Several products and inventions made their debut at the Exposition. The first ferris wheel, Juicy Fruit gum, shredded wheat, and cream of wheat were on that list. But it was the introduction of the delectable brownie that stole the show.
It happened when Chicago socialite and philanthropist Bertha Palmer instructed the pastry chefs at her husband’s hotel, the Palmer House, to create a dessert that could fit inside the box lunches for ladies at the fair and that could be eaten without a mess. Thus the humble chocolate brownie was born.
Fondness for the dessert quickly spread. And in 1896, Fannie Farmer included the brownie recipe in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book.
I can’t think of any dessert that’s more versatile. It can be made plain or with icing, nuts, fruit bits, and any number of things, whatever strikes your fancy. The brownie became the trademark dessert of the Palmer House and is still served today.
Here is the original brownie recipe:
Chocolate Fudge Brownies from the Palmer House Hilton
3 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups chopped walnut pieces
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoons apricot preserves
Preheat oven to 325F. Melt chocolate and butter in a glass bowl set over simmering water. Sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Stir chocolate mixture into flour mixture. Whisk in eggs. Pour into a 12 x 9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top, pressing slightly into batter. Bake 40 minutes, or until the edges become slightly crisp and the brownie has risen about ¼ inch. (Even when the brownie is properly baked, it will test gooey with a toothpick in the center.) Let cool 30 minutes. For glaze, combine water and preserves in a medium saucepan, whisking well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, pat glaze over brownies. Place brownies in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Remove and let stand 10 minutes and slice.
What kind of brownies are your favorite? Or maybe you have another favorite dessert. This year at the Texas State Fair in Dallas they’re gonna have Fried Girl Scout Samoa Cookies. Maybe your state fair can top that.