The. Best. Cocoa. Brownies. Ever.

Ever wonder where and by whom the first brownie was baked? It's a good question on National Milk Chocolate Day, which happens to be today! Culinary historians have traced the first “brownie” cake recipe to Fanny Farmer in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book circa 1906.  According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the recipe is similar an earlier Fanny Farmer chocolate cookie recipe, but with less flour and baked in a “7-inch square pan.” 

The next adaptation came along a year later when another Bostonian named Maria Willet Howard added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe and called it Lowney’s Brownies. But we all know there's no such thing as too many brownie recipes. For her next batch, Maria added yet another square of chocolate and named the recipe Bangor Brownies. Hence came the falsehood that brownies were invented by a housewife in Bangor, Maine. 

Not so. Just like the American Revolution and that shot heard 'round the world, rich chocolatey brownies were born in Massachusetts. Take that, Michele Bachmann!

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces candies or chopped nuts (optional)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Set aside.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide frying pan or skillet of simmering water. Stir until the butter is melted and the cocoa mixture is smooth. Do not overheat. Remove the bowl from the simmering skillet to cool until the mixture is barely warm, not hot.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla and chili powder, then add eggs one at a time, stir vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add flour a little at a time, stirring until you cannot see it any longer, then beat for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon. Spread batter evenly in the lined pan. Sprinkle candies or nuts on top.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out slightly moist with crumbs when inserted into the center. Place pan on a rack and let cool to room temperature before lifting up the ends of the parchment or foil liner to transfer the brownies onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into 16 two-inch brownie squares. 


  1. Yes, brownies should be chewy! These sound good. Hm, chili powder? Interesting addition to make the flavor pop.

  2. Wow! how spicy it is! After reading your blog now i just want to try it as soon as possible. love to have your chili recipe .

  3. very nice new look !! great recipes, as usual. your burst of energy is contageous. best wishes, marie

  4. oh thank you !!! i have someone in the house who periodically asks for brownies and i can't bear the box, but i do not want to get the double boiler out either !!


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