A rather cynical article came out in the New York Times dining section a few months ago, which posited that brownies are “one of the few truly American baking creations ever to enter the canon.” Exactly where the author (one Julia Moskin) ever got such a cracked idea is beyond me. If by “the canon” she means the front window of your average Parisian pastry shop, she may be right. More than a few Parisian bakeries contain small American ghetto sections, containing pathetically dry brownies, limp blueberry muffins, and crumbly, lonely-looking chocolate chip cookies. But to imply that these are somehow America’s only contributions to world baking culture is patently absurd. Then again I’ve learned to never put much stock into any food article that uses the word “loamy”. Maybe that’s just me.
Since well before the Declaration of Independence, Americans led the world in the art of home baking. While Europeans were still chained to their communal ovens, individual Americans, thanks to an abundance of cooking fuel and can-do spirit (not to mention a dearth of professional bakers and pastry makers) were cranking out breads, cookies, cakes and pies to beat the proverbial band. They were also experimenting with baking ingredients, techniques and technology like no others had ever done before them. A short list of American baking innovations would include baking powder biscuits, quick breads of all kinds, corn breads, muffins, and especially cakes. American home bakers are to this day the world’s most prolific cake bakers, and in fact were probably the first to bake chocolate cake. Add in the bewildering variety of cookies, pies, cobblers, bars and brownies we’ve created and the sheer quantity of American baking boggles the mind.
So put that in your corn cob pipe and smoke it, Ms. Moskin! Not everyone on staff at the New York Times may be willing to recognize American home bakers as the global creative force that they are, but I sure am.