Joining The Coven

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Fat Witch scratches the itch
Two Fat Witches are bad for the britches...

Chelsea Market was one of the very first places* I decided had to be visited in New York when pootling online for interesting distractions before the travels. That it was indoors in an old industrial building, open every day and had such a wide range of eating and ogling options sounded very promising indeed. And they have a place called the Fat Witch Bakery. Witch Which only sells brownies. Squee!

When I made it over to the market (sadly penguin-less, as my partner-in-crime had succumbed to the lurgy), it far surpassed my imaginings. The market moniker had given me an expectation of a set-up of temporary stalls and cobbled-together seating, likely heaving with people. The actuality was infinitely more civilised, far more comfortable, and very conducive to passing an enjoyable morning. Or afternoon, or any random time when food might be called for (or justified).

The ground floor of the renovated warehouse-style building that houses the Chelsea Market contains lots of small shops, virtually all of witch which (sorry, those Fat Witches made quite the impression) sell food. There is also a bookshop (for the mental equivalent of sniffing a coffee bean when overload sets in – although it does have a more than decent cookbook section), a kitchen equipment store and a kiosk selling magazines (so you have some reading material to go with your munching. And there’s an Anthropologie as well. All it needs is a bedroom, and I could move right in and never need to leave...

Fat Witch Bakery at Chelsea Market
Picture: The compact haven that is the Fat Witch Bakery (as captured with the ubiquitous iPhone camera, sorry)

Food options run the gamut from green grocers with an intriguing mix of deli items, and purveyors of cheese, fish and all sorts of condiments through to take-out soup, salads, sandwiches, Italian, hot chocolate, and gelato, plus there are a couple of cafes. And then, there are the bakeries. Bakeries with bread and pastries. Bakeries with cupcakes, some in impossibly detailed shapes. Bakeries with sugar cookies (just sugar cookies). And... a bakery with brownies. It’s Fat Witch time!

The Fat Witch Bakery was started by Patricia Helding, who used to be a stockbroker before her love of brownies became a full time business. The Fat Witch name, according to the recently released Fat Witch cookbook, stems from one of Patricia’s friends, whose nickname on the trading floor was The Witch, and who joked that, if she kept eating so many brownies, she’d turn into a Fat Witch.

Fat Witch caramel witch brownie
Witches - I love the packaging, too - practical and cute...

The compact store sells a wide assortment of witches, as well as witch mixes (to make your own, with minimal fuss and bother) and witch ends (the crispy crunchy bits that remain after cutting a pan into regular witches, but that are much loved by many as a snack in themselves, or for on ice cream...). Pre-packed witches are also available, wrapped in cellophane – this not only has the advantage of seeing what you’re getting and helping narrow down the choices, but is possibly the most convenient way to eat a brownie on the run. You just open one end, and slide the witch out to be eaten – no sticky fingers, hardly any crumbs (although that might also be a reflection of their wonderfully fudgy consistency) and so much less messy than fishing in a paper bag. The convenience of a pre-packaged witch added greatly to the enjoyment of an otherwise routinely aggravating plane trip back.

I chose a Caramel Witch for me, and couldn’t resist a Wicked Witch for the Other Penguin. His ability to devour packets of Mentos in a single sitting would prompt the minty brownie to be a good choice on any occasion, but the fact that I was about to hop in a cab and hurtle uptown to meet him at the Gershwin Theater to see Wicked sealed the deal. And it was topped with sparkly green sanding sugar. What more could you need?

Fat Witch wicked witch brownie
Seen the show? Now, eat the brownie! (Not seen the show? The brownies are still great!)

The Witches were moist and fudgy without any oiliness or sticking-to-your-teeth-glugginess. The top had a faintly crackly texture which yielded a gentle crunch upon biting, before the delicious squishiness of the middle. There are people who like cakey brownies, people who like fudgy brownies and people who would secretly prefer to just eat the batter without showing it the oven. As a card-carrying member of the latter of these groups, this is one of the few brownies I’ve encountered that retains an element of the sneaky batter eating pleasure after being cooked (and without being very deliberately undercooked).

The Caramel Witch was more squidgy-centred as a result of its inner layer of melted caramel, rather than having a distinctly separate layer – its caramelliness** is easier to discern when compared to an Original Witch (not that that’s an excuse to eat two Witches in one sitting!). These features, when applied to the Wicked Witch, made one of my least favourite combinations with chocolate (try as I might, I just don’t get mint. With chocolate or without) into something that made me want another bite. Maybe that’s the definition of witchcraft...

* Found via We Heart New York
** I’ve now tried to write that down no less than five different ways, and every single one of them looks like a spelling mistake. Giving up, and going with the most obvious option. I’d harrumph, but Witches obviate the need for harrumphing.

Fat Witch Bakery on Urbanspoon
Urbanspoon has more on the Fat Witches here, too...

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