Celebrating Brownies

Many Americans celebrated National Brownie Day yesterday, December 8, by eating one of America’s favorite desserts, the brownie. I, too, celebrated the day with my grandson who adores chocolate and brownies, in particular.

While we were enjoying our brownies, we got to wondering who invented the brownie or if it was an accident that turned into a favorite. Of course, the answer lies in a quick Google search where we learned that it has been a favorite dessert for many years.

Brownies may have made their appearance late in the 19th century. One legend about the origin dates back to 1893 when Bertha Palmer requested a small cake-like dessert suitable for a boxed lunch for ladies attending the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in Chicago. Mrs. Palmer enlisted the help of her hotel chef at the Palmer House Hotel. Chef Joseph Sehl provided the ladies with what is thought to be the first brownie; “a thick, dense, fudgy chocolate bar covered with an apricot glaze and walnuts,” according to the Institute of Culinary Education. Today, the Palmer House Hotel continues to make and serve the brownie using the original recipe.

The 1897 Sears, Roebuck Catalog published a brownie recipe simply titled, “1897 Brownies.” This may be among the first of published brownie recipes.  It was so popular that Sears, Roebuck introduced their own brownie mix. Thereafter, recipes began to pop up in various cooks books and newspapers. Some early recipes derived their flavor from molasses rather than chocolate.

Today we know the brownie as a square or rectangular chocolate cake-like cookie, classified as a bar. Brownies come in a variety of forms depending on their ingredients. They may include nuts, frosting, cream cheese, chocolate chips, or other ingredients. A popular variation of the chocolate brownie is the blondie or blonde brownie; it is made with brown sugar and vanilla rather than chocolate and may be plain or include chocolate chips or nuts.

Regardless of how the brownie came to be or what recipe is used, brownies are enjoyed by their followers anywhere and anytime. So if you missed National Brownie Day, go ahead and whip up a batch of brownies or purchase your favorite and enjoy each delicious bite! If you are making your own either from scratch or box, here’s a couple of tips to ensure success:
– line baking pan with parchment paper with two ends sticking out (handles) so that brownies can be easily lifted from the pan for cutting.
– do not over bake; check on them before the specified time on the recipe. To test a brownie for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center; it should come out with a few moist crumbs attached (if it’s clean, it’s overbaked).
– resist the temptation to cut into them before they are fully cool. Brownies continue to set while cooling.
cut on a cutting board with a serrated knife; gently saw through the edges and then press straight down cutting all the way through rather than dragging the knife across. Pull the knife up gently. It also helps to wash the blade between cuts with warm water and leave it slightly wet.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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