I pulled the strobes closer to the housing and even angled them inwards, but I still had problems getting something even reminiscent of even lighting
This is exactly the opposite of what I would suggest doing normally. I use dual Ike 161s with diffusers and normally I would have the arms out as wide as I can with the stobes actually pointing outward. The centre of the image then, is lit by the overlapping "inside edge" of the strobes. This greatly reduces the amount of backscatter, but will still provide adequete light for the centre of your frame.
Like Tim, I really try to make it look like the strobes aren't even in play... natural light with just some fill. I shoot primarily in the great lakes where low light is the rule, and even then, my strobes are typically only set at about 1/2 power.
Also, diffusers will really help with the hotspots. If they don't make them for your strobes, I've seen them fashioned from white plastic container lids (like cream cheese) with a bunch of holes drilled into them, and then duct-taped to the strobe!