted to being nervous about his final chicken-eating event. If you happen to be in Philly, please, for me, go cheer him on. The rest of us rotisserie chicken heads will be raising a drumstick in his honor. 5/5 delicious. —Elazar Sontag, restaurant editor

Chrissy Teigen versus indie baker.

Polarizing internet darling, short-lived Quibi star, and Alison Roman enemy Chrissy Teigen finds herself at the center of yet another scandal this week. After launching her line of baking mixes last month, Teigen has been accused of plagiarism by Jordan Rondel, a Los Angeles-based New Zealand baker and owner of The Caker, a line of high-end boxed cake mixes.

If I learned one thing in sophomore year English class it’s that plagiarism = not good. Stealing ideas is bad, and stealing ideas from a small business is worse, but it seems as if Rondel will not be pursuing legal action—in this case, internet shame is the pinnacle of justice.

Upon closer inspection, we found that while the branding and packaging is suspiciously similar, Teigen’s ingredients are strikingly different. The Caker’s cakes are made with ingredients like ground almonds, Belgian couverture chocolate, and fresh fruit, and are known for being rich if not a little dense. Rondel charges $25 a box. Teigen’s mixes, on the other hand, include additives and “natural flavors,” which are notably not included in The Caker’s cake kits. Teigen’s mixes also are not cakes; there’s a mochi pancake and waffle mix, a banana bread mix, and a cookie mix. Each one costs between $7 and $10, or $21 for three as part of a sale.

Is it a straight rip-off? Who can say for sure, but there’s certainly enough overlap in the overall aesthetics to raise some shady eyebrows. Cravings by Chrissy Teigen’s representatives responded to the accusations with a comment about the aesthetic differences (a Cravings spokesperson tells Bon Appétit that “We absolutely did not copy their packaging,” though Rondel still disagrees), but ultimately, there are no winners here. 2.3/5 distressing —Sam Stone, staff writer

Ben Affleck welcomes JLO into the Dunkin’ life.

Picture this: New England’s unofficial mascot, Ben Affleck, red in the face, grimacing, juggling a Jenga tower of Dunkin’ cups, doughnut bags, and munchkin boxes. You actually don’t even have to picture it, because it’s a mirage carved into the annals of American history. And it never gets old. Ben recently invited a new companion to his most intimate of Dunkin’ runs, none other than old flame slash new wife JLo. It’s a perfect marriage of two pop culture obsessions that have afforded Affleck outsized prominence: Dunkin’ Ben and Bennifer.

He’s remarkably calmer here, standing upright with a cool confidence rather than hunched over with terror in his eyes—no death grip here. He appears to be holding an iced coffee and a bag of something (maybe a sausage egg and cheese?). Meanwhile, JLo seems to carry a frap of some sort in one hand and a matcha latte in the other. Maybe the only thing he needed all along was an extra set of hands. 4.7/5 delicious. —Li Goldstein, digital production assistant

This story has been updated with additional comment from Cravings by Chrissy Teigen.

Cooking is a privilege.

The tweet that launched it all has been deleted, but here’s a screenshot, which makes it clear that we are not talking about skills like speed-julienning a vegetable. Buzzfeed tech reporter Katie Notopoulus summarized the absurdity of the argument perfectly: “It’s classist to know how to boil an egg.” Obviously, cooking is a skill that can be developed, some people have more access to developing them, and some people may need assistance with basic tasks like peeling an orange or peeling garlic due to disabilities. But all cooking? Anyway, the person eventually said that everyone was right to clown on their original tweet. Then that was that.

You may think this sort of back-and-forth of strangers’ half-baked thoughts is brain-melting, but it’s also exactly what’s keeping people on the platform for entertainment. Congrats on your purchase, Elon. 2.3/5 distressing — Serena Dai, editorial director

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