Off the Menu: Palmer House brownie at Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel
Experience the sweet life at Palmer House — the birthplace of the brownie! — with executive sous chef Jason Schroeder. | By Alison Cavatore | December 8, 2022
What better way to experience a city than through its food? This is especially true in Chicago, where the options are plentiful. After you’ve made your way through the Windy City’s deep-dish pizza eateries, Chicago-style hot dogs and more, you may be craving something sweet. Look no further than a sweet treat that originated in the city itself: the brownie.
This is not your average brownie, however. To find out what makes it so special, head to the heart of downtown Chicago’s theater district and enter the nation’s longest continually operating hotel — Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel — for the epitome of a decadent treat. Palmer House’s executive sous chef, Jason Shroeder, who attended culinary school in Chicago, is on hand to demonstrate what makes the Palmer House brownie stand out.
Schroeder says, “What is there not to like about a brownie? It’s pure happiness baked into a fudgy cake. It’s always exciting to see something that makes people happy.”
Expertly made using the same recipe as the one used over a century ago, the Palmer House brownie (aka the Bertha brownie) is credited to Bertha Honore Palmer — socialite, philanthropist and wife of local business magnate, Potter Palmer, who gifted the hotel to his wife on their wedding day. In 1893, before attending the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, Bertha asked pastry chefs at Palmer House to devise a cake-like confection to be included in boxed lunches for attendees. The rest is sweet, chocolatey history.
Today, you can pair your perfect brownie with a Bertha’s Brownie Latte, served hot or cold, at Lockwood Express, located just off the grand lobby. For the over-21 crowd, sample the hotel bar’s top-seller – a traditional old fashioned garnished with maraschino cherries and a brownie. Inspired to whip up a batch at home? Make note of Schroeder’s number one tip: “Always pay extra for better butter.”
So, go ahead, splurge and spread some cheer in the form of a rich, chocolatey brownie. Enjoy!
— 14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
— 12 ounces granulated sugar
— 1 pound butter
— 4 ounces all-purpose flour
— 1 teaspoon baking powder
— 6 large eggs
— Vanilla extract
— 12 ounces crushed or chopped walnuts
— 1 cup water
— 1 cup apricot reserves
— 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
Preparation of brownie
Preheat oven to 300 F (149 C).
Temper semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler*. Continue mixing until melted, making sure the chocolate doesn’t burn and has a thin consistency.
*Note: To create a double boiler, bring an inch or two of water to a simmer and then place a bowl with your ingredients inside over the top. Tempering is a method of heating and cooling chocolate that stabilizes it and creates a smooth and glossy finish.
Mix in the sugar. Remove from heat and incorporate well.
Temper in the butter to the mixture. Set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.
Grab your cooled chocolate mixture. Fold in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract.
Combine your wet and dry ingredients.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle the walnuts on top, lightly pressing them down into the batter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to slightly crisp and the mixture has risen about ¼ of an inch.
Chef’s note: Due to the richness of the mixture, the brownie will have a gooey consistency in the middle when a toothpick is inserted.
Preparation of glaze
In a double boiler, incorporate apricot reserves and unflavored gelatin until glaze is smooth and hot.
Gently dab the glaze on the brownies while they are still warm, taking care to not dislodge any walnuts.
Let the brownies rest for 10 to 15 minutes until the glaze sets.
(Recipe from Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel executive sous chef, Jason Schroeder, 2022.)
Alison Cavatore is the assistant editor for the content marketing team at Hilton. She has written and copyedited for numerous print and digital publications in the U.S. and abroad. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Alison has lived in Miami, Scottsdale, Holland, France, Switzerland and Canada. She currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area.