December 8th is designated as National Brownie Day! Or National Chocolate Brownie Day to be more accurate. Cheesecake brownies (Feb. 10), blondies (Jan 22), and butterscotch brownies (May 9) have their own holidays.
Chocolate Brownies – The Beginnings
The earliest account of a brownie-like confection comes from the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. As the story goes, Mrs. Bertha Potter Palmer asked the hotel chef to create a dessert to be included as a box lunch that people could take to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893. This brownie recipe featured chocolate, lots of butter and lots of egg topped with walnuts and an apricot glaze.
Other than the Palmer House, brownies appear to have evolved from home cooks and home cooking schools. Fanny Farmer’s 1896 version of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book included a “brownie” with no chocolate at all.
The first published chocolate brownie recipe comes from a collection of recipes contributed by members of the Service Club of Chicago (1904). The recipe was called “Bangor Brownies."
"Cream one-half cup of butter, one cup sugar. Add two squares (one quarter cake) Baker's chocolate, melted, two eggs, one-half cup pastry flour and one-half cup chopped walnuts. Spread on baking tins and bake fifteen minutes in a moderate oven."
Recipes similar to the Bangor Brownie appeared around this time – Eleanor P. Quimby’s Home Cookery (1904), a 1906 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and Lowney’s Cook Book (1907) – appeared around this time.
The Legend of the Bangor Brownie
Legend has it that a housewife in Bangor Maine made the first brownie while attempting to make a chocolate cake. She either forgot to add the baking powder or didn’t add enough flour. So what do you do with a flat, dense cake? You serve it up as brownies! I don’t know if this is true but it sure makes a good story.
So take some time today to remember those brownie pioneers. Grab a glass of milk and raise your favorite brownie high in celebration of National Brownie Day.
More information on the origin of brownies.