Book Notes: Luscious Chocolate Desserts

all photos by William Meppem, courtesy Chronicle Books

If there were ever an excuse needed to focus on chocolate the holidays do provide! This week I was nagged by a relentless urging to make brownies, knowing full well I did not have the optimal recipe. (Can someone please explain to me why the Joy of Cooking does not have such a recipe?) Fortunately that very day I was ambling through a local shop in search of an early Christmas present for a dear friend, and lying easily within my reach on a table was the above book which called to me, and I readily responded. What chocolate lover could resist a book called Luscious Chocolate Desserts, (a Chronicle Books classic written by Lori Lonbotham, a former food editor for Gourmet)? Bought and brought home and recipe tried last night. What immediately impressed me was how easy it is! (Love easy!) Here’s the recipe. She calls them Katharine Hepburn Brownies, as apparently Ms. Hepburn was also a chocolate lover and reportedly ate a bit every day. Bravo!

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

1/2 cup of butter
2 ozs. unsweetened chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger, slightly sweetened; always messing with recipes.)
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs (organic, organic, please)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup of flour (!!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I used hazelnuts. Messing, messing, messing.)

You preheat your oven to 325. Butter and flour an 8″ square baking pan. (I liked that I didn’t have to “line w/ paper” which so many brownie recipes I found asked me to do. Yawn.)

Melt the butter and chocolate in a “heatproof bowl” set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2″ of nearly simmering water. Whisk ’till smooth. Remove the bowl from heat, add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and whisk together. Whisk in the flour and salt until blended. Stir in the nuts. (How easy is that? Fast! It’s a wonderful recipe to make with children during the holidays.)

OK, bake for 40 minutes. I found that to be perfect timing. Cool completely before cutting.

Here is my result:


Honestly? This took me about ten minutes to make. How long would it take me to make a mix? I have not “made a mix” in about twenty five years, at least. Using a recipe like this you know where your eggs came from, what kind of chocolate, and oil, you are using. You get my drift. And it’s so much better!

Now. Were these delicious and will I make them again? Absolutely. Is it the optimal recipe I was seeking that will be my alltime favorite forever? Not quite. So here’s what I’m proposing. A Brownie Recipe Contest. Yes. And if you would please send me your favorite recipe, I will pick, let’s say eight of them, and make the eight up and choose my favorite and announce on this blog by December 22nd. I have asked Ken, the kind man who sold me this book in his shop, to help me judge the recipes and he has agreed! Please only send tried and true recipes. Thanks. And what will I do with all the brownies? I have contacted the local Food Bank and they are delighted to be including in the packages they will be distributing Christmas week. How’s that? I think that is a splendid idea. Thank you. That will be so fun! Please feel free to post recipes below or to email them to me at joyblog [at]

Now, back to the book. I am utterly thrilled to have the recipe for Chocolate Panna Cotta. Does this not look utterly delicious?

Readers might recall my discovering panna cotta awhile back and posting that recipe. This one calls for marscarpone cheese, so that will be fun to explore. And how about Very Chocolatey Pots de Creme, which you garnish with candied violets? Oh, yes. And Buttery Chocolate Wafers sound ever so much like Christmas to me! And how about this? Chocolate Hazelnut Spread!
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread served on toast with nectarines

Something I particularly like about Luscious Chocolate Desserts is that the end of the book focuses on sauces. Now that I have discovered the joy of that caramel frosting that I put on the applesauce cake, I’m rather interested in exploring the extra delicious touch that sauces lend to a recipe. [And I will here confess I keep wanting to dribble something wonderful over those brownies above. I do.] So the idea of adding to my dessert repertoire some Chocolate Whipped Cream, some Chocolate-Balsamic Drizzle or a Chocolate Cherry Sauce does heartily appeal at this time of year!

Enjoy this book! This might make a lovely gift for a chocolate lover on your Christmas list!

Looking forward to your brownie recipes, dearest readers!! Humbly received and gratefully made.

Love and kitchen blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Footnote: Great news! Chronicle Books is sending me an extra copy of Luscious Chocolate Desserts to give to the winner of the Brownie Recipe Contest! Special thanks to publicity at Chronicle Books for being so kind!

Update: This contest has been delayed until Valentine’s Day for reasons you will hear about in an upcoming post! Thanks for your patience and participation!

21 Responses to “Book Notes: Luscious Chocolate Desserts”

  1. I can focus on chocolate any time of the year, dear Kathryn, but especially tasty for the holidays. Looks like a delightful book, great gift, and yummy recipe. Not coming prepared, I must return …

  2. Hi, Joey! Are you up at the lake without all your goodies on hand? Thank you so much for your visit. I NEVER do a foodie post without thinking of you in the kitchen. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hugs. Kathryn xoxo

  3. Wonderful post…I’ve made many of these recipes and had a Brownie Battle of my own. My favorite was the Kathryn Hepburn recipe. Have fun with your contest!!

  4. Hi, Molly! Welcome! Brownie Battle, indeed! Oh, you were on the same trek! How fun! Why is there a mystery around brownies?? Hopefully the Brownie Contest will reveal the Best of the Best, and it will be here posted for all to read! Thanks for your link! Kathryn xoox

  5. Lawsy mercy, Miss Katherine, why I believe I’d rake up a whole yard full of leaves to get in on one a’ them Very Chocolatey Pots de Cream. Mmmmm . . . mmmmm . . . mmmm!

  6. Ooops, now I’ve gotten so wrapped up in the thought of these treats that I’ve gone and spelled your name wrong. Please forgive my foolishness, Kathryn.

  7. Aaaoooh, I’m drooling!!!
    Will pop back with a brownie recipe – and with the world’s best chocolate sauce recipe if you’re very lucky!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Good morning, David Perry! ๐Ÿ™‚ Funny you should mention–I just raked a whole yard of leaves! Good timing! Lovely to see your Lawsy Mercy here this morning. I bet you have a brownie recipe up your sleeve! (And I thought of you when I shot the brownies, David. I said, “What would David do?” No contest, of course. But you were there. :)) Kathryn xoxo

  9. Oh, Liz! The World’s Best Chocolate Sauce sounds like a wonderful gift I’ll be (luckily) looking forward to! And the Brownies, of course! Let’s get this contest rolling! Thank you! Kathryn xoxo

  10. Kathryn:
    My mouth is watering. See if anyone comes up with a honey-based brownie. Honey has half the glycemic index of cane sugar and so is possible for those of us with diabeties, especially if we cut the volume in half. However, since it starts out runny, I don’t think the recipe that you posted would have enough flour to bind the mixture. I could be wrong, though. I get around the blood sugar issue by eating ONLY darkest chocolate (far less sugar) but it’s hard not to have some every day. Ed has a passion for brownies but given the sugar content, I don’t make them often.
    Hugs, Julie

  11. Hi, Julie! Oh, dear. Yeah, diabetes and brownies don’t go well in the same sentence, I fear. Glad you have dark chocolate as an option. I regard chocolate as one of the major food groups. ๐Ÿ™‚ Big hug! Kathryn xoxo

  12. The days get shorter as our appetite for chocolate increases. I’m convinced of that connection.

  13. Hi, Sarah! I have a big smile on my face. ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  14. Hi Kathryn!
    I have never made many desserts personally, but I love your idea of having the fun of making them and then sharing them with a food bank!
    Hot chocolate is not brownies, but my twin brother and I were very proud of our chocolate mustaches growing up as we had cocoa ever morning. We also had it ever night when we stayed with my aunt and grandmother. I once painted a portrait our dogs sitting in wing chairs by the fire drinking hot chocolate as a gift to my aunt. ๐Ÿ™‚
    In the 1970’s we took a trip to Mexico and Patrick and I were “blissed-out” on Mexican hot chocolate: a rich infusion with whole milk, cinnamon and a bit of chile.

  15. Hi, Philip! Yes, it’s my creative alternative to serving turkey for the holidays. I’d rather make eight batches of brownies and hold a contest. ๐Ÿ™‚ And then give them away to children who would rather eat brownies than turkey anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ Must be my own Inner Child Projections. I love the portrait of you and your twin having hot chocolate with your aunt and grandmother. And, yes, isn’t Mexican chocolate delicious?! Would love to have seen that doggie painting, btw… ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  16. Oh my, as someone who must have something chocolate every single day, this post was delicious. My husband keeps a bowl of hershey kisses sitting near the computer (honest, he did this, not me), and I found myself reaching for one as I read your post. I think your brownie contest is a great idea, Have fun!

  17. Hi, Deborah! Your chocolate kisses comment makes me smile! Kathryn xoxo

  18. Jamie’s Best Brownies 1 cup (2 sticks butter) , 2 cups sugar, 2 tsps vanilla extract, 4 eggs, 3/4 cup Hershey’s Premium Cocoa, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt 1 cup chopped nuts (optional, your favorite nut) 350 degree oven. Grease 13x9x2 inch baking pan, I use glass. In lrg microwave-safe bowl, place butter. Microwave on high 2-2&1/2 min until melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with wooden spoon after each addition. Add cocoa, beat until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt;beat well. Stir in nuts if using. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 min or untiL brownies just begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool in pan on wire reack. Cut into bars. ENJOY. So good, I have never felt the need to frost these, but feel free to embelish as desired!

  19. Welcome, Jamie! Thank you so very much for posting your recipe! So appreciated! Hugs! Kathryn xoxo

  20. ok ok ok, this is THE story of my life-being late! but if you are still looking and baking and testing and gaining weight, here you go with another one and this one will beat all of the rest! Just try it and see if you don’t agree and it’s as easy as can be… ๐Ÿ™‚


  21. Hi, Linda, Not too late! Not at all! Doing all the recipes this weekend! Thank you so much! Kathryn xoxo

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