When I saw this little book called Fat Witch Brownies, I just had to pick it up – who can resist a book dedicated solely to the almighty culinary achievement, the brownie? I knew I would enjoy reading it, and baking from it. I love making and eating brownies, and my daughter follows willingly in my footsteps. There’s something truly wonderful about sinking your teeth into a slice (or slab) of dense, fudgy, cakey, chocolatey goodness. It just makes me smile. It also provides necessary comfort and relief after a particularly gruelling day.
Luckily (depending on your point of view), the author of the book, Patricia Helding, knows all about gruelling days at the office. Prior to opening the Fat Witch bakery in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, she worked as a trader on Wall Street. Imagine that pressure! It’s like working with a clock ticking every second of the day, from the moment you hit the trading floor until you leave at market close. And every second that goes by represents thousands of dollars worth of trades that need to be done in the nick of time.
While my life isn’t quite as harried as Patricia’s, I do understand her desire to want to unwind at home by donning an apron, rolling up her sleeves, turning on the oven, and whipping up a batch of brownies. Compared to life in capital markets, baking brownies is a piece of cake (literally). I too derive great comfort in coming home to my kitchen, and I wholeheartedly stand by Nigella Lawson’s claim that the kitchen is a place you escape to, not from. Give me a good cookbook and a glass of wine, and I can whip up a masterpiece any time of day with my trusty oven and whatever’s in my fridge. I love to cook, and I love the idea of escaping to the kitchen. For me, following a recipe is one of the most mindless, yet comforting things to do. Of course, knowing the end result is going to yield a tremendous amount of stomach satisfaction helps, but I still contend that the process is also the reward. Life is complicated. Following a well written recipe is not.
Facing a large claw of blackening bananas on my countertop this past week, I resorted to leaving them there until the weekend so that I could make good use of them (yet again) and convert them into some breakfast worthy slice to take to work this week. I came across this recipe for banana bread brownies that are really a meeting of the two – picture a dense, fudgy brownie, only the flavour is purely banana bread, with a hint of chocolate. Time to welcome the brownie for breakfast, I say. These are a doddle to make, bake like a charm, and slice neatly into whatever size slab you choose. They travel well, and keep for days. Really, could you ask for anything more from a brownie recipe?
Oh, this goes without saying, but they’re really good any time of day. Breakfast, coffee break, tea time, dessert, late night snack. Try them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sauce.
If you’re wondering how this bakery got its Fat Witch name, Patricia says she named it after someone she used to work with on the trade room floor. Apparently, everyone on Wall Street has a nickname, and this person (who is also the author’s good friend) was known as the Witch. Not caring about the calorie count in Patricia’s office bound brownies, co-workers used to joke that she was going to turn her into a Fat Witch. Interesting….
This delicious little number is a cross between banana bread and brownies, and tastes fantastic any time of day. These are very easy to make, and also cut very easily once cooled in the pan.
Adapted from Patricia Helding's Fat Witch Brownies cookbook.
- 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, plus more for greasing the pan
- 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- In another bowl, mix the vanilla and sugar into the mashed bananas with a fork. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to incorporate each egg into the banana mixture until everything is well combined.
- Add the flour and salt to the banana mixture, and mix until well combined. If desired, stir in the walnuts.
- Using a spatula, fold in two thirds of the cooled chocolate mixture until it is just incorporated. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and drizzle the remainder of the melted chocolate on top. Move the spatula in and through the batter to create streaks of chocolate.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for one hour. Cut just before serving.