It may just happen that after reading this post, you will undergo a dire craving of chocolate. A word of advice- keep a chunky piece of chocolate brownie prepared before continuing to discover when this sweetly revered dessert came into the world.
Chocolate brownies derived their name from an 1887 children's illustrated book by Palmer Cox, The Brownies: Their Book, where Brownies were the nocturnal, helpful, but mischievous elves. Baked using goodly amounts of chocolate, butter, sugar, cake flour and eggs, the fudgy, chewy, cakey, warm and fresh out of the oven chocolate brownie is a classic American dessert. Its exact origin is shrouded in myth. There are, in fact, several legends involved as to how they came to be: • A cook was baking a cake but didn’t have sufficient flour
• A chef, by fluke, added melted chocolate to a batch of biscuits
• A housewife in Bangor, Maine, was preparing a chocolate cake but failed remembering to add baking powder. When her cake didn’t rise adequately, she sliced and served the flat pieces.
The latter fable is most popular and is even pointed out in the cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics, a cook's guidebook etched in many a memories even today.
Way earlier, in Europe, chocolate, was met with mixed reactions. It was found to be so delectable that some of the more conventional members of the society considered it to be sinful. However, this did not stop it from attaining fashionableness among the elite who could afford it. Gradually, chocolate started being accepted for gifting and feasting upon in the society. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, in New England, the affluent families often savored a cup of chocolate for their breakfast.
The hot chocolate drink of those times was concocted in a European style, using a special chocolate pot made of copper, stone, tin or silver. This particular chocolate pot was taller and larger than a teapot, with a hole in the lid through which a mill or stirring rod could be whisked. The chocolate concoction was boiled in water, being stirred continuously to get completely incorporated until it turned frothy. The mixture was then topped and seasoned with sugar, tea, coffee, milk .
Through chocolate's popularity, increasing quantities were imported from abroad every year. So enthralled was Ben Franklin, a renowned American politician, with what he supposed was chocolate’s power to improve health and spirit that he even recommended chocolate for smallpox treatment and prescribed it to be had along with sugar, tea, coffee, vinegar, cheese and mustard for soldiers fighting in the French and Indian War. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote to John Adams in 1785, praising the confection, “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America, which it has in Spain."
During the nineteenth century, abundant quantities of cocoa were grown in Latin America, the Caribbean, and eventually in Africa due to the increasing demand. Cocoa plantations relied heavily on the meager-earning slave labor that was prevalent throughout the European colonies. With the advent of technology, however, American chocolate makers started manufacturing multiple amount of the same dessert and entered their products in competitive exhibitions, pleasing the taste-buds of experts and connoisseurs around the world.
The exuberant supply of chocolate, eventually, created an urge amongst the bakers and chefs to experiment with it in their kitchens. The use of chocolate in baking increased significantly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, all thanks to the industrious housekeeping and cooking educators who partnered with enterprises in the name of “domestic science". Soon the imprecise terms like 'pinch,' 'dash', 'smidgen' transformed into levels of measurements and the best cooks of those times started offering baking education promoting cooking schools, magazines, clubs and lecture tours. The whole affair started being termed as 'home economics', which is what helped give rise to chocolate brownies.
It is less wonder that the easiness and simplicity with which brownies are prepared today, make it the most beloved dessert worldwide. Though it is evident that chocolate companies, domestic scientists, and cookbooks were the keys to popularizing chocolate brownie, it was following World War II, when the American chocolate industry was undergoing a significant expansion due to technological advances. Chocolate companies like The Hershey Company and Mars, Incorporated developed ways to improve the shelf life of milk chocolate and produce magnificent quantities of candy in factory, ensuring that chocolate was now even more obtainable and feasible.
Good times came with the invention of microwave technology when even children could bake a brownie in a jiffy. Companies now started producing cake and brownie mix packets which paved convenience for all home-cooks in America.
Modern-day brownies have evolved into being baked with several flavor variations and add-on such as peanut butter, mint, coffee, raspberry, white chocolate, almonds, raisins, candies, caramel, hazelnuts, et al. Controversially, brownies have also been used to mix in marijuana in recent decades. With increasing legality of medical marijuana usage, brownies have come to play host to therapeutic oral delivery of the drug. Some brownie recipes also call for beets, black beans, or pureed carrots and spinach, making it a healthier alternative to the butter and sugar filled dessert.
Now that you are acquainted with the past of your favorite sweet delicacy, let's conclude with a an easy-to-make brownie recipe. You'll be fascinated to know that this takes less than a minute to get ready!
Chocolate Brownie in a Mug
Ready the ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 1 pinches of cinnamon powder
- A large microwave safe cup
- In the mug, pour melted butter.
- Add in sugar and water and whisk with a fork to dissolve the sugar.
- Add in all-purpose flour. Whisk.
- Add in cinnamon powder. Whisk.
- Add in cocoa powder. Whisk until everything is incorporated.
- Place the mug in a microwave and let it heat for 50 seconds.
- Viola! Your heavenly chocolate brownie is prepared in a flash! Team it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a dash of chocolate sauce. Relish while it lasts!
By Rooshna Memon