Brownies — An American Relic

August 15, 2010

What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.
~Katherine Hepburn

While brownies may be considered undersexed in technique, when eaten they can be almost lewd.

Some sources trace the origin of the iconic brownie to the 1896 The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, written by the esteemed Fannie Farmer—but that was more of a cookie/confection that was flavored with molasses and made in fluted molds. Then in an 1897 Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog there was a recipe for a molasses candy dubbed “brownies” which were named after the legendary, magical elves that had become the rage in pop culture then. Brownies were those rarely seen, occasionally mischievous, creatures that lived in houses or barns and finished undone housework in return for food favors.

About a decade later, the first cake brownie recipe appeared in the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book which proved less rich and chocolate laden than today’s brownies. The following year, along came a recipe for “Bangor Brownies” in Lowney’s Cook Book, authored by Maria Howard which added extra eggs and chocolate, creating a more luscious chocolate brownie. Since the early decades of last century, brownies have held a prominent place in America’s kitchens with myriad versions on the same theme.

Intensely chocolate and chewy in texture, this edition demands a scoop or two of fine vanilla ice cream. As always, the key is exquisite chocolate.

BROWNIES

1 C all purpose flour
1/2 t salt

5 ozs gourmet dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), chopped
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 T fine cocoa powder
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 C walnuts, chopped (sort of, optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Butter an 8″ square baking pan.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour and salt and set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large bowl placed over a heavy saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool some. Then stir in the cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour mixture and walnuts.

Spread evenly in the prepared pan and bake until an inserted toothpick comes out almost clean, about 30-40 minutes. Do not overcook. If anything, undercook them lightly so they remain chewy. Allow to rest before slicing.

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