The history of Brownies


We’re so often asked about the history of brownies and why they’re considered American.  (We’re also asked about why we at Dello Mano took brownies on with such passion, but that’s another story…..)

dello mano brownies

Dello Mano Espresso Walnut Brownies

Stories abound regarding brownie beginnings with some contention about our beloved brownie’s provenance. A number of people argue different theories about exactly where the first brownie recipe was developed. We here at Dello Mano  know one thing for sure and that is that Brownies are the most adorable little creatures. While we have no leaning one way or the other about provenance, we do enjoy the Bertha Palmer story about the history of brownies…

Rewind to 1893.

chicago exposition

Chicago Exposition

The Columbian Exposition, in Chicago, was the last and apparently the most grand of the World Fairs. Millions of people visited from all over the world and it was a time of great excitement providing the chance for manufacturers to showcase different products. As with all the great fairs, many engineering feats were on display including the giant Ferris wheel providing a great view of nineteenth century Chicago.

chicago exposition ferris wheel

Ferris Wheel at the Chicago Fair

The fair also offered a showcase for fresh produce. Great fruit and vegetable displays demonstrated the care and pride of the agriculturists. These displays perhaps the origins of the showcases we still enjoy at many of the Agricultural Shows that exist today. I know we always make a bee line to the fruit and vegetable displays at the Ekka here in Brisbane. They’re always such a beautiful reminder of the great produce that we enjoy here in Australia and of the amazing patience and care required by people including kids to put together such creative displays.

fruit and vegetable display at the Chicago Exposition

the great tradition of the fruit and vegetable display

Such was this grand and very exciting occasion that Bertha Palmer owner of the very prestigious Chicago hotel, the  Palmer House Hotel asked her chef to bake a dessert that would be smaller than a slice of cake, so it could be boxed along with a lunch bag and served at the Women’s building at the Fair (Now that’s what we call style – lunch with a brownie! – is there any other way?). The chef immediately went to work, developing what is thought to be the world’s first brownie recipe. He baked the very first batch of brownies with walnuts and an apricot glaze.

Apparently if you visit the Palmer House Hotel to this day you can still order this original brownie recipe.  As brownie connoisseurs and with the quest to make the best brownie, a trip to Chicago is on the Dello Mano family’s “must do” list!

1 Comment

  1. […] are brownies? No, they couldn’t possibly be simply a flat, baked chocolate dessert. Not even a cross […]

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