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Chicago’s Palmer House created American dessert classic

Palmer House brownie

Palmer House brownie.

In 1893, Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer directed the chef at her husband’s Palmer House hotel in the Loop to prepare a portable sweet treat that could be packed in box lunches for guests attending the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The result was the brownie.

In honor of National Brownie Day, here’s the original recipe, still made at the hotel today.

 
Palmer House brownies

18 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 pound butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
1 pound crushed walnut meats
1 cup water
1 cup apricot preserves
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking pan.

Melt the chocolate with the butter over simmering water in a double boiler. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour and baking powder. Beat the chocolate into the dry ingredients, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and sprinkle the walnuts on top. Press the walnuts down slightly into the mixture with your hand, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the edges start to become a little crispy and the brownies have raised about 1/4 inch. (Even when the brownie is properly baked, it will test “gooey” with a toothpick in the middle due to the richness of the mixture.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool about 30 minutes.

Mix together the water, preserves and unflavored gelatin in a saucepan, and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. With a pastry brush, spread a thick layer of this glaze over the brownies.

For easiest cutting, place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours after glazing. 12 to 18 servings.