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Here’s the Recipe for the First-Ever Brownie, Invented in Chicago

It was served by the Palmer House at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Photo: Brian Nguyen/Chicago Tribune

Like Twinkies and Frango mints, brownies were born in our fair city. Credit goes to Bertha Palmer, wife of the Palmer House’s original owner. Apparently the organizers of the famed World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 asked her and the hotel to concoct a delicious and transportable dessert, and a classic was born. Here’s the recipe.

The Palmer House Brownie

Yield: About 24 brownies

Active time: 20 minutes


14 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 lb. butter
12 oz. granulated sugar
4 oz. flour
8 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. crushed walnuts
1 cup water
1 cup apricot preserves
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin


1 Heat oven to 300 degrees.

2 Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. 

3 Combine sugar and flour, and fold in the melted chocolate. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. 

4 Pour batter into greased 9-by-12-inch pan. Top with walnuts. Bake until brownies rise about half an inch and edges are crisp (30 to 40 minutes). Center should be a little gooey when toothpick-tested. Cool for 30 minutes. 

5 For the glaze, boil water, preserves, and gelatin for 2 minutes. While the glaze is still hot, spread a thin layer on top of brownies.

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