Pastel or sweet style? The history and evolution of brownies
Posted On July 25, 2021
The brownie, perhaps America’s favorite baked dessert, was “invented” in the United States, though no one is sure where. Evidence suggests that brownies were first made in New England in the early 1900s. Although they are shaped like a cake and baked in a cake pan, brownies are classified as bar cookies rather than a cake. There are thousands of brownie recipes, both “cake style” and “fudge style” and everything in between. What determines the style of the brownie is its ratio of flour to chocolate and / or cocoa.
Where did the word “brownie” originate?
It’s easy to see that the brownie got its name from its dark brown color. But like most foods, the origin of the “brownie” is shrouded in a myth. The brownie is relatively new to baked goods, first appearing in the early 1900s. Legend has it that a chef mistakenly added melted chocolate to a batch of cookies. Another legend claims that a cook was making a cake but did not have enough flour and baked his dough anyway. Voila, the brownie!
The most popular legend tells of a housewife in Bangor, Maine, who was making a chocolate cake but forgot to add baking powder to it. When the cake didn’t rise, he just cut and served the pieces flat. This tale is based on a cookbook published in Maine in 1912. However, years before the first chocolate brownie recipe was published by one of America’s most famous cookbook authors, Fannie Merritt Farmer, in 1906 .
Was Fannie Merritt the first?
Numerous sources cite the first known recipe for brownies as the Sears catalog, Roebuck from 1897, but this was a recipe for a molasses fudge called simply brownies. The name honored the elven characters that appear in books, stories, cartoons, and popular verses from the time of author Palmer Cox.
Larousse Gastronomique, considered by many to be the ultimate culinary reference, claims that a recipe for brownies first appeared in the Boston Cookery School Cookbook, written by Fannie Farmer in 1896, but that it was for a cookie-type sweet of color and flavor. with molasses and made in margarita striated molds. However, as verified by Jean Anderson in “The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes Of The 20th Century,” the first two published recipes for brownies appear in Boston-based cookbooks: the first in a later edition of ” The Boston Cooking- School Cookbook “.
The First Recipe
Culinary historians have traced the first “brownie” back to the 1906 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is an early, less rich, chocolatey version of the brownie we know today, using two squares of melted chocolate. It is not known if Fanny Farmer obtained the recipe from another source, printed or adapted it, or simply provided the name.
The second recipe
The second recipe, which appeared in 1907, was in Lowney’s Cook Book, written by Maria Willet Howard and published by the Walter M. Lowney Company of Boston. Mrs. Howard, a protégé of Mrs. Farmer, added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking School recipe, creating a richer, more chocolate brownie.
Chocolate or Cocoa?
Today, brownies are baked with cocoa or melted chocolate or a combination of both. Artisan bakeries like Ruth’s Brownie Kitchen even use premium specialty chocolates and cocoa, like the fabulous Valrhona chocolates, from the famous French manufacturer, to give their baked goods a unique, deep and satisfying chocolate flavor.
Pastel style or extra fudgy?
While the original brownie recipes were all “cake style,” that is, with the texture of a cake but somewhat richer and denser, over the years, brownie recipes have generally evolved by increasing the proportion of chocolate with regarding flour. Some of today’s recipes are more like candy than cake.
Each type of brownie has its staunch followers, but it appears that the fudge style is winning with two-thirds of those voicing their opinion preferring the richer, denser, and creamier version. Still, a third of all people are solidly in the cake-styling field.
The nation’s favorite
While the first brownie recipes were published and variations began to evolve in the early years of the 20th century, it took until the 1920s for the brownie to become the country’s favorite baked chocolate, a position it still holds today.