Julebrownies make for a new Norwegian treat

An old American favorite, norsk-style for the holidays

brownies

Photo: Kristi Bissell
Julebrownies—Christmas Brownies—are a special treat sure to please your holiday guests.

Kristi Bissell
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

Brownies are an all-American classic that has made its way to Norway over the years.  And who can blame the Norwegians? A succulent and slightly chewy brownie is something everyone likes. But have you ever wondered about how brownies originated as you baked up a batch or took your very first bite? No one seems to know exactly.

The name is derived from the color (brown) of these tasty treats and from the mythical pixie-like characters common in children’s stories from the same time period.

One story suggests that brownies were invented at the Palmer House in Chicago in 1892. The first recipe for “brownies” dates back to the 1896 Boston Cooking School Cookbook for molasses cakes baked in individual pans­—a far cry from what we think of as brownies today.

The earliest published recipe for chocolate brownies appears to have been for “Bangor Brownies” in the Boston Daily Globe in 1905.  Some contend they may have originated when baking powder was inadvertently left out of a chocolate cake batter, resulting in a “cake” that didn’t rise but tasted great. It is speculated that the careless cook may have lived in Bangor, Maine­, thus the name, “Bangor Brownies.”

Chocolate brownies, however, didn’t become popular until the 1920s, when chocolate became more readily available. Early recipes called for butter, eggs, sugar, flour, melted chocolate, and nuts in varying quantities, which means that making homemade chocolate brownies hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years.

But one thing is for sure: this Norwegian holiday variation on the brownie is a winner. Here we have topped the brownie pieces with delicious Christmas flavors. Crunchy nuts, sweet dried fruit, sticky honey, and fragrant cinnamon are sure to get you in proper holiday mood!

 

JULEBROWNIES — Christmas Brownies
ADAPTED FROM MATPRAT
MAKES ABOUT 20 BROWNIE SQUARES

brownies

INGREDIENTS

For the brownies:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 tbsps. Dutch process cocoa powder*
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsps. unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsps. milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the fruit and nut topping:

  • ½ cup dried apricots, cut into quarters
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped**
  • ⅓ cup shelled pistachios, toasted**
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsps. honey

*The difference between natural and Dutch process cocoa powder: Cocoa is naturally acidic. Dutch process cocoa has been neutralized to balance the acidity of the cocoa. The result is a smooth, rich tasting cocoa that is darker in color than natural cocoa. By comparison, natural cocoa has a more astringent, bitter flavor that can only be neutralized by using it in conjunction with baking soda, a naturally alkaline ingredient that tames the acidity. Dutch process cocoa is a really nice choice in this recipe because it creates rich, chocolatey brownies that are beautifully dark in color.

**To toast the nuts: Spread the pistachios and pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to a 350° oven and bake until fragrant and beginning to brown slightly, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool before proceeding with the recipe.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch x 13-inch pan with butter or baking spray. Set aside. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium low and add eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg fully into the batter before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until batter just comes together. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean, about 20–25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  4. Once the brownies are cool, make the frosting: Combine the sugar, butter, milk, and salt together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and immediately add the chocolate chips. Whisk the frosting until the chocolate is completely melted and the consistency is smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes. Immediately pour the frosting over the brownies and spread into an even layer. Let the frosting cool completely before continuing with the recipe.
  5. Just before serving, mix together the fruit and nut topping: Combine all ingredients except the honey in a medium bowl and fold gently to combine. Add the honey and fold again until all the fruit and nuts are evenly coated. Cut the brownies into squares. Spoon a little of the fruit and nut topping over the top of each brownie before serving.

This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Kristi Bissell

Kristi Bissell is the founder of True North Kitchen, a Nordic food blog designed for the American home cook. She enjoys creating recipes that celebrate her Scandinavian heritage and that approach traditional Nordic ingredients in a modern, fresh and approachable way. Kristi is a native of Minneapolis and currently resides in Omaha, Neb. When she’s not cooking and baking in her cozy kitchen, Kristi teaches private and corporate yoga classes and leads Scandinavian cooking and baking workshops. For more information, visit her blog, www.true-north-kitchen.com.