Katharine Hepburn will always hold a very special place in my heart. Andrew and I chose to be married on May 12th, Kate’s birthday, because we knew it was a date we would never forget. (Or if one of us did forget, it was easy enough to look up!)
Kate basically got me through high school. And college.
I actually wrote my final Capstone Paper at University on her! It was my tribute to a woman who taught me through her example to keep on fighting, even when the going gets super tough.
I could go into Ms Hepburn’s fabulous career, Oscar nominations, and wins here, but I’ll save that for another post. Instead, in honor of her birthday, I want to share with you some Hepburn brownie history, and my twist on Kate’s family recipe.
The Brownie Expert of Hollywood
Katharine Hepburn’s brownie recipe was famous within the Hollywood community of her time.
Almost as famous as her recipe was how, according to such friends as George Cukor, Hepburn could put a pan of said brownies away by herself in a single sitting and somehow still keep her trim figure!
Kate kept the recipe pretty much under-wraps until later in her life. I found a really cool story shared just after her passing in 2003, by a woman who may have been one of the first to acquire the much sought after Hepburn Brownie recipe.
Kate Shares Some Inspiration
The year was 1983, and Heather Henderson was an unhappy senior at Bryn Mawr, which also happens to be Katharine Hepburn’s alma mater. If you are familiar with Hepburn’s life, you already know that Kate’s time at Bryn Mawr was not exactly a bed of roses, yet in true Hepburn style, she gritted her teeth, stuck to it, and graduated.
Anyway, Ms Henderson was seriously considering dropping out of Bryn Mawr to pursue other passions, much to the worry of her father, who happened to live in New York not far from Katharine Hepburn. In fact, Mr. Henderson bought his groceries at Gristede’s, the same place Kate shopped. The two ended up becoming grocery buddies over the years, so Mr. Henderson decided to ask Kate for some words of advice he could relay to his daughter, to inspire her to stay in school.
But Kate did him one better. In Heather Henderson’s words:
“At 7:30 the next morning, the phone woke me up. I answered it and heard that famous voice, crackling with command. ‘Is this the young woman who wants to quit Bryn Mawr?’ I said it was. ‘What a damn stupid thing to do!’ she snapped. She went on to give me a lively lecture, the gist of which was that I had to finish my studies and get my degree, and after that I could do what I wanted to do. There was no arguing with her imperiousness. Then she said she wanted to meet us for tea.”
On the day of the tea party, after further conversation with Kate, Ms Henderson was inspired to continue her studies at Bryn Mawr. Thanks to Kate, Heather did end up graduating.
Kate Shares Her Brownie Recipe!
Kate invited them for a few more visits. On one of those visits, Heather’s father brought Hepburn some of his homemade brownies.
“’Too much flour!’ Kate declared. She then rattled off her own recipe, which he hastily wrote down. ‘And don’t over-bake them! They should be moist, not cakey!’”
Sage brownie advice from Katharine Hepburn herself.
My Spin on Kate's Recipe
In honor of Ms Hepburn, I am sharing a brownie recipe today. Not Kate’s brownie recipe, but my spin on the classic Hepburn recipe. I wanted to stay true to the original idea of her recipe—very little flour, very chocolatey, and true to the original taste—rich and fudgey, not cakey!
I upped the flour a smidge—I am still confident these brownies would pass the Hepburn almost-no-flour-brownie-requirement. I also solidified a salt measurement, added a leavener, and added some real chocolate to the cocoa powder in Hepburn’s recipe. Use whatever baking chocolate you enjoy or have on hand, but I prefer Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate baking bars [aff. link] for a sweeter brownie, or Ghiradelli Unsweetened Chocolate baking bars [aff. link] for a less sweet brownie.) I must say, the resulting brownie is simply delicious!
(If you would like Kate’s original brownie recipe, take a look at this charming memoir [aff. link] written by Eileen Considine-Meara, the daughter of Kate’s housekeeper. Ms Considine-Meara was privileged enough to grow up around Ms Hepburn, and has endless fascinating anecdotes that she shares in her book. Also included in this gem of a book is Kate’s brownie recipe! This is definitely a favorite of mine in my large Hepburn library.)
So make these brownies today! And when you take that first bite of these definitely fudgey and not cakey brownies, think about the indomitable Ms Katharine Hepburn. And maybe turn on an awesome film of hers, like Bringing Up Baby, for atmosphere. (:
Shannon's Katharine Hepburn Brownies
For the wet ingredients:
- ½ cup butter
- 2 oz baking chocolate, unsweetened, semisweet, or milk, whatever your preference
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
For the dry ingredients:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
- Grease and flour (or line with parchment paper and grease) an 8x8 inch GLASS baking dish.
Make the chocolate/butter mixture
- In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and baking chocolate over medium-low heat. Whisk as everything melts, and keep whisking until everything is smooth, taking care not to burn the chocolate. (Take the saucepan off the heat before everything has melted if you have to to avoid burning.) Once smooth, take the saucepan off the heat if you haven't already.
- Now add in the cocoa powder, and keep whisking! Once smooth, allow the mixture to cool for at least 5 minutes.
Stir together the dry ingredients
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips.
Add the eggs and vanilla
- Back to the chocolate/butter mixture. Add the two eggs and vanilla extract to the saucepan. Whisk until everything has incorporated and you have a smooth, chocolate pudding-like mixture. This step is very important, so keep whisking until you get there!
Add the dry to the wet ingredients
- Now add the dry ingredient mixture to the saucepan with the wet ingredients. Stir until everything has just come together.
Bake, Serve, Enjoy!
- Pour the mixture evenly into your prepared baking dish.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
- Let cool for at least a half hour before cutting. This is another very important step due to the low flour content of these fudgey brownies (just like Katharine Hepburn liked them!)
- Cut, serve, and think of Ms Hepburn as you enjoy these delicious brownies! (: