Mixed Review: Fat Witch Original Brownies
A good brownie mix is a true diamond in the rough. It should be even easier to prepare than brownies from scratch which, let's face it, are pretty simple. That means it should not require a laundry list of additional ingredients, or leave you with a sink full of dirty bowls, whisks, and saucepans.
A good brownie mix should also yield brownies with glossy tops and gooey centers, that taste like butter, sugar, and pure chocolate. The brownies should not be thin, dry, cloyingly sweet, or remind you of over-processed cocoa powder.
Oh, and the mix shouldn't break the bank! A good rule of thumb is that each resulting brownie should cost less than $1. So a mix that yields a dozen brownies should cost less under $12.
Does such a mix exist? You bet.
One of them is Fat Witch Bakery's Original Brownie Mix ($7.99). I've been a Fat Witch fan since I first moved to New York City almost eight years ago. It's literally impossible to walk past the bakery (located in Chelsea Market) without ducking inside to see if they've set out a platter of toothpick-speared samples. The smell that emanates from the bakery is totally intoxicating: warm chocolate with hints of coffee and toasted nuts.
Fat Witch brownies have legions of chocoholic fans, and have been featured everywhere from the New York Times and Oprah's O Magazine to Good Morning America and the Rachel Ray Show.
A couple of years ago Patricia Helding (Fat Witch's founder and owner) released a line of brownie mixes. I reviewed the white chocolate version for this column in January 2009. But until now, I never quite got around to trying out the classic mix.
To prepare the Fat Witch mix, you combine the contents of the chocolate packet with seven tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and melt them over low heat. Meanwhile, combine the contents of the mix packet with three eggs in a large bowl. Then pour the chocolate-butter mixture into the mix, give everything a few turns with a wooden spoon, pour it into an 8x8-inch baking pan, and bake them for 30 minutes.
When compared to a batch made from scratch, the Fat Witch ones were indistinguishable. Their tops were shiny, smooth, and slightly crackly; the centers were gooey and almost pudding-like. The brownies had nice, thick high edges (if you're a corner person you would love them!) and the center pieces were like squares of baked fudge. The chocolate flavor was on the border between milk and semi-sweet, with notes of butter and vanilla.
If you have any brownie lovers or baking enthusiasts on your list, this mix would make a great holiday gift. And if the mix isn't enough, pair it with The Fat Witch Brownie Book, which has more than 50 recipes for brownies and bars flavored with everything from cardamom to whiskey to Earl Grey tea.
Full disclosure: I helped Patricia Helding write her cookbook, but have been a fan of her brownies ever since my first whiff of them baking in Chelsea Market, long before my editorial involvement.