Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Battle: Brownie

The brownie has come a long way my friends. That's right boys and girls - it's time for a history lesson! On brownies! Don't you wish this was the kind of stuff you learned in your history classes? I mean, how useful is it to know that the Norman Invasion of England took place in 1066? And yet, that piece of information is just sitting in my brain and taking up necessary space. Probably the exact space I could be using to remember to check my underwear and make sure it's not inside out before I put it on (today was not a success). But I digress.

I know we all have our personal history with the brownie. For most of us, it probably began in elementary school, related to bake sales, or birthday treats. I've mentioned before that I thought brownies came out of a box up until I was in college, but that's a slight exaggeration. You see, there was one time when Thatmom made brownies from scratch. Only she forgot to put in the flour....or put in sugar instead of flour....well, you get the idea. We ended up with fudge instead of brownies. Which might explain the switch to box mixes....

I've had my own brownie trials. Try as I might, I can never get them cooked through. Maybe it's a "like mother like daughter" thing and I'm just really good at making fudge. My brownies are always dense and rich, but not like brownies that other people make. After a particularly fall apart experience, I went to the local interwebs to figure out a solution. (Hrmmm - knee pain = internet research; dense brownies = internet research.....I almost don't remember what people did to figure things out before computers). My internetting turned up a VERY interesting and VERY important fact. Did you know, our modern brownie was most probably and very likely invented by....

Drumroll please....

FANNIE FARMER her very own self!

According to several internet sources (and we all know they are infallibly reliable) the first recipe for brownies came from the Fannie Farmer 1896 cookbook. But (and this should surprise no one if they read the very first sentence of this post) it was not the brownie we know and love. Sure it was a bar cookie, but it had molasses and nuts and nary a trace of chocolate. I imagine our girl Fannie knew there was something missing, and in the 1906 revision of the book, chocolate brownies appeared - using the same recipe as her chocolate cookies, but with less flour.

And some of you may remember (if you've been reading long enough) that I happen to have a copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook! Right in my very own home! And so I thought it would be a good idea to make "the very first brownie" and see how it compares to my usual recipe. I made them in muffin pans - not because FF recommended that, but because I thought it might help with the "falling apart" my brownies usually succumb to. It did. Of course, now I can't be sure if it was the recipe or the muffin pan, but either way I ended up with some nice, chewy, brownies that didn't mush apart hours after cooling. And didn't stick together when I tried to present them on a plate. Which is a pretty big success if you ask me!

Brownies (The Fannie Farmer Recipe)
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9x9 pan with baking spray. Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, or in a nonreactive bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth.
  2. Stir in sugar, eggs, salt, flour, and vanilla. Pour into pan. Bake 40 minutes.

Brownies (the Thatgirl Recipe)
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9x9 pan with baking spray. Combine cocoa and baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in 3 Tbsp melted butter.
  3. Add 1/4 cup boiling water and stir until you get a thick batter.
  4. Stir in sugar, egg, and remaining 3 Tbsp of butter (melted). Stir until smooth.
  5. Add flour, vanilla, and salt and stir until completely blended.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into the pan. Bake 40 minutes.


  1. these look like they are just the perfect texture! I recently made a Bittman brownie recipe that is similar to this. How delicious!

  2. Have you every tried The Farm of Beverly Hills' brownie? I feel like that's the ultimate. But yours looks really good!

  3. i keep meaning to tell you this, but i picked up a FF cookbook at our library's used book sale for $2! and i would never have given it a second look if not for your posts.

    obviously, this means i'll be making brownies of my own soon.

  4. Mmmm brownies. I actually just made a pan today for some guests we have coming over. I've been dieing to dig into them! I used Alton Brown's cocoa brownie recipe since I don't have any actual chocolate in the house.

  5. I have been craving brownies lately and now I know why with delicious recipes like this in the blogosphere.