Mixes go upscale from scones to beer-batter bread

September 02, 1992|By McClatchy News Service

Food mixes again are hot in America's kitchens, but not the old yellow cake and plain pancake varieties that have been around since the 1950s. The new mixes are gourmet -- and they're sold at corresponding prices.

These days, it's scones, not cake. And pancake mixes come in dozens of flavors, from buckwheat pecan to wild cranberry.

People still want the convenience they were looking for when Betty Crocker made her mark, but now their tastes are more sophisticated. They want ethnic and regional foods, and they want home cooking that's restaurant quality, says a report from Associated Press.

There are mixes for cheesecake and cobblers, for potato salad and black bean soup, for pizza crusts and dessert syrups. Most require only one or two easy-to-find additional ingredients.

"People want to be at home, they want to be together, but they don't want to have to work too hard to make things nice," said Mark Bonebrake, co-founder of Northwest Specialty Bakers of Portland, Ore., which markets more than a dozen Dassant Gourmet Mixes for breads, scones and brownies. "They're willing to pay for the smell of bread baking in their kitchens."

Mr. Bonebrake sells six beer-bread mixes, including focacciaParisian dill onion and Southern corn varieties. At about $3.50 each, they're not exactly cheap, but Mr. Bonebrake believes they're an "affordable indulgence." Just add beer and stir, and the bread dough is ready for the oven.

Pelican Bay of Clearwater, Fla., even sells a mix to the famous toy store, FAO Schwarz. That's because Pelican Bay markets a line of mixes for kids, which come in big buckets, with shovels for mixing. There's the "I can bake dirt cake with mud frosting" mix that's really for an Oreo cookie crumb cake. There's also a pickling kit for children that lets them make bread-and butter pickles just by adding cucumbers and some vinegar.

Other food items in the news:

* Mohammed Ali has joined the ranks of celebrity food producers with a pancake syrup under his name.

* It started with a franchise in Seattle. Now Burger King customers throughout Washington state can step up to the counter and order a demitasse of espresso -- strong coffee prepared by driving steam through finely ground coffee beans -- or of cappuccino -- espresso impregnated with steamed-foamed milk.

* Manufacturers offer booklets containing recipes and other suggestions for using their products.

Here are a few of the newest booklets that are free or cost only a dollar or two.

The NutraSweet Spoonful No-Bake Cookbook offers a variety of ways to use the artificial sweetener. Nutritional information is provided with each recipe in the 30-page booklet. Send $1 and your name and address to: NutraSweet Spoonful No-Bake Cookbook, P.O. Box 7777-A6, Mount Prospect, IL 60056-7777.

If you or someone you know will be making a wedding cake soon, Betty Crocker's new 12-page cake mix booklet will help with quantity and preparation guidelines. There is no charge. Send your name and address to: Special Occasions, Special Cakes Recipe Booklet, P.O. Box 5200, Department 20, Minneapolis, MN 55460.

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