National Museum Of African American History And Culture Celebrates 1 Year

Lucille Simpson, far right, and her daughter Gwendolyn Norman, both from Detroit, Mich., wait in line to enter the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Cultural on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on May 1.

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

It’s been one year since bells tolled along the East Coast, welcoming the newest Smithsonian to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Since then, the museum has attracted more than 3 million people of all races, colors and creed from across the nation and around the world — averaging about 8,000 visitors daily.

“This has become more than a museum. This has become a pilgrimage site,” said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in an interview with The Associated Press.

The one-year celebration is highlighting the various aspects of African-American history through music, dance and storytelling. Exhibits at the museum range from the glass-topped casket used to bury lynching victim Emmett Till to a fedora owned by late pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Many of the artifacts come from people’s homes and personal collections — like freed slave Joseph Trammel’s tin wallet, handmade to protect his freedom papers.

“Because you have these collections, it allows people to open up and to share stories to find memories,” Bunch told the AP. “I’ve heard many times people say, ‘I forgot, but once I saw a segregated door or once I saw that washboard it brought back those memories.’ “

Unlike other museums, the National African American Museum of History and Culture encourages people to leave something behind when they visit through a feature they call Visitor Voices — an area where people can talk about life as an African-American in the United States.

More than 8,000 people roam the museum’s halls daily — twice the amount that organizers had originally anticipated.

Dawn Robinson traveled from Richmond, Va., to celebrate the historical contributions of her ancestors.

“History in general shows us there’s been a lot of tragedy and a lot of triumph, and the African-American experience is no exception, so I think it’s just good that African Americans are finally being honored,” Robinson says.

The museum took years to build with more than a dozen failed votes in Congress over funding — and then controversy over where to build it.

Ground for the $540-million facility was finally broken in 2012 on a 5-acre tract near the Washington Monument. It was completed in 2016 with former President Barack Obama presiding over the opening ceremony.

“It is an act of patriotism to understand where we’ve been,” President Obama said to a standing room-only crowd.

The nation’s first black president marked the September opening with the ringing of a church bell. Former President George W. Bush and luminaries from politics and entertainment were also in attendance.

President Trump toured the museum shortly after his inauguration remarking on

“This museum is a beautiful tribute to so many American heroes,” Trump said after his tour. “It’s amazing to see. We did a pretty comprehensive tour, but not comprehensive enough.”

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture with Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Dr. Ben Carson.

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Evan Vucci/AP

The president, who was joined by First Lady Melania Trump and his daughter Ivanka, pledged to bring the country together and vowed to close racial divides.

Trump made a concerted effort to reach out to African-American voters during the campaign, including through events hosted by his National Diversity Coalition.

But, particularly in the past few days, critics have cast the president as racially divisive. His comments blasting NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, “reigniting criticism that he is divisive and insensitive,” as NPR’s Vanessa Romo reported on Sunday, “a month after Trump struggled with criticism of his multiple remarks in response to violence in Charlottesville, Va.

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One Killed In Nashville, Tenn., Church Shooting

A Nashville Metro Police Car, sits outside the Central Police Precinct, in Nashville, Tenn.

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One person was killed and eight others were wounded during a shooting at a church in Antioch, Tenn. Sunday morning. Police in Nashville say nine people were shot when a gunman opened fire at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.

Gunman opens fire at Church of Christ Burnette Chapel on Pin Hook Road. 1 woman dead in parking lot…6 other innocents shot… pic.twitter.com/yuwjfGPjXs

— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) September 24, 2017

Police say they started receiving calls about the incident around 11:15 a.m. Nashville Police Public Affairs Manager Don Aaron says six of the gunshot victims, three males and three females, are being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center – including the shooter whose identity has not yet been released. Two other victims were taken to Skyline Medical Center.

The Nashville Fire Department later tweeted that all but one of the victims were over 60 years old.

This is a mass casualty situation. All of the wounded have been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults.

— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) September 24, 2017

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry released a statement Sunday afternoon expressing her condolences to the victims and their families.

The Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, which has a weekly service at 10 a.m., is located about 10 miles southeast of downtown Nashville.

All of the wounded except for one is over the age of 60.

— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) September 24, 2017

The area around the church is shut down, while police continue their investigation.

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

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Merkel Victorious In Germany's National Election

Even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party came in first in Sunday’s parliamentary election, she said “she had hoped for a slightly better result.”

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Matthias Schrader/AP

Chancellor Angela Merkel is in position to rule for a fourth term, according to early exit polls in Germany’s national election, which also saw voters send the right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD) to Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag.

German media characterized the results of Sunday’s vote as a major shift. Der Spiegel reports, AfD is the “first overtly right-wing party to win seats in the country’s federal parliament in over half a century.”

With around 33 percent of the vote, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) came in first in Sunday’s vote, but it was their worst showing since 1949.

“Of course we would have preferred a better result,” Merkel said, according to The Associated Press. But she observed that her party has been in power for the past dozen years, the last four of which have been “extremely challenging.”

The CDU is projected to hold 218 seats out of the Bundestag’s 631 total.

Merkel’s outgoing coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), received just 20 percent of the vote, their worst showing ever. But it was enough for a second place result of 138 seats in Parliament, according to early results.

“Today is a difficult and bitter day,” said SPD leader Martin Schulz, who had hoped to take the chancellorship from Merkel. Schulz announced he will not partner in another grand coalition and his party will go into opposition.

The so-called Jamaica coalition, which would see Merkel ruling together with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, is her likeliest path toward a majority in Parliament. The coalition is so named because the parties’ colors of green, yellow and black mirror the Jamaican flag.

The AfD came in third Sunday, with early results showing it received more than 13 percent of the vote. The xenophobic party ran on an anti-immigrant platform with an emphasis on closing Germany’s borders to migrants. It had been fircely opposed to Merkel’s recent welcoming of large numbers of refugees.

In the run up to the election, NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports German voters were inundated with campaign posters, including ones from the anti-Muslim AfD party with the blunt slogan: “Burkas? We prefer bikinis.”

AfD’s co-leader Alexander Gauland vowed Sunday that the party would “change this country,” promising to pursue Germany’s established parties. “We will hunt Ms. Merkel. We will bring back our nation,” Gauland said.

The AfD is expected to hold some 87 seats in Parliament.

Merkel told supporters Sunday that “we want to win back AfD voters” by solving the country’s problems and addressing their concerns, reports AP. She said Germany has to take the fears of its people seriously.

The final election results are expected early Monday, German time, but are not expected to deviate greatly from Sunday’s projections.

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Angela Merkel Set To Win 4th Term; Right-Wing Party Gains Ground, Exit Polls Say

German Chancellor and Christian Democrat Angela Merkel speaks to supporters following initial federal elections results that give the CDU 33.1% of the vote, giving it a first place finish. The coming weeks will likely be dominated by negotiations between parties over the next coalition government after the right-wing Alternative for Germany party finished better-than-expected in the third place.

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Preliminary results show German voters gave Chancellor Angela Merkel a mandate for a fourth term today, but with far fewer votes than needed for her to govern without forming a coalition.

Merkel had campaigned on her record as a highly respected leader not only in Germany, but internationally as well as record low unemployment and strong economic growth. But German unhappiness over her refugee policy that allowed more than a million asylum seekers into the country since 2015 was something she never fully recovered from.

“Merkel has become a very polarizing figure, something she never envisioned for herself, never saw happening,” said Merkel biographer Stefan Kornelius, who is also foreign editor of Germany’s daily Suedeutsche Zeitung. “As much as she pushed to the center on the refugee issue and brought in the left part of electoral voters in her camp” she lost voters to the right of the spectrum.

Those voters are among the many Germans who are sending a right-wing nationalist party to the German parliament for the first time since 1957. Preliminary results show Alternative for Germany (AfD), which was founded as a Euroskeptic party in 2013, coming in third place with about 13 percent of the vote.

Merkel has made it clear her center-right Christian Democratic Union will under no circumstances partner with AfD, She and most other German politicians dismiss the newer party as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and even anti-Semitic.

Last January, one of AfD’s prominent eastern German leaders, Bjoern Hoecke, called the Holocaust Memorial the “memorial of shame and suggested Germans should “make a 180-degree turn in their politics of commemoration.”

Who will join Merkel in her new government is unclear and may not be decided for weeks. Another party voted into the new German parliament is the Social Democrats, whose party was the second highest vote getter, even though it appeared to have its poorest showing in many decades.

The party leader is former European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who had hoped to replace Merkel and ran on a social justice platform aimed at easing income disparity and improving social benefits and education. The center-left party was a junior partner in Merkel’s most recent government, but both sides are lukewarm about joining forces again.

The libertarian FDP, the Greens and The Left party — the latter is the successor to the East German communists — also appeared to have cleared the 5 percent vote threshold to enter parliament.

Voter turnout Sunday was estimated to be about 75 percent compared to 71.5 percent who cast ballots in the last German federal elections four years ago.

Berlin voter Bernd Lauer called it a critical year for Germans, who’ve seen more than a million asylum seekers come here since 2015:

“The refugee topic is very important, but also how Germany will evolve in the future in terms of digitalization,” he said. “The education is another important topic so I think there are a lot of topics this year around that might influence people’s vote.”

Berlin retiree Werner Butz, who like Lauer, declined to say who he voted for, said his choice was based on his worry about the declining value of pensions, ensuring German security and capping the number of asylum seekers allowed into Germany.

“A state can only take in as many refugees as it can handle economically,” he said. “Taking more than that will only cause the German population to go under. And that’s a real danger right now.”

Many Germans share his fear that immigrants might take away jobs and benefits, a fear stoked by Alternative for Germany. It helped the four-year-old party siphon off many conservative Merkel supporters as well as voters in the former communist eastern Germany, where unemployment tends to be higher and incomes lower than the German average.

While the current inclination is for Merkel and other mainstream MPs to isolate their right-wing counterparts, they won’t be able to ignore them completely.

Even before the federal election, AfD has steered the debate on asylum seekers from one over integration into German society to one focused on increasing and speeding up deportations. The right-wing nationalists also won seats in 13 of 16 German state legislatures.

There’s one thing Merkel and AfD more or less agree on, and that’s the need to engage the Trump administration. The right-wing nationalists have said they see a kindred spirit in President Donald Trump, even if AfD’s lead candidate Alice Weidel at a recent news conference criticized his Twitter habit.

Merkel, during her only televised debate during her campaign, said Germany must work with the US, on issues like ISIS and Afghanistan and that despite their differences on diplomacy, trade and climate change, she will do her best to find common ground with the American leader.

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U.S.-North Korea Discord Goes Beyond Discourse To A Show Of Military Force

North Korea Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.

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The weekend saw an escalation in the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, complete with a U.S. show of military might over the waters near North Korea and jitters over what seismologists say was an earthquake near a North Korean nuclear test site.

On Saturday, North Korea issued fiery rhetoric from the podium at the United Nations General Assembly. Offset by the backdrop of green marble, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho condemned Trump’s “reckless and violent words,” delivered from the same podium days earlier. Ri said Trump will “pay dearly” for his speech Tuesday.

In his debut address to the General Assembly, President Trump pledged to “totally destroy” North Korea if the United States is forced to protect itself or its allies. He used his oft-repeated moniker for Kim Jong Un, saying “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Ri echoed Trump’s words Saturday, saying it is the U.S. president who “is on a suicide mission.” Ri said the United States has forced North Korea to possess nuclear weapons and that with Trump’s speech “our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland” are all the more “inevitable.” Ri then referred to the North using a “nuclear hammer of justice.”

Sunday, Trump responded to Ri’s U.N. speech with another threat, tweeting that if Ri “echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts flew in international airspace over the waters east of North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s “reckless behavior,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement.

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., prepares to take off from Andersen AFB, Guam, on Saturday.

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Joshua Smoot/AP

“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century,” White said. “This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat.”

White went on to say that the U.S. is ready “to use the full range of military capabilities” to defend the homeland and allies.

Also Saturday, marchers in Pyonyang carried signs calling for “death to the American imperialists” accompanied by shouts for “total destruction,” reports The Associated Press citing the state news agency. It was part of a major anti-U.S. rally that brought together officials, students and workers.

North Koreans gather at Kim Il Sung Square to attend a mass rally against America on Saturday in Pyongyang.

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Jon Chol Jin/AP

The demonstration came a day after Kim issued a rare direct statement to Trump’s U.N. speech, saying, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.”

In another dizzying development Saturday, what seismologists say was a minor earthquake prompted speculation that Pyongyang could be conducting yet another weapons test. As The Two-Way reported, the tremor occurred near the site where North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test earlier this month.

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Key GOP Swing Vote On Health Care: 'Difficult To Envision' Supporting Bill

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

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Withholding final judgement on GOP legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and remake the Medicaid system, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Sunday morning on CNN that it’s “difficult to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill” and indicated she will make a final decision on Monday after the Congressional Budget Office provides a report on the legislation.

If Collins comes out against the bill, crafted by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, it would not have the votes to pass, and would be the last Republican attempt to repeal former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation before a Sept. 30 procedural deadline that allows the GOP to pass health care legislation without the support of any Democrats or independents.

Collins reiterated some of what’s giving her pause, including the major changes the bill would make to medicaid, potential impact on premiums and deductibles and what she fears would be lesser protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would take the funds used for subsidies and the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare and transfer them to states in block grants, phasing out the funds completely by 2027. It would also change the open-ended entitlement structure of Medicaid, instead giving states money on a per-capita basis.

GOP senators and the Trump administration are still working to get Collins on board. Collins said she spoke to Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday: “I told him about the various analyses of the impact that concern me. He told me he would get me more numbers on the impact on the state of Maine and on the nation.”

Collins also said senators are continuing to change the bill as they lobby to keep it from failing, and those changes could make it difficult for the Congressional Budget Office to provide a full analysis. She expects CBO to reinforce other private reports like one from the Brookings Insititution that shows 21 million fewer people would be insured by 2026 if the law were enacted, as opposed to projections under current law. CBO put out a statement saying they would provide a partial assessment with projections of how the bill would affect the deficit, but that it would not be able to provide projections for how many people would be insured and how much the legislation would cost for several weeks.

Republicans need 50 of their 52 senators to vote for the bill under special budget rules that allow them to avoid the typical 60-vote threshold, which would require Democratic support. Those rules expire on Sept. 30.

Sens. Rand Paul and John McCain have already announced they are against it, leaving the bill within one vote of failure and earning them criticism from President Trump.

Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as “the Republican who saved ObamaCare.”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017

McCain criticized the closed process of drafting the bill, as opposed to going through “regular order” with open public hearings and votes in Senate committees. “I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Collins reiterated that criticism on Sunday morning, in addition to her concern over the impact of the policy.

Paul said he opposes the bill because it doesn’t go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act, maintaining many of the taxes while redirecting the funds to states. “I won’t be bribed or bullied,” Paul said as Trump has lambasted him.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has not given any indication about which way she would vote, and her opposition would also scuttle the bill regardless of how Collins eventually decides. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office said he “intends” to bring the bill to the floor this week, but it’s not known whether that would still happen if it’s known to fail.

After Collins, McCain and Murkowski voted to sink the last GOP attempt to repeal Obamacare in July, bipartisan efforts to fix the health care system began. Those have been put on hold, but if Republicans can’t pass a bill in the Senate by the end of the week bipartisan efforts could pick up again.

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Katharine Hepburn's Brownies: A Recipe For Home-Wrecking?

Sydne Newberry’s post on Katharine Hepburn’s Brownie Recipe in The New York Times is the publication moderating team’s all-time favorite comment.

Courtesy of Sydne Newberry

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Courtesy of Sydne Newberry

When it comes to brownie recipes, one would usually expect to hear ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs and chocolate. But one woman dished out a most unusual addition – a heavy serving of infidelity. It all started when The New York Times published Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies Recipe two years ago.

As usual, the comments section filled up with complaints, recipe tweaks, flops and personal success stories. But then came the bombshell — a comment spiced with all the delectable elements of storytelling: drama, humor, love, heartbreak and most of all, suspense.

The commenter described sharing the brownies with an acquaintance in Germany back in the ’80s, “who considered herself a great cook, asked for the recipe but was never able to get it to work. She kept asking me what she was doing wrong and I was never able to solve her problem. Eventually, she moved to the US and stole my husband!”

That comment went viral and was deemed then by one Twitter user as “written by the greatest living short story writer.” This summer, The Times published an article noting that of the more than 16 million comments ever reviewed by its moderators, the brownie infidelity comment is considered their all-time favorite.

Since then, the comment once again has been making the rounds on the Internet. And this past week, an online publication, The Cut, tracked down the woman behind it to confirm its veracity and find out the backstory to the “husband thief.” The commenter’s name is Sydne Newberry.

As The Cut put it:

“She wrote that she first met the acquaintance when her then-husband of eight years was on temporary duty for the Air Force in Germany (their husbands at the time knew each other). Newberry brought them the brownies and after the acquaintance — described as ‘a gorgeous Italian woman who was very proud of her cooking and was a real food snob’ — asked her for the recipe, they went back and forth in the mail trying to get it to work. When it didn’t take, she insinuated that I’d purposely left something out of the recipe.’ “

Newberry added that three years later, the woman came to visit from Germany and a couple of weeks into her stay, she was fooling around with Newberry’s husband.

NPR spoke with Newberry for further details on the bittersweet saga and of course, to get her recipe for these talk-of-the-town brownies.

She said she doesn’t remember the details of The Times’ article but thought, “I’m going to post a comment about Katharine Hepburn’s brownies because I’ve been making them for so long.’ I mean, it’s like the only brownie recipe I ever use. And I started to type my comment about the recipe, and it popped into my head that I had brought these brownies to Germany and that this woman had tried to make the recipe and then ended up coming in the United States and marrying my ex, or stealing him and then marrying him. So I’ll just throw that in. Maybe it’ll put this recipe in perspective.”

Newberry said she appreciates humor and irony and figured these elements complemented her true story. But she never expected any response. “I’ve never seen any of them because I never went back to look,” she said. “When I post comments, I hardly ever read subsequent comments.”

She doesn’t usually check Twitter either, so when a friend told her back then that her comment had gone viral, she replied, “Oh my God, this is insane. Somebody is tweeting about my comment about the brownie!”

So on a hot July afternoon this past summer, when Newberry got a text while running errands in her Los Angeles neighborhood, the furthest thing from her mind was that brownie comment from two years ago.

“Hi, Sydne! Do you know you’re mentioned in today’s NYT? It’s on page 2 in a small article called The Approval Matrix. I have a hard copy clipping of it which I’ll bring to work on Wednesday if you’d like it,”the text said.

Newberry, a nutritionist and writer, says her first thoughts were, “I really haven’t done any research that’s that newsworthy in a few years. I figured maybe they dredged up something about probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids. I’m working on a really controversial report right now, so I was a little afraid something got leaked but didn’t think that was very likely.”

Needless to say, Newberry’s curiosity got the better of her, so she raced home to get a look at her own copy of The New York Times.

The Times moderators had declared:

“Katharine Hepburn’s brownies recipe in The New York Times’s Cooking section holds a particular honor: A comment left on the article is the Times moderating team’s all-time favorite.”

“I was pretty shocked,” Newberry says. “I thought, ‘What? It was just an offhand comment I made.’ “

Newberry says she still regularly makes Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies, although she has tweaked the recipe a tad since sharing it with the woman whom she said stole her ex-husband — and is still currently married to him. But Newberry insists that the original recipe worked, so her alterations to it don’t account for why that woman never got it right.

“I have a degree in baking,” she says, adding, “I’ve actually thought about what could have gone wrong. … Maybe it had something to do with some difference between ingredients in Germany and ingredients here. It could have been the size of the egg. It could have been something about the grain of the fineness of the sugar. I don’t know.”

What Newberry does know is that her current husband of 21 years absolutely loves her brownies. Still, she says she can’t help but see the irony of a brownie recipe by Katharine Hepburn being connected to marital infidelity. Hepburn famously carried on a 25-year love affair with actor Spencer Tracy — who was married to someone else throughout the relationship — until his death in 1967.

“If you want to steal somebody’s husband,” Newberry muses, “you should screw up a brownie recipe.”


Brownies seen in the Star test kitchen in Toronto.

Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Sydne Newberry’s Spin On Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies

* This recipe is based on Katherine Hepburn’s original, with modifications made by Newberry.

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup broken up walnut or pecan pieces (for better flavor, toast the nuts at 350 F for about 5 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Grease an 8-inch-square pan. (Line it with aluminum foil, overhanging on all sides.)
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time.
  6. Stir in vanilla.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts and salt.
  8. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. Stir until just combined.
  9. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes. (Do not overbake: Center should still be a little gooey.)
  10. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. If foil lining is used, lift from pan and cut into 16 squares on a cutting board.

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