June 18, 2012

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

So, here's some trivia for you: Katharine Hepburn made a mean brownie.

When a young woman was thinking of leaving college at Bryn Mawr, her father intervened with some neighborly help--from Katharine Hepburn.  Not only the family's neighbor, Katharine Hepburn was also a Bryn Mawr alum.  The story goes that the father bumped into Katharine Hepburn and told her what was going on.  Katharine wasted no time and called the snoozing daughter at 7:30 am.  Her words of "What a damn stupid thing to do!" served as a wake-up call on many different levels for the daughter.

Katharine invited the father and daughter to her home later in the afternoon.  Over homemade brownies and tea, Katharine Hepburn encouraged the young woman to stick it out at college, and she shared three rules of life: "1. Never quit; 2. Be yourself; and 3. Don't put too much flour in your brownies."  The young woman graduated.

Katharine Hepburn was enormously talented, and I was excited to whip up a batch of her brownies.  These are the perfect fudgy brownies.  The top crust is dry and cracked, and underneath, the brownie is sweet and fudgy.  With the nuts, they reminded me of my grandma's Christmas fudge.  Yum.

This is a ridiculously simple recipe: you melt chocolate and butter on the stovetop, and then you mix in sugar, eggs, and a small amount of flour, along with some vanilla and salt.

Oh, and unsweetened chocolate?  How can those two words really belong together?  Unsweetened chocolate is chocolate in its purest form, with no sugar and other ingredients added.  It has a strong, almost bitter taste.  Federal regulations require that unsweetened chocolate contain between 50 to 60 percent cocoa butter.  21 C.F.R. §163.111.  (Aah, I love the law.  I pulled out my Bluebook, which my dog chewed, to check on citing regulations, just in case any fellow baking barristers are reading.)  Lower amounts of cocoa butter result in a richer chocolate flavor.

You can use the unsweetened "Baker's" chocolate from your local grocery store, but I would recommend using a higher quality chocolate for decadence sake!  Sharffen Berger, Callebaut, and Ghiradelli were ranked as the top three unsweetened chocolates.  I used some unsweetened imported Belgium dark chocolate that I brought back from Trader Joe's.  Alternatively, you can also use unsweetened cocoa powder, too.

Enjoy a batch of these brownies, and remember Katharine Hepburn's three wise rules!

Oh, and never underestimate the power of a brownie. ;)

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate OR 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  In a heatproof bowl, melt butter with chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water, and stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Mix in eggs, one at a time.  Add sugar, flour, nuts, vanilla, and salt.  Pour into a greased 8"x8" square pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  "Don't overbake!"  The brownies should still be gooey.  As hard as it is, let the brownies cool before cutting into bars.

Note: If you happen to overcook the brownies, just cut the dry edges off and serve as biscotti with ice cream, and cut the center of the brownies into squares.

Source: Directly adapted from Straight Talk from Miss Hepburn; Plus the Actress's Own Brownie Recipe


  1. I Love brownies! These look totally delicious!

  2. Ha! Her three rules in life are ace! I can dig it. Pretty much awesome advice. Your brownies are pretty much awesome too :) DELISH!


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