Brownies are about as American as suburbs and the Flintstones, aren’t they? Who hasn’t had brownies from a box mix – at school or for a birthday party or an awkward office potluck? They’re always on the dessert table and with a little water, some oil and a couple of eggs – voila! You’ve done your part, so Joyce over in Accounts Payable can just shut up about how you never contribute.
According to the Foodimentary Blog, brownies were actually invented here in Chicago at our very own Palmer House Hotel way back in 1893. Turns out Bertha Palmer (God love her) asked the hotel chef to create a “lady’s dessert” during the Columbian Exposition – which was the greatest World’s Fair EVER and famously chronicled in The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson. Go Chi-City!
Brownies were also one of the first pre-packaged food mixes, first appearing in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue in 1897. So how’s that for some food history?
I grew up eating brownies, but I never thought they were anything special. And, as I’ve said before, I’ve never fancied myself to be much of a baker. I’ve certainly never thought about making them from scratch until I ran across this recipe on Chow.com and it struck me how easy and delicious they seemed. So I gave them a shot and they WERE delicious. Ridiculously delicious. For me, the kicker was adding the espresso. I’m sure this is no big revelation for a lot of folks, but it gave the brownies a whole extra layer of flavor that kind of knocked my socks off. It made them rich and super intense – they almost seemed more like a ‘grown-up brownie’ if that makes sense? Definitely not something in a box for kids. These were grown-ass brownies! Here’s how I made them –
Melt some baking chocolate with butter – stirring constantly until they’re combined. Once they’re melted and combined well, remove from heat and let it cool down to room temperature. Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures of this step. I only remembered my camera for the next part – combine some eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and brewed espresso. I made a special trip up the street to Starbucks for this and it was so worth it. Once this is all mixed well, add in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.
Next, add in the flour and mix everything well.
Once your batter is mixed well, line an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with foil. I don’t know why this was necessary, but I followed the directions from the original recipe and it came out great. Add the batter to the foil-lined dish and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
What this resulted in was a super intense flavored brownie. Dark and chocolatey, very moist with a great texture.
And what I did to top it all off was melt some regular, creamy peanut butter in the microwave. Just peanut butter – nothing else added – and drizzled that over the top of the brownies. And this proceeded to send me clean over the edge.
They were amazing – 1000 times better than any box mix and not much more effort, either. The extra effort was very much worth it and I can’t recommend this recipe enough – enjoy!
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon brewed espresso
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with aluminum foil. Combine the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until evenly melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Combine the eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, espresso (if using), and salt in a large bowl and briefly stir until just evenly incorporated. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until well blended and uniform in color. Add the flour and stir until just incorporated (no white streaks should remain).
Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. You know the drill. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting.