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Historical Brownies

IMG_8822Fannie Farmer’s brownies

I always read with interest and great enjoyment the posts of My Revolutionary Pie a fascinating look at American culinary history. I was particularly taken with a “Brownies” post, which detailed the origins and evolution of this now ubiquitous sweet treat.

Below are My Revolutionary Pie’s adaptations of one of the first brownie recipes from 1906 created by Fannie Farmer, in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and a recipe of a former student of Farmer, Maria Willett Howard, published in 1907 in Lowney’s Cook Book.

Both brownies are different from the dense, heavy versions of today. They both contain quite a small amount of chocolate – 2 ounces (about 57 grams). They are sweeter and less chocolatey. I liked the Lowney’s Cook Book version better  – it has more butter and produced a less crunchy texture. The walnuts really stand out in both versions.

However, the photos look very similar – I can really only tell the difference because I photographed them on different plates!

For the full and fascinating early history of the brownie, see the post:
http://revolutionarypie.com/2015/04/10/brownies/

Fannie Farmer’s Brownies
Adapted from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1906 edition)

¼ cup butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C) Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Blend melted butter with sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in slightly cooled chocolate and vanilla extract and stir well. Blend in flour, followed by walnuts.

3. Spread mixture evenly in baking pan, using an offset spatula if possible.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until firm. Let rest a few minutes, then invert brownies from pan onto cutting board, peel off parchment, and slice into squares.IMG_8834

Lowney’s Brownies
Adapted from Lowney’s Cook Book by Maria Willett Howard (1912 edition)

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C). Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Cream the butter briefly, then gradually add the sugar, and cream well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the slightly cooled chocolate.

3. Whisk together the flour and salt, then add to the batter and mix well. Stir in the nuts.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm on top. Cut into squares in pan, then let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.IMG_7251

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