The Original Brownie Recipe’s “birthplace” may be a surprise for many people. It didn’t come from someone’s sweet grandmother, a quaint bakery, or the home of a chocolatier. No, it was a business decision.
First…Chicago gets the Fair. Too bad, New York!
Chicago hosted the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a bold endeavor for a young city still reeling from its Great Fire of 1871 and Haymarket Square bombing of 1886. But, Chicago has always been cheeky and somehow convinced Congress that it was a better site than New York City.
One of Chicago’s wealthy realtors, city leaders, and big-time investors in the Exposition, was Potter Palmer. His hotel, the Palmer House, was constructed in time for fair-goers to stay and be transported to the White City, as the Exposition site was called. (If you haven’t read the fascinating and down-to-the-last-minute-deadline story of the Exposition…and the serial killer who lurked behind the scenes, treat yourself to *Devil in the White City)
Next: Brownie in the White City
Potter’s beautiful–and progressive–young wife, Bertha, took charge of the Women’s Pavilion for the Exposition. She was also the thoughtful hostess at the Palmer House. Bertha went to the hotel’s chefs and asked for an innovative hand-held treat that hotel guests could eat on their way to the fair. She and her team worked together until…the Original Brownie Recipe was developed.
The rest is history. The entire Exposition was a time of memorable foods–read my post about those that were invented and are still with us today. Of course, there are plenty of brownie variations and box mixes today. Pick your favorite–a lot has changed since 1893. I’m not here to criticize…brownies are a delicious All-American mainstay.
For the purists, I offer the Original Brownie Recipe below. Heads up: It is NOT heart-healthy! But perfectly sublime… If you ever find yourself in Chicago, stop by the Palmer House for a taste of history!
Bertha Potter’s Brownie Recipe–from The Palmer House, Chicago, Illinois
14 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 lb Butter
12 oz. Granulated Sugar
4 oz Flour
8 ea. Whole Eggs
12 oz Crushed Walnuts
- Melt Chocolate with butter in a double boiler
- Mix dry ingredients into mixing bowl, except walnuts
- Mix chocolate with dry ingredients, 4 to 5 minutes
- Add Eggs
Pour into 9”x 12” baking sheet, sprinkle walnuts on top, press walnuts down slightly into mixture with your hand, and bake in a preheated oven at 300° for 30 to 40 minutes. You will know when done — the edges will start to become a little crispy and the brownies will raise about 1⁄4 inch. Note: Even when the brownie is properly baked it will test “gooey” with a toothpick in the middle due to the richness of the mixture. After removing from the oven allow to cool about 30 minutes before spreading a thin layer of the glaze on top with a pastry brush.
1 Cup water
1 Cup Apricot Preserves
1 Teaspoon Unflavored Gelatin
Mix together water, preserves and unflavored gelatin in a saucepan, mix thoroughly and bring to a boil for two minutes. USE HOT.
Special Tip: The brownies are easier to cut if you place in the freezer for about 3-4 hours after glazing.
*Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have endorsed. I only endorse products that I use and trust. While clicking this link won’t cost you any extra money, it will help me keep this site up and running. Please check out TravelSmart Woman’s disclosure policy for more details.
Want to know more about affiliate marketing?? Click here.