I am always complimented when someone asks me for a recipe, and especially when they ask me where or how I created that particular dish. There are stories attached to all of them, often featuring people who made a difference in my cooking and in my life. These memories percolate up in my mind when I cook or think of a specific dish, evoking those faces, voices, tastes, smells, places, all of the little things that make up the memories of a life in food. Often, recipes are created as derivations or variations of dishes, whether culinary classics or family favorites. And I continue to revise, derive, and vary those recipes but always keeping the original in mind. So when I think about my brownies, I always think of that wonderful, iconic actress, Katherine Hepburn I suppose a little background is in order. My father was an avid reader of Sunset Magazine, which is the western equivalent of Southern Living, in fact now published as part of Southern Progress. He also was a fan of movie icons, so when, in the early 60’s, Sunset published an interview with Katherine Hepburn in which she admitted to not being much of a cook, but did share her family recipe for Brownies, it was immediately adopted as our family recipe. I don’t know if that is involved in my enjoyment of all of her films but “Bringing Up Baby” and brownies are still favorites for me.
But on to my derivations and modifications of that classic Hepburn and Biggs family recipe. The first one was the unsweetened chocolate switch from all American Hershey’s to San Francisco’s Ghirardelli and then to European style Nestle’s Toll House. A couple of trials of other brands were definitely unsatisfactory when Nestle temporarily took their unsweetened chocolate off the market...a huge crisis for awhile, but then going back to the Ghirardelli solved that dilemma. Sometimes you have to return to your roots, I guess. Then I moved to the southwest and it seemed to make sense to substitute pecans for the original walnuts. A further move to Birmingham and I added peanut butter chips sprinkled over the top. And then a couple of friends asked me to make some without nuts or peanut butter chips, So currently I make both versions, each with their own fans...and then there are always those, like me, who just think Brownies are good.
I personally like my brownies baked a little soft but not too gooey, and not with frosting of any kind, although I have on occasion added a bit of chocolate ganache or cream cheese frosting to the top. And there have been hints that if I show up for a family visit to San Francisco without a box of brownies, I might not have an airport pickup, or maybe even a place to stay. So to keep maintain good family relations I do occasionally ship out a box or two. In fact, just now I “owe” some to one of my sisters who wants them as thank you gifts for some hospital staff who recently took care of one of her kids, but only after some personal quality control, I am sure. And I also need to make some for an upcoming event I am working on, because Anne Mancer, who runs Safe Haven Animal Rescue, loves my brownies almost as much as she love animals. The great swing band that is playing may have to play “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” for me, but to understand that you need to see the movie, while eating brownies.
Costume-Optional Halloween Big Band Dance Party Benefiting Animal Rescue https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=259504594077619 So see you at the event, but in the meantime, I am going to turn on the VCR, thank Katherine Hepburn for the brownie recipe, start melting some chocolate, and stir up some more chocolate memories.