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Friday, April 2, 2010

The word "brownie" has been used to describe all sorts of things, from an early type of camera to an American football team and even a guitar favored by rock legend Eric Clapton.
But to most people, the word "brownie" means just one thing - a wonderfully indulgent chocolate treat. Moist, rich, thick and delicious, brownies are an American invention enjoyed all over the world! 

While the classic brownie recipe includes just a few ingredients (butter, sugar, chocolate, eggs, and flour), brownies can come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Here are a few popular varieties:

FUDGE BROWNIES are made with less flour and no leavening (baking powder). Melting the butter rather than creaming it with sugar yields denser, fudgier brownies.

CAKE-LIKE BROWNIES contain less butter and more flour than fudge brownies, as well as a bit of baking powder, to make them softer and lighter. Often the softened butter is creamed with the sugar rather than melted with the chocolate. Many cake-like recipes call for a splash of milk, which also gives brownies a light texture.

CHEWY BROWNIES get their texture by modifying two ingredients: an extra egg (or two) and a combination of different types of chocolate, such as unsweetened and semisweet. Combining these ingredients with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder helps round out the flavor and thicken the texture for a rich, satisfyingly chewy result.

BLONDIES are really butterscotch bars made with brown sugar, butter, and eggs (and usually nuts as well), but no chocolate. Blondies typically have a cake-like texture.

While the first published brownie recipe appeared in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue, most culinary historians believe that the brownie was invented at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago during the 1892 Columbian Exposition. Bertha Palmer (see photo) asked the hotel chef to create a special lunchbox dessert for ladies that wouldn't get their hands dirty. Here's the original recipe to try for yourself! And we highly suggest getting your hands dirty.
The Palmer House
Chocolate Fudge Brownie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 1 pound 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder                                                              
  • 8 oz. cake flour
  • 1 pound 8 oz. granulated sugar
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 pound crushed walnuts 
  • GLAZE: 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300° F. Melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler. Mix dry ingredients (except for walnuts) in a mixing bowl. Mix chocolate with dry ingredients for 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs. Pour mixture into a 9" x 12" baking sheet and sprinkle walnuts on top. Press walnuts down slightly into mixture with your hand. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. After removing from the oven, allow to cool for about 30 minutes before spreading a thin layer of glaze with a pastry brush.

KNOWING WHEN IT'S DONE:
After baking for 30 to 40 minutes, you'll know it's done when the edges start to become crispy and the brownie rises about 1/4 inch. Even after the brownie is fully baked, it will test a bit "gooey" (using a toothpick in the middle) due to the richness of the mixture.

HOW TO MAKE THE GLAZE:
Mix apricot preserves, unflavored gelatin, and water in a saucepan. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Use while hot.


BROWNIES BY SIGN

Pisces (February 20-March 20) Sweet and soothing with a caramel and pecan twist, Turtle Brownies are perfect for the sign that likes a little kick in the pants. You might want to pamper your Pisces to ensure you get a slice of these nutty, caramel-ly gems.

Aries (March 21-April 19) Quick, sharp and full of mouth-watering surprises, every Aries in the cosmos will race to bake Chili Chocolate Brownies. They're the perfect treat for the sign that likes a bit of an edge in everything they create in the kitchen!

Taurus (April 20-May 20) A little decadence and a lot of love - okay, a lot of decadence, too! Chocolate-Stuffed Peanut Butter Brownies are a Taurus delight! Rich, nutty and fun, great for the sign that will always be a kid at heart!

Gemini (May 21-June 20) A little of this and a little of that for the sign that just can't pick a favorite, Gemini will love White Chocolate Brownie Drops! With the best of dark and white chocolate, this creation will tickle Gemini's wide palate!

Cancer (June 21-July 22) Soft, sweet, creamy and divine, Apple Cheese Brownies belong to the graceful baker! None better than a Cancer to bring these homey creations to life! Better make a double batch for all the "surprise" guests they're bound to attract!

Leo (July 23-August 22) Plain and simple - what's that? Bring it on, says Leo! Chock-full of everything delicious, Ultimate Brownies will crowd a Cosmic Lion's dessert plate, and keep everyone roaring for more!

Virgo (August 23-September 22) Dark, rich, seductive and intellectual, Virgo will savor Kahlua Brownies with a cup of fine espresso during the last few nights of summer. Packed with the darkest chocolate and smoothest liqueur - not for the faint of palate!

Libra (September 23-October 22) Cool and easy, a little bit different but a certain crowd-pleaser, Libras will be serving Banana Cream Brownies at the summer barbecue! Balanced with sweet vanilla, rich chocolate and fresh fruit, these brownies won't sit out for long!

Scorpio (October 23-November 21) The sign that walks to its own beat will take the Blonde Brownies, thank you! Scorpios everywhere will snatch up these golden beauties laced with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21) When it's got to be fun, a Sag is certain to be nearby. And what says fun more than Chocolate Malt? Sagittarius will be all over Malt-Fudge Brownies. Ghiradelli chocolate, malt, walnuts - just don't expect them to share!

Capricorn (December 22-January 19) Pretty to look at and delicious to taste. Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies are Capricorn's choice! These professional quality treats are remarkably easy to make - leaving host Capricorn with more time for guests!

Aquarius (January 20- February 18) Forget the fuss of an oven - skip right to dessert! No Bake Brownie Bites are sure to be an Aquarius' favorite! Complete with creamy peanut butter and M&Ms, these little beauties take no time at all, and there will be plenty to share!

Courtney Weber is a writer, performer, activist and amateur astrologer who's causing all kinds of problems in New York City.

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