When you hear the word “brownie” you tend to think of chewy chocolate goodness. Either that or a small girl scout. Or a small girl scout eating brownies. Whatever image comes to mind, we can all agree that a chocolate brownie is one of North America’s favorite sweet treats. It’s had a strange history.
The First Brownies
It is unknown who came up with the idea of a soft chocolate cake with a texture somewhere between cookies and cake. However, the first time the word “brownies” used in a baking recipe was for small molasses-flavored brownies that contained no chocolate whatsoever in an 1896 cookbook called “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” compiled by Fanny Farmer. These molasses-flavored brownies certainly looked brown instead of cocoa black. It may be no surprise that this cookbook became the best-selling cookbook of the late 1890s. Could the brownies have had something to do with that?
The First Chocolate Brownies
It is also unknown who was the first person to substitute chocolate for molasses in a brownie recipe. There have been many legends but nothing has been proven so far. One legend is that a type of elf called a brownie came up with batches of chocolate brownies for a poor but serving baker in Bangor, Maine down on his luck. The baker called the treats “brownies” after his supernatural benefactors. Since the existence of elves has never been proven, the chance of this legend being fact is nil. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe published the first chocolate brownie recipe in 1905. They were called “Bangor Brownies” after the town that Stephen King would later immortalize with novels of not so friendly supernatural creatures.
The Brownie in Modern Times
Over the decades, Bangor Brownies were called Boston Brownies and then by the 1920s the name was just shortened to brownies. Although brownies seem to have first been popular in New England, by the end of the 1920s they were in demand all over the United States. Since then, the sky has been the limit for brownies, with chocolate-free versions, versions with icing and even vegan versions like Hampton Creek Brownies, made without eggs or milk but retaining all of the chocolate chewy taste.
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