I love chocolate brownies and I don’t know how come I never tried to make them before. When I was living in England, chocolate brownies and vanilla ice cream was always my choice of dessert. Maybe it was so easy to get them that I couldn’t be bothered to make it at home? I don’t know but now I decided to give a try. And guess what? It’s such an easy recipe that I don’t know why I haven’t done it before!
When searching for a chocolate brownies recipe, I realised that there are hundreds out there. How on hearth am I going to just decide on one? Faith came to rescue me 🙂 I turned Food Network on, and Mary Berry was showing how to make her easy recipe for chocolate brownies. Decided! Let me follow this recipe.
I tried to find out the origin of chocolate brownies. There’s lots of versions but most evidence points to one source: Chefs at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, who created the tasty treat for the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.
The story goes like this: Bertha Palmer, the wife of Palmer hotel owner Potter Palmer, was president of the Ladies Board for Managers for Exposition. When organizers of the event asked her to create a dessert especially for the boxed lunches at the Women’s Pavilion, Palmer went to her hotel’s pastry chefs and gave them the task of creating a dessert that was easier to eat than a piece of pie and smaller than a layer cake that could easily be served in boxed lunches. The result was a brownie made with double the chocolate normal brownies use, walnuts, and an apricot glaze that’s still made at the hotel to this day.
But there’s no evidence the Palmer House desserts were called brownies. The first person to put a recipe for “brownies” in a cookbook was Fanny Farmer, who adapted her cookie recipe to be baked in a rectangular pan, in the 1896 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. But: that recipe contained no chocolate! Farmer had basically made what we today call a Blondie. Then, in the late 1890s, the Kansas City Journal, advertised chocolate brownies—the first definitive reference to chocolate and brownies together.
The first known recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in Machias Cookbook, a Maine community-sourced cookbook, in 1899. The recipe features chocolate, flour, milk, baking soda—all the relevant parts of a brownie. Then, in 1904, The Club of Chicago published a cookbook with a recipe for Bangor Brownies. Finally, in 1906, Farmer published an updated version of her cookbook that included a blondie recipe and a brownie recipe, both called brownies. After that, the recipes started spreading nationally, and eventually, brownies conquered the world!