With its avenue-long daisy chain of bakeries, Chelsea Market is more or less a carbophile’s dream and a dentist’s worst nightmare. Two of the market’s most highly trafficked storefronts are Amy’s Bread and Fat Witch Bakery. The former is an outpost of the New York chainlet widely beloved for its breads, cakes, and assorted pastries. The latter makes brownies and only brownies, and attracts a steady stream of tourists thanks to shout-outs on Oprah, the Today show and the Food Network, which is conveniently located upstairs. Fat Witch describes its chief moneymaker as “New York City’s legendary brownie.” Amy’s Bread describes its brownies as either “plain” or “walnut.” So, being a fan of both walnuts and brownies, we decided to see how Amy’s measured up against Fat Witch.
First, we tried Amy’s Bread. The $3.50 brownie was thick and dense, and sported an impressive crackly crust. One bite turned up a moist, cakey interior that harbored a cargo load of meaty, toasted walnut halves. They elevated the brownie from the perfectly acceptable to the realm of the truly desirable; without the nuts, the flavor of the brownie was a bit one-dimensional. While plenty would argue that the combination of chocolate, butter, eggs, flour, and sugar can do no wrong, we in truth found it a little flat, a little too sugary, and, oddly, a bit lacking in full-bodied chocolate flavor. But the walnuts gave the brownie the savory contrast it needed, deepening the flavor of the chocolate and lending the crumb a compelling texture. All told, it was a very solid brownie, and one we’d go back for should the mood overtake us.
Next came Fat Witch, which sells its $2.50 brownies individually wrapped in cellophane. They’re smaller than the ones at Amy’s, and more streamlined, too — they’ve got none of the ridges and bumps and fissures that tend to make us want to eat a brownie, at least where only looks are concerned.
One bite into the brownie revealed that its prim exterior betrayed a similarly restrained flavor. While the texture was admirably smooth and fudgy, its taste, like Amy’s, was oddly one-dimensional. For a dessert that’s by, for, and about chocolate, it lacked the richness and body that good chocolate offers. Instead, we tasted mainly sugar and butter, the latter of which was also apparent in how much grease the brownie left on everything in its wake. And for a walnut brownie, it was suspiciously light on the walnuts. Which ones there were didn’t have the toasty depth of Amy’s, so there was little to boost the brownie’s overall flavor.
So, despite the fact that Amy’s was also a bit lacking, we would, given the choice, take it any day over Fat Witch’s. If you want a brownie that’s got real nuts, Amy’s has your number.
75 Ninth Avenue
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