The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a chocolate-lovers dream: Boston-based chocolatier Walter M. Lowney brought the first American chocolate bars. America’s oldest chocolate maker, Walter Baker & Company, handed out samples and showed visitors how chocolate was made. And the Palmer House introduced the first chocolate brownie, because Bertha Palmer wanted a portable dessert that ladies could have in boxed lunches at the fair.
Unlike other brownie recipes which started appearing in 1904 and specified that butter and sugar were first creamed before being combined with a small amount of melted chocolate, the Palmer House brownie is made with more than a pound of melted chocolate and a pound of melted butter. The finished brownie is also glazed with apricot jelly. A combination of chocolate fudge and brownie, crispy-chewy on the edges, ultra dense and chocolatey, we think it’s best served frozen, or very cold…otherwise, gooey things happen. (Not sure how this worked in a boxed lunch…) Chef Stephen Henry says for cleanest slices, freeze the brownies for three hours after glazing. Then cut, and serve while very firm and cold. For more story on Bertha Palmer and the Palmer House Hilton history, see our Palmer House Hilton Prosciutto-Wrapped Filet story.
Makes One, 9 x 12 pan of brownies
- 1 lb. plus 2 oz. high-quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 lb. butter
- 12 oz. granulated sugar
- 8 oz. cake flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 4 large whole eggs
- 1 lb crushed, toasted walnuts
Apricot Glaze Ingredients
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
- Make brownies: Melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl suspended over very hot water. Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (except walnuts.) Mix melted chocolate/butter mixture with dry ingredients. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, taking about 5 minutes continuous whisking from the first egg to the last. Butter and flour a 9 x 12 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350. Toast walnuts for about 15 minutes until fragrant. Lower oven temperature to 300. Chop walnuts and set aside. Spread brownie batter into the prepared pan. It will be very liquid. Sprinkle surface with the chopped walnuts, pressing down so that they are partly submerged. Bake in 300 degree oven 45 to 50 minutes until the brownies have crisped on the edge of the pan–about 2-inches around the full edge of the pan. The brownies in the center of the pan will remain slightly jiggly. Note: even when properly baked, these brownies will test “gooey” in the center with a toothpick test, due to the richness of the batter. Remove brownies from oven and cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Chef Stephen Henry says for cleanest slices, freeze the brownies for three hours after glazing. Then cut, and serve while very firm and cold.
- Make glaze: Mix water, preserves and unflavored gelatin in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until boiling; heat at boiling for two minutes. While the glaze is still hot, spread a thick layer over the brownies. Cool completely. Place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Slice and serve while very cold and firm.