Brownies are common lunchbox fare, typically eaten out of hand, and often accompanied by milk or coffee. They are sometimes served warm with ice cream (à la mode) or topped with whipped cream, especially in restaurants.
A similar bar made with brown sugar and no chocolate is called a blondie. They are also baked in a pan in the oven similar to how traditional brownies are baked.
The brownie's first public appearance was during the 1893 Columbian Exposition. A chef at the Palmer House Hotel created the confection after Bertha Palmer requested a dessert for ladies attending the fair that would be smaller than a piece of cake, and easily eaten from boxed lunches. These brownies feature an apricot glaze and walnuts, and are still being made at the hotel according to the original recipe.
The earliest published recipe for a brownie like those of today appeared in the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This early recipe produced a relatively mild and cake-like brownie. The name "brownie" first appeared in the 1896 version of the cookbook, but this was in reference to molasses cakes baked individually in tin molds, not true brownies.
A second recipe appeared in 1907 in Lowney’s Cook Book, by Maria Willet Howard and published by the Walter M. Lowney Company of Boston, Massachusetts. This recipe added an extra egg and an additional square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking School recipe, creating a richer, fudgier brownie. The recipe was named Bangor Brownies, possibly because it was created by a woman in Bangor, Maine.
According to the chefs of America's Test Kitchen, chocolate desserts such as brownies should be removed promptly from the oven to retain the best chocolate taste. This is because many of the compounds that give chocolate its flavor are highly volatile and easily lost. The smell of brownies cooking is an indication that flavor and aroma are being released into the air. Because they will continue to cook for a few minutes from residual heat, it is best to remove brownies from the oven as early as possible, generally when a toothpick test still shows a few moist crumbs.. In order to perform the toothpick test, it is usually best to stick the toothpick as close to the middle as possible. When the batter is put into a pan, it tends to be the most dense in the middle, so inserting the toothpick in the middle should give you the most accurate idea if the brownies are cooked all the way through.