With the exception of fresh fruit, my sister Rachael rarely if ever eats anything sweet.

Sugar’s not the greatest building block for the body but don’t ya just crave a taste now and again? Well, not my sister-she eats extremely well and never craves sweets.

I’d like to have inherited her sweetless gene, but I go weak in the knees at just the sight of a dark Belgian chocolate or freshly baked Franzipan, and my favorite, most relaxing past-time and hobby is baking.

But but but but, there is one sweet my sis usually won’t pass up, and that’s a really good brownie.

Her favorite is the classic Catherine Hepburn brownie-all moist, chewy, fudgy, and loaded with walnuts-more nuts than brownie, just baked walnuts with chocolate stuck to them, actually. With Valentine’s Day approaching it is officially brownie season in my kitchen once again. I try every brownie recipe I come across, in magazines, on the internet, from inside chocolate boxes, from friends, I’ve even bought cook books based solely on one good lookin’ brownie recipe.

Here’s what I’ve figured out to date: moist fudgy brownies require fewer eggs (usually only 1), cocoas and powders make a more cake-like chocolate tasting brownie, but not fudgy. Therefore if you want fudgy, using a good quality brick chocolate is the way to go.  Do not over-mix the batter, stir ingredients together (no electric mixer, no extra air) just until combined, and melt the sugar before adding to recipe (yep in a pan just as if you were making the topping for creme brulee, just don’t brown the sugar), and most importantly, do not seize(see below for details around seizing chocolate) the chocolate!  Seizing chocolate happens during the part of the recipe where you are melting it.  Melt your chocolate very slowly, what you want is chocolate soup, like leaving a hershey bar on the dash of your car in the sun, and you will improve your brownie. I know you’re supposed to be able to recover seizing chocolate with a little water, removing from heat of course, stirring until the glossy sheen comes back, but I don’t think I agree. Once chocolate starts to seize I think it’s done for when you’re making brownies.Maybe other recipes where the chocolate isn’t such a major contributor or lead factor you can stop seizing chocolate and use (so expensive you hate to throw out), but in brownies when I’ve tried to use recovered chocolate I think I detect almost a granular texture which ruins the whole brownie experience.

For sister this year I’m pouring my batter onto a large greased cookie sheet and when done and cool, I’m going to take a heart-shaped cookie cutter and make her a Valentines Day treat, I tried a practice run and it turned out great. There was leftover brownie on the sheet of course from the outline of the heart cutouts so I cut up into little cubes and made brownie sundaes for my kids- I put a few cubes in the bottom of two sundae dishes, added a little scoop of vanilla ice cream,  a little hot fudge!

*Seizing Chocolate-Maria’s notes

Basically burned chocolate is seized chocolate.   If while stirring melting chocolate in a pan and some of the chocolate you scrape from the bottom looks  dry and begins to smell  heavy or beginning to burn , you are seizing the chocolate.  This can also happen believe it or not by having water in the pan before melting or by not having a closed double boiler, or by boiling the water too rapidly in the double boiler, because steam or excessive moisture will seize chocolate.  The twist here is the cure for seizing chocolate is to add water (if chocolate not ruined by being burned).

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.

this is the real Hepburn family recipe, I increase chocolate and

decrease egg to make them really fudgy.

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