What do brownies and classic Hollywood have in common? Why, Katharine Hepburn, of course!
A legendary star of the stage and screen, Katharine Hepburn is easily my favorite classic Hollywood star. (Although I will admit that the OTHER Hepburn, Audrey, is a close contender for that title.) I’ve always loved the intelligence and fierce independence Katharine Hepburn showed in films such as The African Queen, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond. Likewise, I’ve also long admired her unwillingness to conform to the restrictive stereotypes expected of women at the time, both in Hollywood and beyond. Not only did she refuse to wear makeup, she also frequently eschewed the more feminine skirts and dresses that women at the time were expected to wear. Instead, she donned more masculine attire–most famously, pants. So firm was Hepburn’s commitment to refusing to conform to expectations, according to Tori Avey, Hepburn even went so far to wear only her underwear as a form of protest on set at RKO Pictures after some of the studio suits (haha) were discomfited by her clothing choices and removed a pair of her pants from her dressing room.
So when I discovered that Katharine Hepburn also had a legendary sweet tooth, she only rose higher in my estimation. The story behind these brownies goes that Hepburn had been involved in a car accident. A neighbor stopped by her family home with a plate of brownies to speed her recovery. In response to the get-well offering, Hepburn proved herself to be every bit as confident and blunt in her culinary tastes as she was in her sartorial ones. Upon tasting them, Avery reports, Hepburn told the neighbor what she really thought about his brownie recipe: “Too much flour! And don’t overbake them! They should be moist, not cakey!”
This is the recipe for brownies as Katharine Hepburn properly envisioned them: rich in butter and sugar but with almost no flour.
The finished brownies are superb. No need here for the frosting and icing that other brownies need to make up for dryness or lack of flavor: the thin crackly crust on top of these brownies contrasts perfectly with the fudgy deep chocolate interior studded with nuts.
These classic brownies taste good, even great, straight from the oven. But as some commentators have also suggested, I like them best served out of the refrigerator, which allows the squares to firm up just a bit. I like them even better cold a day or two after they have been baked, which also lets the flavors meld together.