The invention of the brownie is a heavily contested matter within the baking community. In 1896 The Boston Cooking School published a recipe for “Brownies” that featured molasses and pecans, sans chocolate that would be closer to a “Blondie.” The Sears Roebuck catalog of 1897 featured a recipe for a chocolate brownie that features no additional butter as semi-sweet chocolate already has a modest amount of butter within it.
However, I would argue that the creation of the first confection to be widely popular that we can consider a chocolate brownie goes to the baker at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois is 1893. It was a hell of a year for chocolate lovers in Chicago. The World’s Fair Colombian Exposition was taking place and chocolate was very popular among the vendors and booths.
Walter M. Lowney, a Boston chocolatier was distribution some of America’s first chocolate bars and Walter Baker & company, America’s oldest chocolate maker, was demonstrating the process of making chocolate and handing out samples. Outside of the exhibit, hotels and other tourist-based businesses were not to be outdone. Bertha Palmer, the owner of the Palmer House, a hotel that still exists today, asked her baker to create a decadent treat for the socialites and ladies to take with them in box lunches to the fair while they were staying at the hotel.
Unlike the Sears Roebuck recipe, which lacked butter, or the Boston Cooking School recipe, which lacked chocolate, this treat has both in spades. It’s a fudgy and rich cake, made with over a pound of chocolate, pound of butter, toasted walnuts, and an apricot glaze. The Palmer House still serves this amazing brownie today and it has remained one of their most popular dishes for over 100 years.
This recipe is much different from your regular brownie recipe. Instead of creaming your sugar and butter together first, the chocolate and butter are melted together first in a double boiler. The dry ingredients, flour and sugar, are then whisked together and added to the liquid chocolate, followed by eight eggs. The recipe suggests beating the eggs in one at a time to add air to the recipe, as this is the only rising agent.
I would also suggest eating these chilled, if not frozen. When heated up they are very gooey, especially with the tart apricot glaze, which was very tasty in combination. You could swap out apricot preserves for strawberry or some other fruit as well. They are great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Over all, I think this chocolaty confection is really remarkable and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Enjoy!
14 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1lb butter (4 sticks)
12 oz. granulated sugar
4 oz. flour
12 oz. crushed walnuts
• Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
• Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
• Mix the sugar and flour together in a bowl.
• Combine chocolate and flour mixtures. Stir four to five minutes.
• Add eggs and continue mixing.
• Pour mixture into a 9 x 12 baking sheet.
• Sprinkle walnuts on top, pressing down slightly into the mixture with your hand.
• Bake 30 — 40 minutes.
• Brownies are done when the edges begin to crisp and has risen about 1/4 of an inch.
Note: When the brownie is properly baked, it will remain “gooey” with a toothpick in the middle due to the richness of the mixture.
Mix together 1 c. water, 1 c. apricot preserves, and 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin in sauce pan. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil for two minutes. Brush hot glaze on brownies while still warm.
Put glazed brownies into the refrigerator or freezer for glaze to firm and then serve after freezing for at least three hours.
Cally Hale’s family has been living in the Uncompahgre Valley for more than 110 years. She learned to bake, can, and preserve food from both her grandmothers. You can find her supporting local food at her family’s Farmers’ Market booth every Saturday starting May 1, in Centennial Plaza from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or, you can follow her sewing and crafting adventures on Instagram @bbtcal.