I admit it. I’m a sucker for a great fudgy-ooey-gooey brownie. In fact, it would be on the menu of my last meal. Did you know that the modern day brownie originated > 120 years ago at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago? Here’s the story.
The Palmer House has been an iconic property since 1871. Famous on many fronts other than inventing the brownie, the hotel completely burned to the ground in Chicago’s Great Fire a mere 13 days after it opened. Two years later the Palmer House rose from the ashes and made headlines: it was the first hotel to use Edison’s recent invention, the light-bulb. Moreover, it was the first hotel to use Bell’s invention, the telephone. But, there’s more. It was the first to use the “vertical railroad,” which we call today the elevator. Now, for the hotel’s real star, the brownie.
This ethereal chocolate dessert was concocted in the kitchen of the Palmer House hotel in 1893, the year of the World’s Fair in Chicago. Bertha Palmer, wife of the hotel’s owner, was involved in orchestrating the women’s activities at the Fair. Mrs. Palmer asked the chef of her hotel to make a “ladies dessert:” one that would be easier to eat than a piece of pie, was smaller than a slice of layer cake, and one that could be transported without issues to the Fair. As Mrs. Palmer loved chocolate, it was a no- brainer for the chef. The brownie was born.
This recipe, created over a century ago, is still served today at the Palmer House Hotel. It remains one of their most popular desserts. Check it out:
1 lb high quality, semi-sweet chocolate
1 lb butter
1.5 cups sugar
½ cup cake flour
2 cups chopped, toasted walnuts
1 cup water
1 cup apricot preserves
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin