The First Chocolate Brownie Recipe Is Still Being Made In Chicago

If joy had a scent, it would resemble freshly-baked brownies! This baked confection has a universal appeal. According to Tastewise, 21.35% of restaurants around the world keep some form of brownies on their menus. Moreover, recent trends indicate that the traditional chocolate brownie has received scintillating makeovers in the sweet and savory departments. For example, beer was one of the most-preferred brownie ingredients in 2022 (via Tastewise). 

Some people love traditional fudgy brownies, and others like to experiment by incorporating new flavors — like adding espresso powder to make mocha brownies. However, even with the texture and flavor variations, there is nothing like a decadent chocolate brownie. Forbes claims that the first-ever brownie was baked in the heart of Chicago — in the central business district of Loop — at the Palmer House Hotel in 1893. And guess what? That same recipe is still being used at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel today so that visitors can experience the original flavor of this popular treat. 

The first batch of brownies

Brownies debuted during the Columbian Exposition event organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World, as per Forbes. It was during this event that socialite and philanthropist, Bertha Palmer, who was married to the Palmer House Hotel's owner, Potter Palmer, asked Pastry Chef Joseph Sehl to create a new dessert. Her instructions were clear — it should be easy to transport (via Chicago Loop Alliance). Thus, the chocolate brownie was born. 

The biggest difference between the original dessert and what we are familiar with today is the apricot glaze that is brushed on top of the original Palmer House recipe, according to New England Recipes. However, this sweet treat did not get its name until much later. One of America's premier food experts, Bruce Weinstein, claims in "The Ultimate Brownie Book" that the first recipe for the beloved dessert was printed in the 1896 "Boston Cooking-School Book" (via The Baltimore Sun). 

Get a taste of history

The dessert, baked meticulously following the original instructions, is available at the restaurants of the Palmer House Hilton Hotel located at 17 East Monroe Street, according to Forbes. You don't even have to dine in just for the sake of trying them. You can purchase brownies to go in a pretty box decorated with a Palmer House ribbon. And if you are away from Chicago and looking at recreating history, the recipe was graciously provided by the Palmer House Hilton Hotel website.

To make these delectable brownies all you need is chocolate, butter, sugar, flour, eggs, apricot preserves, and unflavored gelatin. Before you start working with the ingredients, preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, all you need to do is melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler before mixing in the combined sugar and flour for 4 to 5 minutes. Add in the eggs and continue stirring to complete the batter. Finishing them off is as simple as pouring the batter into a baking dish, pressing the walnuts into the mixture, and then baking for 30 to 40 minutes. 

You know your brownies are done when they are gooey in the middle but crispy around the edges. If you'd like to be true to the original recipe, the glaze is a simple mixture made up of 1 cup of water mixed with 1 cup of apricot preserves and 1 teaspoon of gelatin.

This historical recipe does sound uniquely satisfying!