The History of the Brownie
National Brownie Day is December 8th — it’s a day on which we should all take a moment to honor one of the finest chocolate confections ever invented. There are many versions of the brownie — they come topped with frosting, sprinkled with powdered sugar, filled with nuts, or swirled with caramel — but the alleged original recipe wasn’t quite like what we eat today. Because The Lakeside Collection is based out of Chicago, we hold a special place in hearts for the brownie as Chicago is the birthplace of the brownie, according to legend. Here’s a little history of the brownie.
The original brownie was conceived by a pastry chef at The Palmer House Hotel in Chicago’s Loop during one of the most significant events in the Midwestern mecca’s history — The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (The World’s Fair). This particular World’s Fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World. The fair lasted five months and attracted more than 27 million visitors. The fair introduced major innovations in the world that we still use today: spray paint, fluorescent lights, the moving walkway, the Ferris Wheel, and Juicy Fruit Gum among others.
As legend has it, Bertha Palmer, the wife of dry goods salesman and owner of the Palmer House Hotel, Potter Palmer, was a legendary socialite in Chicago in the late 19th century. Every day was an event for the World’s Fair and Bertha needed a portable sweet snack to fit in boxed lunches for her lady friends as they attended the fair.
What the hotel’s pastry chef came up with is what they still serve at The Palmer House today.
Here is an updated twist on the original brownie recipe:
- 9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- 2 sticks butter, melted
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cups chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup cherry preserves
- 2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder
Preheat the oven to 325℉.
In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (except the walnuts). In another bowl, combine butter and chocolate and mix well. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture.
Pour the brownie mixture in a prepared 8”x8” pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the walnuts over the batter. Let them sit on top — they will sink during baking. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. It will be bubbly. Slide a paring knife around the edges and let it cool a little bit while you make the glaze.
In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the water, cherry preserves and gelatin. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for two minutes. Remove from heat. It will be runny. Pour the glaze over the brownies while the glaze is hot. Cool completely. Place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours or until it’s completely frozen. Let it thaw slightly before slicing and serving.
These brownies aren’t like the brownies we know today — they’re not as chewy, but they are certainly as delicious and they’ll satisfy a sweet or chocolate craving. But whether you want to know what 19th century socialites were eating at The World’s Fair or you just want to indulge in something chocolatey, Brownie Day is as good of an excuse as any to bake up sweet treats.