Dave and Kate’s Chocolate Brownies

kate's brownies

Where I grew up, we were neighbors with the Hepburn family. They were very nice people and were considered “walkers”, those curious people who live in suburbia that walk, rather than drive everywhere. We used to see them walking all the time and we’d always give them a wave. And then, we’d hit the gas pedal and keep driving.

We didn’t mingle much, and I didn’t see the most famous member of their family since she lived down by the seashore. Perhaps it was a mixed blessing that she didn’t live all that close because she was reputed to be a handful at the neighborhood meetings where she lived, and was said to be pretty sharp with a retort. But I don’t deal in celebrity gossip and as they say in New England, “High fences make good neighbors”, and we all kept to ourselves. Although word has it that she made excellent brownies, which I never got to sample from her oven, unfortunately.

chopped almonds for brownies

Years later, when I went to chocolate school in Belgium, I asked why unsweetened chocolate, which we frequently use in recipes in America (especially brownies), wasn’t easily available – or used – in Europe baking as well. And the folks at Callebaut Chocolate Academy didn’t really know either but told me that almost most of what they made was for the American market.

I didn’t quite understand it, but it makes sense if you remember back when we used “squares” of unsweetened chocolate in recipes, which was how chocolate was sold way-back-when. (It’s a curious paradox though, since Americans have a reputation for liking things on the sweet side.) So when I saw a hefty, solid block of unsweetened chocolate (called pâte de cacao, or cocoa paste, in French) at the giant restaurant supply store outside of Paris, I grabbed it.

brownie batter

It wasn’t until a few months later, as the block sat unopened on my shelf, that I realized – What the heck am I going to do with 8 pounds of unsweetened chocolate? Then I remembered Dave and Kate’s Brownies. I had included the recipe in The Great Book of Chocolate, adapting it and making a few changes.

But I kept it mostly intact as I didn’t want to be famous for the one who incurred the wrath of Katherine Hepburn. So for those who want to omit the nuts, reduce the sugar, use another chocolate, or mess around with it in any way, well…consider yourself warned.

Dave and Kate’s Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

Adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate

These are very traditional American brownies. They’re a cross between cakey and chewy, with the deep, dark flavor of chocolate. I made them a couple of times during the past week, since they disappeared rather quickly! (And since the recipe only uses 2 ounces of chocolate, I am chiseling away at the other 124 ounces.) You should chop the nuts a little finer than shown in the post as it will make them easier to get cleaner slices. If you want to omit the nuts, you probably can. Just don’t tell Kate.

  • 8 tablespoons (115 g) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 ounces (60 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped.
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) nuts, chopped
  • optional: 1/4 cup (25 g) roasted cocoa nibs
  • 1/4 cup (35 g) flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC.) Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a large rectangle of foil, leaving the overhang over the rim of the pan. Butter or spray the inside of the foil lining the pan with nonstick spray.

2. In a medium saucepan set over very low heat, melt the butter and the chocolate, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then mix in the eggs and the vanilla extract.

3. Stir in the nuts and cocoa nibs, if using, then the flour and salt. Scrape the mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the brownies feel just-set in the center. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, lift the brownies out of the pan by grasping the foil overhang, the cut the brownies into squares.

Les brownies

Related Links

Gluten-Free Brownies

Altoid Brownies

G. Detou (Unsweetened chocolate in Paris)

Chocolate FAQs

82 comments

  • I have scoured the shops in Germany for unsweetened chocolate for baking and there is none to be had. Strange isn’t it? Be glad you found a source!

    • Some chocolate shops sell 100% bars (unsweetened chocolate) in tablets, at least in France (although it’s usually priced like a fancy chocolate bar!) Lindt (from Switzerland) makes a 99% bar, which would work in this recipe – but I’m not sure which countries it is available in.

  • MMM..I’ve not made these for a while. I usually end up using the best dark chocolate I can find and I can’t say I have ever had a complaint! This is my base recipe, sometimes I add stuff but take it away? Never! :) I have been known to chop up some dried dates (if I have found some nice moist ones) and add those, or add melted chocolate to the top. Or change the flavour by adding peppermint extract (what can I say, chocolate and mint, two of my favourite things!)

    sandra

  • I like the way you line the pan with foil to lift out brownies. Neat trick I learned on your last recipe I tried — the fabulous lemon squares!

  • why don’t these have to be stirred vigorously for one minute like your other recipe? is it because of the lower chocolate to butter ratio? would stirring activate the gluten and make them chewier?

    • The real question is, why do those other ones have to be stirred for a minute? I asked that question in the book, and never got an answer…

  • That 99% Lindt is in Turkey for sure, even on my office desk at this very moment :) I don’t want to use the foil as I am afraid it will leave a metallic taste. Do you think cooking paper will be alright or make the brownies too soggy?

    • Sure, lining the pan with parchment paper would work, although they won’t be as easy to remove from the pan.

  • I have to say that my favorite brownies by far are your Robert’s absolute brownies. I make those all the time and have really stopped trying new brownie recipes because those ones to me are perfection. How would you compare these brownies to those? Thanks David :)

  • amai, i am still on the hunt for unsweetened choco in antwerp, belgium. your post gives me hope.

  • I’ve yet to meet a brownie I didn’t like or at least appreciate. I’ve tried a lot of recipes – they’re all very similar at the end of the day – but I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I do think I like the kind made with unsweetened chocolate best. After tasting so many, they sort of blur together! This sounds so nice and straightforward. I love almonds and you’ve got me wondering why I don’t add it to brownies and cookies more often instead of using walnuts all the time. I also have your Chocolate book – time to revisit it!

  • I love brownies.. it’s my favourite cake!!!

  • i’ve made these brownies for a couple years now, too – they are the best. simple, and delicious.

  • Your brownies look beautiful! Great color. BTW:
    I recently tried my own brownie recipe with bittersweet chocolate instead of unsweetened. I cut down the sugar, but they just weren’t right. Mine have a cooked frosting that also uses unsweetened chocolate and that really blew the whole deal–way too sweet and an odd color to boot. Only later did I realize I could have subbed cocoa for part of the powdered sugar in the frosting and that, at least, would have helped. Hind sight! (Luckily unsweetened chocolate is easy to find in Saint Paul, so I’ll make sure I don’t run out in the future.)

  • Foil is the thing for lining the pan. I use the Release kind, and form it over the outside of the pan with the nonstick side inward. Then you have a nice tidy foil box, with neatly folded corners, that will fit into the pan.

    Our family has always used unsweetened chocolate – for brownies, fudge and cakes.

  • On my pan-lining, be use to use a square of foil that is about an inch larger than your square pan all around. Sticks up and gives you the “handles” to pull the block of brownies out of the pan.

  • With so much butter in my brownies, I’ve never needed a liner. They come out of the pan very easily piece by piece. My recipe has more butter, chocolate and flour. My grandson said, “Mimi, why do your brownies taste so good?” I told him it was love mixed in the batter but I think it’s the butter. I use Nestlé’s cooking chocolate that I find in most French grocery stores. It probably has sugar in it but I like my brownies sweet.

  • What are cocoa nibs?

    Coming to Paris Thursday for 3 weeks. Hope for no rain.

  • These look so incredible, I’ll have to look out for unsweetened chocolate

  • I live in Italy and use the Lindt 99% chocolate for making brownies. All my friends love them so I can’t wait to try this recipe out for the next party. Thanks!

  • Oh, but your brownies in Ready for Dessert are so good, I can’t bring myself to make any others! I’ve made lots of brownies claiming to be the best, but yours really are.

  • YIKES–yet another brownie recipe calling for an 8″ square pan, which I haven’t seen in stores for years. I should have grabbed my mom’s when I had the chance but alas…

    But these look great! so many brownie recipes I see have too much egg which seems to make them sticky. My 12-y/o daughter loves chocolate and is starting to bake, so I’m going to make these with her, and maybe this will become HER go-to brownie recipe. Thanks David –xx your blog as always!

  • Why does it have to be foil? Can it be parchment paper? Does it matter or is something lost if I make the switch?

  • Jeanette: Check out my answer to that above.

    Lety: Glad you like those, but it’s nice to have a few brownie recipe options to choose from
    : )

    Bebe: I’ve heard about that, but haven’t seen it in Paris. Sounds great!

  • Couldn’t one use a 60% or 70% bar with the equivalent amount of cacao solids and then simply correct for the extra amount of sugar that this introduces. Probably much easier than scouring the stores for unsweetened. And it also means you can use the kind of cacao that you like. I have this book but never attempted this recipe.

  • Glad to see a cake-y, chewy brownie recipe featured. Cakier brownies seemed to have fallen from fashion. I’ve read so many recipes for the fudgy type in recent years, each claiming fudgier than the last, that I feared we were heading for eating a chocolate batter baked until just barely set. I haven’t found many of the chewy-fudgy brownie recipes I’ve attempted to be very chewy at all, they tend to be just soft and not even as chewy as real fudge candy! The quarter cup of flour in this recipe seems like it might be a bit too scant to make a cakey brownie but the picture looks fine.

  • I did meet Kate and it’s true – her brownies are nearly as awesome as she was, which is really saying something.

    But now I’m curious about unsweetened chocolate. Why don’t they use it in Europe, given that everything is so much less sweet over there?

  • I live in the Netherlands and can’t find unsweetend chocolate anywhere. The highest percentage I can get is 85 %. Can the recipe be adapted or is it better to go for a different recipe all together?

  • He he… yes, Ms. Hepburn was a handful. My grandfather worked at MGM as a stuntman and he told a great story about Ms. Hepburn. At the wrap party, the leading stars gave gifts to the director, producer, etc. etc. The value of the gift lessened as you went down the line – my grandfather (being pretty low on the totem pole) generally got candy or perhaps a bottle of inexpensive whisky. On this one film, Ms. Hepburn didn’t care for the director – so he received a pack of cigarettes – and the janitor – a sterling silver, engraved lighter. LOL!!!!

    • Nancy: Ha! That is a great story. I know and older couple in Florida and they were friends with her, and said that every year around Christmas, a box of homemade candy would arrive from Ms. Hepburn.

  • I like to compare the sweetened/unsweetened chocolate conundrum with the salted/unsalted butter one — it’s all about controlling the amount of sugar or salt, especially in baking. Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s how I go about it.

    I found unsweetened cocoa here in Spain at, where else, El Corte Inglés, where they sell everything … Valor, which is a popular chocolatería here, sells it.

  • I keep on hearing about Kate’s brownies over the years. Guess I will have to make it soon. 2 oz of unsweetened chocolate just doesn’t seem like it’s enough (and I’m not even a chocoholic), but apparently it is, since a lot of people like the recipe.

  • Love any brownie! My only quandary is presentation.
    Maida Heatter had a neat trick in her “Book
    of Desserts” for wrapping them in wax paper;
    any other ideas?

  • You’re not saying that Kate used cocoa nibs, are you? I have her recipe from the Hartford Courant, and they’re not in that version.

  • AAAAH ! This brownie looks FA-BU-LOUS ! I never tasted unsweetened chocolate. I do even know it exist ! Shame on me :)

  • So my little question is simply this. What IS a French Brownie like ? Do the French even make brownies ? What is a go to recipe in Europe/ France for chocolatey goodness ?? Can you please expand on this?

  • I always keep unsweetened chocolate, usually for flourless chocolate cakes, though I do mix it with semisweet. I have a box with loose recipes torn from magazines, and a page has been around for probably thirty years (the article talks about Mrs.Field being an `emerging´ cookie maker) and includes hepburn brownies. It calls for sweet butter though. Never used it. And I´ve yet to make the brownies!

  • thank you for this. i have been looking for a brownie recipe that makes just this style of brownies. they either come out cakey, like fudge, or an oily mess for me. now i need the best recipes for: cc cookies (crisp and buttery), peanut butter cookies (i hate those floury recipes), and chewy oatmeal and i’m set!

  • Personally I love nuts in brownies. And have never heard of unsweetened chocolate before?? Is that why I almost always find home made brownies to not be as good as boxed/bakery bought brownies?

  • What are cocoa nibs?

  • Interesting to note that this recipe existed before Kate Hepburn made it famous. My grandmother, Marie Haertel Morton of Waukesha, WI, had it in her new-bride cookbook (handwritten). She was married in 1918, when Miss Hepburn was only 11 years old.

  • What makes brownies more chewy and fudgy rather than cakey and light? Same question for chocolate cake. Can I find answers to these and other questions in your cookbooks? Thanks!

  • Anyone who has ever “tasted” unsweetened chocolate probably wouldn’t do so again. It is quite bitter. And makes delicious chocolate treats, deep and rich.

  • Here you all go.

    The Difference Between Unsweetened, Bittersweet and Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate

    http://www.enjoydarkchocolate.com/dark-chocolate/bittersweet-semisweet-chocolate.html

  • I absolutely love the story behind these. I made the ones in Ready For Dessert with some lovely Belgian chocolate my friend brought to me after a trip, and I had people telling me they were the best brownies they ever had. I have a bar of 100% in my home that I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever use for quite some time now, and I may have just been inspired :) Thank you!

    Melissa

  • I have made a Katherine Hepburn brownie recipe from a Maida Heatter cookbook for years – there’s a line of raspberry jam through the middle. That was the recipe I first saw that lined the pan with foil; I have always made everybody’s brownies (and other bar cookies) that way since.

  • These are my go-to brownies and have been since I found them in Molly O’Neill’s New York cookbook a long time ago.

    At times I don’t have unsweetened chocolate on hand, and reducing the sugar to 3/4 cup seems to do the trick.

  • Love, love this recipe have been using it for at least 20 years, my recipe has 1/2 cup flour instead of 1/4, will have to try with my stash of cocoa nibs !! Thanks for all your great information.

  • Loved the Chocolate Brownie recipe. I will definitively try it. Now I also have to check out The Great Book of Chocolate. Thank you for the post.

  • David, I have a crush on everything you write(if that is possible)! I came across your blog last spring and have read it plus the comment section faithfully ever since. In two weeks, I will return home after 6 weeks here in Paris, and thanks to your article about chocolate brownies, this is what I look forward to when I do get home. But first, I will take a friend to the bistro you spoke about recently—Le Rubis. And when I return to Paris for what I hope will be an even longer period if time, I will bring a supply of unsweetened chocolate with me!

  • I don’t think I’d ever get past the stirring in of the nuts into the melted chocolate.
    Why wait?
    I’ve seen so-called Brownies in marche Grenelle every week and don’t have the heart to try them…maybe I should taste test?

    • I’ve not really had very good brownies in Paris. I even gave my local bakery a recipe and they overcooked them and they weren’t the same. There probably are good ones out there, but since I make them at home, I don’t go out and get them. (I am, however, happy to have my bakery make my baguettes and croissants!)

  • I’m always on the look out for a good new brownie recipe. Will be testing these out on my work colleagues asap!

  • The actual New England line you are quoting is :Good fences make good neighbors” from a poem (can’t think of the title) by Robert Frost.

  • I used to make this recipe years ago when I found it published on “Gourmet” magazine. I loved them because there were so moist & chewy. As I live in Italy (in Bra, city where the “slow food” movement was born) I can never find unsweetened chocolate. My best bet is Lindt 80% what do you suggest?
    I love reading your blog and your sense of humor!
    FYI: if you’re interested in Sept. in Bra “Cheese” will be held. Three glorious days of cheeses from all over the world.

  • How about a nice mole with that unsweetened chocolate? Wonder about other savory preps…but mole is prob. the best savory use.

  • This Hepburn recipe is also in Laurie Colwin’s ‘Home Cooking’, a collection of her essays in Gourmet magazine, in two volumes. (see caterina’s note above) Laurie Colwin is a real treasure…

  • june2: Yes, I made mole frequently. Although I make brownies even more frequently ; )

    caterina: Sorry, I don’t know any substitutions although at the post, Chocolate FAQs (linked at the end of this post), there is a method for making your own using cocoa powder and oil or butter. In Italy, unsweetened chocolate is called pasta di cacao and would like be available at professional baking stores; ask at a local bakery for an address. I have seen tablets in Italy and online.

  • To use up your chocolate faster, why not double the recipe in a 9 x 13 pan?

    Can’t wait to try these vs. my vintage Helen Corbett recipe from my Texas childhood. one less egg, 3/4 cup flour and more vanilla.

    HC’s shouldn’t be as fudgy as yours, but I’ve always underbaked a smidge. This looks wonderful, and I will enjoy trying the nibs.

  • Great story. And they look to be great brownies, too.

  • I only have bittersweet chocolate — can I still make the recipe by omitting some sugar? Thanks!

  • Oh David! These of course look delicious- and as soon as I finish the ones in the freezer (chocolate caramel ones by Deb) I will set my mind to these!

    Yes, I think I have a stray “square” tucked in the recesses of my pantry… Brownies are the sole reason I have always kept unsweetened chocolate on hand since I was 8 and started baking! The easiest to find good brand around me is Callebaut (aside from square chocolate…).

    My question is that 2 ounces seems stingy? I know I will have to try them, but why only 2 ounces….

  • Here in the states I can’t imagine baking without unsweetened chocolate. I’m glad you found such a worthy use for your stash.

  • Excellent recipe – but you haven’t mentioned how I can make them for a gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant, nut-allergic diabetic! (Sorry, just read your post about gluten-free and couldn’t resist…)

  • Can’t get unsweetened chocolate in Australia except at the USA foods store. When they have it in stock for about 30 minutes a year I stock up. Nobody dare get near it.

  • What kind of unsweetened chocolate did you find? Cluizel? You probably have mentioned it somewhere here, but I can’t find it. Would you consider Domori? Or is that too pricey for this purpose. Because they make an amazing 100% bar. But Domori reacts differently than other chocolates…

    And you say you haven’t had good brownies in Paris? When in Paris in November last year, a friend and I went to visit Candelaría on your recommendation and they had the best brownies I have ever had period.

  • Can I please give a big shout out for Willie’s cacao in the UK? Brilliant unsweetened chocolate, sourced and made ethically and traditionally. His book ‘Chocolate Bible’ is first class too, with inspirational recipes, both savoury and sweet. David – I have just pulled these brownies out of the oven and they smell divine. Made with Willie’s chocolate, of course! Have you tried it? I do recommend you track some down on your next UK trip. Off to enjoy my first brownie(s) with an espresso….

  • At least you can’t get into too much trouble with a giant block of unsweetened chocolate. Although I did find my husband in the pantry once, dipping chunks of unsweetened chocolate into sugar.

  • adrian: You’re right, the brownies at Candelaria are good! (They’re made by a woman I think is British.) I don’t mention brands of chocolate, unless it’s critical to the recipe, because people can’t get things in certain countries and they ask me about substitutes. So folks can use whatever they can get their hands on where they live. I love Domori chocolate but I’ve only seen it once or twice in Paris. (They sell small bars at the Illy store near Opéra, since Illy bought the company.)

  • i submitted your question about why the need for the one-minute vigorous stir to kenji of seriouseats-food-lab fame. maybe he’ll answer it.

  • Hi David,

    I have spent the last few days going through every-single-one-hundred-eighty-two-pages of your blog. I feel a bit insane even putting it in writing! But you are so funny, and make me miss France so much, I couldn’t stop.
    I especially loved the entry about receiving packages in Paris, as I am an expat living in Berlin and have had the same issue (though, I should note, the Germans are very efficient with bringing the package to you should they think it’s not taxable, about 1% of the time).
    As someone else commented, it is very difficult to find unsweetened chocolate here (ugh!) but I will look out for the Lindt so I can try this soon.

    I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful Parisian spring and all it’s delicious bounties.

    Best,
    Ella

  • I haven’t made brownies for years, but when I did I made them from the 1931 Joy of Cooking. The recipe is very similar (but more flour). She instructed you to let the melted chocolate cool before adding the other ingredients. I have done it both ways and it was definitely better. I cannot believe I am offering baking advice to David Lebovitz!

  • My favorite version of brownies always has a swig of bourbon added…

  • David,
    I can totally understand why you would not want to incur the wrath of Katharine Hepburn by making significant changes to her brownie recipe, but I must say, these brownies are even better if you serve them slightly warm, topped with a large scoop of your Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream (or your regular Caramel Ice Cream) and a generous drizzle of your Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce. In fact, I think the contrasting tastes and textures of this brownie/ice cream/sauce combo better fits the name of Katharine Hepburn than just the brownies on their own. But whatever the name association, these three recipes of yours form one of my all time favorite dessert combinations! Thanks for posting them!

  • This just shows that even unsweetened chocolate has it’s uses. The brownies turned out great.

  • I’ve started using both parchment and foil to line pans in certain circumstances. I started doing it because of David’s matzoh crunch recipe – I don’t like food to come in contact with aluminum foil either, so I just put parchment on top of it. Worked like a champ, and even though it is a little wasteful (and I don’t do it often, just with certain things) it will probably work perfectly on these brownies (which I will make tomorrow).

    Thanks for another great recipe, David.

  • These look amazing! Occasionally I chop or grate some semi sweet chocolate over the top of my ” Katharine Hepburn” brownies while they’re still warm from the oven, then smooth it out for a quick and easy” frosting.” Is that chocolate chaud in the background of your photo? I had some last Sunday at Le Marche Biologique on blvd Raspail and thought I would go into a chocolate coma! No milk involved, just chocolate and water steamed piping hot! The eighth wonder of the world!

  • I made these and they turned out great. I have so many brownie recipes, and this may be the one. Thank you, David

  • Re: vigorous stirring for a minute.

    While researching for a hybrid recipe of Bourbon-Pecan Bacon Brownies, I consulted Shirley O. Corriher’s Bakewise & she notes by beating the liquid mixture & aerating the eggs, a meager meringue is created that gives the final product the shiny crust so often seen.

    As for the Franken-brownies, I left the pecans whole, toasted them most of the way them submerged in bourbon, while hot, until about 1/2 the liquor was absorbed. Then drained the nuts, mixed a few Tbls of the bourbon w/a few Tsp brown sugar, tossed w/nuts & toasted a second time, stirring often to create a glaze. Once cooled, another toss in a few Tsps of flour (to prevent sinking to the bottom) then mixed into the batter.

    I also added a Tbls or 2 of the bourbon to a late addition of milk from the Bakewise recipe.

    As for the bacon, crisped & crumbled saving rendered fat, tossed w/a touch of flour then stirred into batter. Using the fat to brush foil/parchment insures a smokiness.

    As this was a B’day batch, the extra time & effort was worth it but the jury’s still out on whether the extra time at the gym will be.

  • Katherine Hepburn’s brownies are one of my faves. I use the version that’s in Laurie Colwin’s book “More Home Cooking”. I can’t get unsweetened chocolate here in Malaysia but we have good cocoa & I simply swap it weight for weight. Turns out beautiful brownies, not too fudgy & not too cakey.

  • When I lived in Denmark, and could not get unsweetened chocolate, I found a cocoa brownie recipe on Smitten Kitchen (Best Cocoa Brownies). My children no longer will bother to eat any one else’s brownies.

  • While I favor a nut-free, chewy brownie, I will give these a try.
    A couple of years ago, a friend shared a brownie cutting tip, which makes it much easier to get clean edges; use a plastic knife. (Yes, one of those disposable types.) Really, it makes a huge difference.