In addition to being World Autism Sunday, Umbrella Day, and “All the News That’s Fit To Print” Day, February 10 is celebrated as National ‘Have a Brownie Day.
Does it need to be a holiday? Probably not. But we’re glad that it is, anyhow.
What’s the big deal about brownies? Brownies are a popular American dessert. Full of chocolate, super-simple to make, limitlessly customizable, it’s easy to see why brownies are one of America’s favorite dessert treats.
As far back as 30 years ago, Americans ate over two billion brownies per year, and current consumption numbers show no sign of letting up.
The chocolate brownie was developed in America in the late 1893s by hotelier and socialite Bertha Palmer (of Chicago’s Palmer Hotel). A recipe for chocolate brownies was first mentioned in print in Boston’s Fanny Farmer cookbook (1896), and the small chocolate dessert became popular throughout the US and Canada during the first half of the 20th century.
The basic brownie recipe is incredibly simple, with only five ingredients: butter, sugar, chocolate, eggs and flour. You can make brownies with melted chocolate chips, but straight cocoa powder or unsweetened chocolate are normally used, with a healthy serving of sugar.
Dense, rich fudgy brownie recipes use minimal flour and no baking powder at all. These use melted butter with the cocoa / baking chocolate and sugar, yielding a denser, fudgier outcome.
Thicker-but-fluffier cakelike brownie recipes will often call for less butter and more flour than their fudgy counterparts (as well as a little baking powder for leavening). The room-temperature, softened butter is creamed together with the sugar rather than melted with the chocolate. Creaming the butter whips air into the brownie batter, which (with the baking powder) causes the brownies to rise higher.
Chewy brownies get their texture from the addition of an extra egg. Sometimes, chewy brownie recipes create a richer chocolate texture from a combination of two chocolates: semi-sweet and unsweetened, along with cocoa powder.
Mix-ins. Although cannabis is the most controversial brownie “mix-in,” walnuts remain the most popular (and legal). Among legal mix-ins, anything goes: from sprinkles on top, to candies and chocolate chips in the batter, to your favorite spice, extract, salt or pepper, or flavor-infused olive oil. Brownies make a great backdrop for all kinds of interesting flavors and textures.
One big cookie. The largest brownie ever made was at the Hudson Valley Chocolate Festival and Holiday Crafts Show in Suffern, New York, in 2001. Using 750 pounds of melted chocolate chips, the giant brownie weighed 3,000 pounds!
What about blondies? We sort of question whether blondies count at all as “brownies,” but they are yummy bar cookies in their own right. Made with brown sugar, butter and eggs, (and no chocolate!), blonde brownies are golden brown, sweet and have a cakelike texture.
To give you some starter ideas, we really like the recipes for Spicy Brownies with Poblano Powder (and a hint of Espresso Brava Salt), and Coffee-Flavored Brownies, flavored with Coffee Extract, and topped with Espresso Brava Salt.
More brownie-themed stories and recipes at this link.