The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a chocolate-lovers dream. It was there that Boston-based chocolatier Walter M. Lowney displayed the first American chocolate bars. It was there that America’s oldest chocolate maker, Walter Baker & Company (1765–more history here) , showed visitors how chocolate was made, handing out free samples and free chocolate-recipe brochures. And it was there that the first chocolate brownie was introduced, created by the Palmer House hotel kitchens in response to Bertha Palmer’s request for a portable dessert that ladies could enjoy in boxed lunches at the fair.
Unlike other brownie recipes which started appearing in 1904 and specified that butter and sugar were first creamed before being combined with a small amount of melted chocolate, the Palmer House brownie is unique, made with more than a pound of melted chocolate and a pound of melted butter. The finished brownie is also glazed with apricot. And oh my, is it good! True to its name, the Palmer House Hilton treat is a combination of chocolate fudge and brownie, crispy-chewy on the edges, ultra dense and chocolatey, and best served frozen, or very cold. Palmer House Hilton historian Ken Price says the brownie remains a standard at the hotel, made from the original recipe and offered to restaurant guests as an after-meal thank-you treat. For more story on Bertha Palmer and the Palmer House Hilton history, see our Palmer House Hilton Prosciutto-Wrapped Filet story, and, you can also join hotel historian Ken Price for “History is Hott!” a guided tour plus lunch at the hotel’s Lockwood Restaurant.
Makes One, 9 x 12 pan of brownies
1 lb. plus 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 lb. butter
12 oz. granulated sugar
8 oz. cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
4 large whole eggs
1 lb crushed, toasted walnuts
Apricot Glaze Ingredients
1 cup water
1 cup apricot preserves
1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
Make brownies: Melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl suspended over very hot water. Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (except walnuts.) Mix melted chocolate/butter mixture with dry ingredients. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, taking about 5 minutes continuous whisking from the first egg to the last. Butter and flour a 9 x 12 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350. Toast walnuts for about 15 minutes until fragrant. Lower oven temperature to 300. Chop walnuts and set aside. Spread brownie batter into the prepared pan. It will be very liquid. Sprinkle surface with the chopped walnuts, pressing down so that they are partly submerged. Bake in 300 degree oven 45 to 50 minutes until the brownies have crisped on the edge of the pan–about 2-inches around the full edge of the pan. The brownies in the center of the pan will remain slightly jiggly. Note: even when properly baked, these brownies will test “gooey” in the center with a toothpick test, due to the richness of the batter. Remove brownies from oven and cool on a rack for 30 minutes.
Make glaze: Mix water, preserves and unflavored gelatin in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until boiling; heat at boiling for two minutes. While the glaze is still hot, spread a thick layer over the brownies. Cool completely. Place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Slice and serve while very cold and firm.
Note: I had these, and they are AMAZING.