Monday, February 6, 2012

Ultimate Brownie Recipe Showdown: The Fat Witch

While I know people might disagree, I think my favorite brownies come from a box.   Seriously.  Take a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix, add some eggs, oil and maybe chocolate chips and you seriously have some of the best brownies.   But since I consider myself a true baker, I tasked myself with finding the ultimate brownie recipe during my 30 by 30 challenge.  To me, the ultimate brownie recipe is going to be measured on the following criteria

1. Flavor
It needs to be chocolaty and sweet.  But not too sweet!
2.  Exterior texture 
I like my brownies to have a strong top.  Not necessarily a "hard" one, but one that will not crumble instantaneously and will hold the brownie together

3. Interior texture
Brownies need to be fudgey but also not too heavy.  I also enjoy a little "crunch" in my brownies by adding chocolate chips or pieces.

4. Degree of Difficulty
 Box mixes are easy!  I want a recipe that is equally easy and therefore doesn't take longer than about 15-20 minutes to make. 

5. Flexibility
(no not can I bend it in half) Can I add things to these brownies and make them equally as good?  The recipe should stand alone on flavor, but i want it to be an easily adaptable recipe to make maybe mint brownies or add an espresso butter cream frosting. 

Being the nerdy teacher that I am, I created a rating scale (1-5) for each category and will be giving each recipe a score out of 25.  I should be making my coworkers that eat them fill out a rating scale as well so i can collect multiple types of data, however I think that might be a little overkill.   Maybe once I narrow down my top contenders.

The criteria I used for choosing my recipes were the following
a. It had to come from a trusted source (like a bakery or baker I was familiar with)
b. Needs to use real chocolate rather than cocoa powder in the batter.... sorry its just better
c. Needs to be a "regular" recipe.  No add ins or fillings or icing.  Just a plain brownie recipe.
So, the first recipe I made was from the Fat Witch bakery in New York.   It has been one of my favorite bakeries ever since I saw them help Bobby Flay do a Throwdown and had to try it.  My favorite is definitely their Wicked Witch (mint) or Blonde Witch (blondie).  Since they are kind of expensive ($3 a brownie??), when they came out with a cookbook, I knew I had to get it immediately.    I will say the first time i made a brownie, I was pretty disappointed, but since I claim its my favorite bakery, I wanted another try.

And I was no where near as disappointed.  Who knows why... maybe the chocolate I used was better?  Maybe I put in more time?  Maybe I've just been practicing so much that I've really honed in on my baking skills?  I really can't tell you, but they were MUCH better this time around.   But are they the ultimate brownie?

1. Flavor- 3/5
The chocolate was there.... definitely!   But they just were slightly more bittersweet then I would like.   The first bite was chocolaty and gooey, but there was a less than sweet aftertaste.

2. Exterior Texture -4/5
 I wish they were slightly stiffer on top but they were pretty good, without being too tough

3. Interior Texture - 4/5 
The fudgeyness was awesome but they might have been a little too fudgey.  I had put chocolate chunks into the batter and was disappointed that they melted into the batter and so you couldn't taste the chunks.  Maybe next time I will freeze them before baking with them.

4. Degree of Difficulty -5/5 (with 5 being easy!)
The toughest part was using a double boiler to melt the chocolate, but since one of my criteria is that it has real chocolate and not cocoa powder, this is definitely a given.     They were super easy and only got 3 bowls dirty.  And since I used my beater tool, I didn't have to pull out the mixer!  Definitely easy.

Getting the double boiler ready
5. Flexibility - 4/5
Honestly, maybe a little too flexible.   I feel like I need to put icing or flavoring in them to make them work.  The boyfriend even said "these would be perfect with some chocolate icing".   But since the purpose is to find a recipe that doesn't need that, I feel I needed to deduct.

Total Score- 20/25
 Honestly, I am hoping to get a higher score with a later brownie as I'm just not 100% sold on the recipe.  But it was definitely good and I would definitely make them again, I'm just hoping for something better

Fat Witch Brownies 

  • 1-3/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups chocolate chips (Ghirardelli)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp unbleached flour
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: chocolate chunks (1/2 cup), nuts or whatever else your heart desires.

  1. Grease and flour a 9x9 baking pan ( I use bakers joy). Preheat oven to 350F. 
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan oer low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.
  3. Cream the sugar, eggs and vanilla together. 
  4. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until well blended. 
  5. Sift flour and salt directly into the chocolate mixture. 
  6. Gently mix the batter until well blended and no trace of the dry ingredients remain.
  7. Spread batter into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
  8. Allow to cool for 1 hour before cutting
Recipe adapted from the Fat Witch Bakery Cookbook 

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