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Brownout: A Tale and Tasting of Two Brownies from 1923

Brownies are undoubtedly delicious, but when it comes to the story of their origins, things are less clear. While today's not the day to delve into that at great depth (soon! promise!), we are going to take a moment to discuss a bit of the brownie's ties to The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

As I learned here, the 1896 edition of the Boston Cooking School cookbook was among the first known publications to feature "brownies" - but this version was really more like a blondie, little individual cakes garnished with nut halves.

However, as I learned here, the 1905 version of the book had a brownie redux, and this time, they had chocolate. 

But then, in the 1923 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, with no explanation at all, there are not one but two chocolate brownie recipes--simply labeled "Brownies 1" and "Brownies 2". There were a couple of differences in the recipes--most notably the absence of butter or oil in #2, which seemed to get all of its fat content from eggs and nuts. In both cases though, the brownies are only a cousin to the brownies we know today, which are generally far denser and more chocolatey than these ones (and I vote that modern chocolate-y ones have evolved into higher states of deliciousness).

Well, naturally this prompted some curiosity, and so I baked up a few batches of each (sans nuts) and put them out at my store with this sign:

Big surprise: people were more than willing to take this challenge. As for the results?

File under duh: people wanted a combo. Tasters mostly preferred the flavor of Brownie 1 (what with its delicious butter), but overwhelmingly preferred the chewier texture of Brownie 2. Which is to say...Brownie 1.5 takes the cake?

A big thank you to the generous tasters and their input. Here are the two recipes, BTW.

Brownies 1

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg, unbeaten
2 squares chocolate, melted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla (to mix things up you could also use almond extract, as I did in one batch)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup walnut meats


Mix ingredients in order given. Line a seven-inch square pan with paraffine paper. Spread mixture evenly in a pan and bake in a slow oven (I did 325 for 30-35 minutes, just until dull on top). As soon as taken from
oven turn from pan, remove paper, and cut cake in strips, using a sharp knife. If these instructions are not followed paper will cling to cake, and it will be impossible to cut into shapely pieces.

Brownies 2

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or almond extract, as I did in some batches)
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup walnut meats, in pieces


Beat eggs lightly and add remaining ingredients. Spread evenly in a
buttered 7-inch pan and bake in a moderate oven twenty minutes (I did
350). Cut in squares.

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Reader Comments (5)

Mmm. I probably wouldn't be able to decide - texture plays a BIG part in deciding the deliciousness of a food for me! :D I love your experiments. Maybe you should do more comparisons with your customers as guinea pigs! <-- AWESOMESAUCE!


July 7 | Unregistered CommenterWei-Wei

What would be a good way to combine both of those things into a real Brownie 1.5?

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterSatpreet

What a darling idea! I will have to try both recipes because I am a brownies-from-scratch kinda gal. I will let you know how they turn out!


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