Brownies, Blondies – and Tomboys

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Katharine Hepburn – 1941

I’ve been waiting for just the right time to use these photos – of Katharine Hepburn and of my Dunn Elementary School Brownie troop.  Andy – in Andy’s Corner – has been waiting for just the right time to tell you about his Boy Scout uniform debacle.

Originally, I envisioned a blog filled with an exciting assortment of brownie recipes, including, of course, my all-time favorite, Katharine Hepburn Brownies.   But in thinking about that I realized that once you’ve tasted a Katharine Hepburn brownie, you really don’t need any other recipe.  And we’ve already posted that one.

Should you want to know more about those brownies, here’s the PBS story behind Katherine Hepburn and her recipe.

Anyway,  I decided to blog about my favorite blondie recipe, which, strangely enough 🙂 comes from our daughter’s Picnics cookbook.  I thought it was the penultimate (whoops, a misuse of that word) absolutely perfect recipe.  Delicioso.  BUT then I did a little blondie research and came up with another recipe to try.  And now I am SO torn as to which is best.  I encourage you to try them both – recipes below – and leave your comments.

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As for my Ft. Collins, Colorado, Brownie troop, I can still identify almost every cutie in the photo – and I’m still in touch with three of them, which is kind of amazing given that that photo was taken about 68 years ago.

I’m the toothless little waif in the middle of the third row, and my friend Susan is standing on my right.  We were “country girls,” growing up on small acreages south of Fort Collins, CO.  And we were both definitely tomboys.

Did you know Katharine Hepburn was a tomboy – and was considered very avant-garde and “gender bending?”  A delightful Vanity Fair article about her maintains that she inspired “proud unpainted princesses with flaring nostrils and dungarees,” who are “startlingly frank, obviously brainy, filled with the new free ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ spirit.”  Geez, how I’d love to be described that way!

Without even knowing about that article my friend Susan lamented how her mother made her wear “girls’ jeans” – which zipped on the side – and what a relief it was when she first got to wear her first pair of Levi’s 501s (considered “boys’ jeans” back then – and still now?).  Susan was also the first girl to be allowed to deliver our local newspaper – the Fort Collins Coloradoan though she was not allowed to attend the weekly meetings with the rest of the delivery crew, since a little girl amongst all those boys would certainly have not been appropriate!

Susan was tough back then and is tough today.  She recently emailed me that “nothing really stopped me from trying and doing anything that needed to be done.”  If that’s gender bending, I embrace it!

Janeene, my very-blondie friend in the middle of the troop – just below me – reported, “Now that I think of it, maybe I was a tomboy in some respects.  I enjoyed playing with the boys more than girls.”  And – soon after the Brownie photo was taken – Janeene made a Hepburn kind of decision:  she quit Brownies and Bluebirds, because they didn’t allow boys!  Go, Janeene!  “Flaring nostrils,” for sure!

A recent article from the NYTimes, entitled Bring Back the Tomboys, got me going on all of this tomboy stuff.  The author, Lisa Selin Davis, writes that the tomboys from the pop culture of the ’70’s and 80’s “were outspoken, confident and indifferent to the silent or explicit rules of gender around them, often dressing and acting “like boys.” They stood in stark contrast to the ingénues and highly feminine characters girls and women were often restricted to.  Davis goes on to describe how by the 90’s this had changed and Jo [from TV’s The Facts of Life] gave way to Sporty Spice, Xena, Buffy — coifed, petal-lipped and sometimes baring midriff — with the message that one didn’t need to sacrifice femininity to have power.

Lots to contemplate here – but I’ve gotta run.  I’m off to pick-ax out some holes for new shrubs we’re planting, power-wash the back deck, and grind down a stain on our concrete walkway.  Andy is fixing dinner.

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Brown Sugar Blondies with Pecans

Brown Sugar Blondies with Pecans

You can easily do 1/2 this recipe, using an 8″x 8″ pan, but we recommend just freezing whatever is not eaten up.  Adapted from Sara Deseran’s Picnics cookbook.

4 eggs
2 c dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
2 sticks (16 T) butter, melted and cooled
1 c flour
1 c pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9″x13″ baking pan.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.  Stir in the brown sugar, vanilla and salt and mix well.  Stir in the cooled butter.  Add the flour and stir until everything is just blended, then mix in the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cut into squares while still warm.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.
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Butterscotch Blondies

Butterscotch Blondies

This recipe was adapted from the American classic, The Joy of Cooking (the 1975 edition).

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1 c brown sugar (I use dark brown)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1/2 c sliced almonds (or walnuts or pecans) or 3/4 c grated coconut

Lavishly grease a 9″x 9″ baking pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan and then add the brown sugar, stirring until the brown sugar is dissolved (it will be thick).  When the mixture has slightly cooled, beat in the egg and vanilla.

Mix the flour and baking powder and salt together, using a fork.  Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Fold in chopped nuts (or coconut).  Spread the batter into prepared pan. The mixture will just cover the bottom of the 9″ pan.

Bake blondies on upper middle rack at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, cut, and serve. Makes 1 dozen bars.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.


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