The first Ferris wheel, neon lights and the forerunner to the zipper all made their debut at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. So did Juicy Fruit gum, Shredded Wheat, and Cream of Wheat. But bakers and dessert lovers the world over fell in love with another invention, quietly unveiled at the Women’s Pavilion during the fair: the brownie.
Chicago socialite and philanthropist Bertha Palmer had asked the pastry chefs at her husband’s hotel, The Palmer House, to come up with some sort of dessert that wasn’t as messy as a cake or pastry to unfussily fit inside the box lunches for the ladies at the fair. The pastry chefs responded with square-cut brownies wrapped in wax paper—and we've been baking and packing the bar cookies ever since. Though we've added a few new flavors and innovations along the way, the earliest recipes for brownies include much of the same basic ingredients still used today: butter, eggs, flour, chocolate, leavening and nuts. Here are a few of our favorite variations.
—By Jeanette Hurt