Aug 1, 2012

Classic Recipes: Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

For years I've been hearing about Katharine Hepburn's marvelous, fudgy brownie recipe. It got to where I'd see it on just about every major recipe site and cooking blog. I finally decided I had to try it.

Apparently it is a Hepburn family recipe, which Ms. Katharine shared with Liz Smith in a 1975 interview for Ladies' Home Journal. I haven't seen a copy of this article, so I haven't confirmed that, but oh my goodness I would like to.

I eat gluten and dairy free, so I made this with butter substitute and gluten free flour. The results were yummy, even with the substitutions.

The ingredients:

Flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, butter and unsweetened baking chocolate. All the basics.

Here's what I did:

I melted 8 tablespoons of butter and 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan over low to medium-ish heat.

See how delicious and chocolatey it already looks?

Then I took the mixture off the stove and beat in one cup of sugar, two eggs and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Get it mixed together really well.

I got pretty good results using a small spatula to mix things up. It was a challenge to keep all that stuff in such a little pan, so maybe something slightly bigger than I used would be best.

Then I stirred in 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. The recipe also calls for one cup of chopped walnuts, but I don't like anything competing with the chocolate in my brownies, so I left them out.

The recipe suggests pouring the batter into a greased and floured 8x8 inch pan. I love how much easier clean-up is with parchment paper, so I used that to line the pan instead.

Then I popped them in a 325 degrees farenheit oven for 40 minutes. 

The results:

Slightly chewy, with a bit of crispness on the outside and so fudgy and chocolatey.

It took me a few tries to get the results I wanted. The first batch was a bit too crisp, but okay. Then the second batch was so shiny and crispy that it was like eating hard candy. I finally figured out that I was just baking them slightly too long. My oven runs hot, so slightly under 40 minutes ended up working for me. It is definitely a good idea to keep an eye on them after about 35 minutes.

I liked this recipe. It's easy for a fairly novice baker like myself and it doesn't take much time to make. This  will definitely be my new go-to recipe for future evening chocolate cravings.

Here's the full recipe, which I got from Epicurious (I haven't seen much, if any variation among different versions on the Web).

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

·         1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
·         2 squares unsweetened chocolate
·         1 cup sugar
·         2 eggs
·         1/2 teaspoon vanilla
·         1/4 cup all-purpose flour
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and take the saucepan off the heat.
2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (In the original recipe, 1 cup chopped walnuts is added here as well.)
4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F for about 40 minutes.

Give it a try--and let me know what you think if you do!

Hepburn Image Source


  1. I did this recipe on Christmas of 2009. I don't know, but I must have the photo somewhere and I can send to you. The brownies were delicious, but I let it overbake a little :P

  2. I can not wait to try them.. Thank you, for posting the recipe...

  3. Thanks again for sharing the photo of your brownies Lê. I guess we both know now that we can't leave them in the oven very long!

    Dawn--let me know what you think if you do try these.

  4. From what I can tell on the Google Books snippet, Liz Smith verifies the tale of Katharine Hepburn's brownie recipe and the interview with Ms. Smith for the Ladies' Home Journal in 1975.

    We'd have to actually buy the book to read the entire passage.

    Here's the link:

  5. Fantastic Java! Thanks for the tip. I've ordered the book from the library so I can read the full passage. I'd still love to get my hands on that magazine. One of these days I'll get around to tracking it down. Thanks also for the wonderful review on Smashwords. You are too kind!