December 8 is National Brownie Day.
The origins of the brownie aren't precisely known, but it apppears to have been invented in the late 19th century. The Palmer House hotel in Chicago claims to be the home of the first brownie, invented in 1893 as an easily portable dessert that could be packed in box lunches for visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition. The Palmer House still serves its version of the brownie, which has walnuts and an apricot glaze.
The city of Bangor, Maine, is another possible birthplace; it's claimed that local housewives developed the recipe at about the same time as the Palmer House brownie was created. And some of the earliest published recipes for chocolate brownies, which start appearing in cookbooks in 1904, do identify the dessert as the "Bangor Brownie."
Brownies have become so popular that there are bakeries that make nothing else. Patricia Helding, of New York's Fat Witch Bakery, gives readers more than 50 of her favorite variations in Fat Witch Brownies (e-book, print), all with fewer than ten ingredients and ready to serve in an hour or less.
If you're looking to move beyond the standard chocolate brownie, you might enjoy the offerings in Connie Weis's Extreme Brownies (e-book, print), which include Lemon Mascarpone Brownies and Triple Blueberry White Chocolate Brownies.
Perhaps you have a small household, and an entire pan of brownies is more temptation than you need. Christina Lane's Dessert for Two (e-book, print) includes smaller-sized recipes for brownies and other sweets.
And if you're nervous about baking, and would like a less intimidating way to start making brownies, Camila V. Saulsbury's Brownie Mix Bliss (e-book) might be your answer. Saulsbury presents more than 150 ways to transform boxed brownie mix into desserts that are simpler for the beginning baker, but still tasty.
Also This Week
- December 9, 1917: James Jesus Angleton was born. From 1954 to 1975, Angleton was the chief of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency. That work frequently involved foreign spies, and Angleton became increasingly convinced during his career that the Russians had infiltrated the CIA; at various times, he was convinced that Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Henry Kissinger might be Russian spies. Historians still argue over whether the CIA was ultimately helped by Angleton's zeal, or harmed by his paranoia. Jefferson Morley's biography The Ghost is available in e-book and print.
- December 10, 1922: Agnes Nixon was born. Nixon was a writer and producer of daytime soap operas, and the creator of One Life to Live and All My Children. Her shows were often ahead of their time in dealing with social and medical issues – homosexuality, the Vietnam War, AIDS, abortion – and One Life to Live introduced the soaps' first African-American family of leading characters. Nixon's memoir, My Life to Live, is available in e-book, e-audio, and print.
- December 9, 1942: Joe McGinniss was born. McGinniss was a writer best known for his nonfiction work on two subjects – American politics and true crime. His 1980s true crime books -- Fatal Vision (e-book, e-audio, print), Blind Faith (e-book), and Cruel Doubt (e-book, e-audio, print) – are still considered classics of the genre.
- December 9, 1967: Joshua Bell was born. Bell is a violinist and conductor who has recorded most of the major violin repertoire. In 2007, he performed as a busker at a Washington, D.C. subway station; in 45 minutes, he collected about $32 from the 1,1100 who passed by. Only seven people stopped to listen, and only one recognized him. Many of Bell's recordings are available for streaming at Freegal and Hoopla.