Katharine Hepburn’s legacy is that of an intelligent, progressively minded, and unapologetically outspoken American stage and film actress who could dominate a room as easily as she could the silver screen.
Fewer are aware of her other, sweeter legacy: the secret trick to the gooiest, fudgiest chocolate brownies. Hepburn's New York neighbor, Heather Henderson, recorded the recipe and shared it with The New York Times in 2003, shortly after Hepburn's death.
Henderson wrote that her father once dropped off brownies to Hepburn’s home after hearing she had been in a serious car accident. “Too much flour! They should be moist, not cakey!” The actress barked in her signature New England accent. Again—unapologetically outspoken.
Henderson’s father quickly jotted the recipe down as Hepburn rattled off ingredients from memory. The secret to the rich, moist, Hepburn-approved consistency was using only one-quarter cup of flour and lots of butter.
After devouring our fair share of these irresistible brownies, we’ve added a few extra ingredients and doubled Hepburn’s original recipe to take these brownies from delectable to heavenly.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter, cocoa powder, and baker's chocolate on low. Stir constantly until thoroughly combined and smooth, then remove from heat. Let the chocolate cool and thicken for 2-3 minutes while you do step #2.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts, and salt. Whisk, and set aside.
Transfer cooled chocolate to another large mixing bowl. Whisk eggs into chocolate mixture one at a time. Stir in vanilla and orange zest.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Add nuts, stir.
Pour into a greased 9x13" baking pan. Use the spoon to spread the batter evenly. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
Let the brownies cool for 5-10 minutes (easily the hardest part), then cut into squares.
Katharine Hepburn’s recipe is proof that a good brownie is timeless, simple, and versatile. The recipe is generally straightforward and easy to follow, but be cautious of the first step.
The temperature of the butter-chocolate mixture is critical. Adding eggs to the chocolate while it’s too hot can cook the eggs, resulting in a scrambled egg catastrophe that absolutely no one wants.
Melt your butter and chocolate slow and low. Dicing the butter helps it melt quicker if you’re short on time. Remove the chocolate from heat as soon as it’s completely smooth with no big butter lumps.
Be patient while the chocolate cools. Gathering the dry ingredients should give it just enough time to reach the right temperature, but if the saucepan still feels hot by the time you’re ready to pour the chocolate, let it sit for another 2-3 minutes.
To tweak this recipe to your exact tastes, try any of these omissions or substitutions.