A Question for the Ages- How to Classify a Brownie?

O n the way home from Canada I put forth the following question to Tara: Is the delicious chocolate brownie that we all know and love a cookie or a cake?

What followed that question was a half hour discussion on what constitutes a cookie, a cake and even a bar. Like many of our discussions surrounding food, nothing was fully resolved, aside from the fact that we both have fairly strong opinions on fairly trivial matters.

However, we’ve both done some canvassing of various co-workers and friends via e-mail and conversations. Here are some of the comments.

  • “Cake! It’s definitely not a cookie…. I’m pretty strict about what is called a cookie vs. what isn’t – a cookie is a shape, not the ingredients that make the shape. So if it’s not in the shape of a cookie – it ain’t a cookie.”
  • “It’s a cake isn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t have icing and it’s denser than a cake, but it’s still a cake. It’s cake-ish.”
  • “Now that is a perplexing questions re the brownie’s. I think they are pretty much something to put ice cream on and as a result in a category all their own.”
  • “I don’t think brownies are a cake. But I can see why some people think that they can be. But I don’t think they’re cookies either, but I can also see why other people believe that they are. They are offered on cookie tables at Christmas after all”.
  • “A brownie is not a cookie, nor would I say it is a cake. My Midwest upbringing classifies brownies, rice krispie treats, and related ilk as bars. Are bars not a common culinary-accepted term or ‘genre?’ So rigid. If forced to choose, to me, a cookie is more ‘wafer-ish,’ as in thin, therefore a brownie in particular would be more cake than cookie – it is not thin, but has ‘loft’ and a cakey texture (and frosting).”

My response to the “A brownie is a bar” argument…aren’t bars a cookie variant? It’s is socially acceptable to have more than one bar in one sitting, much like it’s socially acceptable to eat more than one cookie at one sitting. But it’s socially unacceptable to have more than one slice of cake at one sitting.

Additionally, aren’t Fig Newtons bar-like? Aren’t they considered cookies? Or are fig newtons the ‘missing link’ between cookies and bars?

Feel free to add your opinion to this completely trivial matter in the comments below.

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