Throughout my years in middle school, I had a specific after-school snack that I made myself every day. I combined a large glob of cream cheese, a tablespoon or so of butter, and a few spoonfuls of sugar in a small bowl, after which popping in the microwave for a few seconds would get all smooth and warm. Then, I would eat it. Just like that. You’d be right if you said it seemed like I was just eating uncooked cheesecake batter, because frankly, that’s basically what it was.
(I think it is important to mention, in order to justify myself, that at this time in my life I was doing year-round competitive swimming six days a week. Let’s just say counting calories wasn’t first on my priorities.)
Anyway, this little habit came about when after school one day I was watching a food network show that was featuring cheesecake. What with the fact that cheesecake was one of my favorite foods (and not to mention that I was always hungry back then), I decided I needed to recreate it, uncooked, in a snack-sized form. But as I’m sure you can guess with its three-ingredient-list, it wasn’t that hard to come up with. How I managed to eat cheesecake batter as a snack preceding a three hour swim practice, on the other hand, is kind of boggling my mind at the moment. Nonetheless, the point I’m trying to get across with this little and somewhat embarrassing anecdote about my past eating patterns is that I really like cheesecake.
Fortunately, the quantity of cheesecake that I eat (batter or otherwise) has drastically declined over the years since I quit swimming. This is not due to a drop in my affinity for it, but rather from a nasty little presence I’ve learned to call will power–something I still haven’t mastered yet (one has to hope that it’s possible). And even though I’ve learned to politely refuse an offering of cheesecake from the dessert menu or bakery shelf, the whisper of a the existence of a cheesecake-swirled brownie from Smitten Kitchen had that silly little will power conquered. Thank goodness cheesecake found its way back to me!
This is the second time I’ve made this cheesecake brownie recipe, and it certainly won’t be the last. The brownies themselves are dense, fudgy and chewy. The liberally-swirled cheesecake running through it is pretty self-explanatory in its delights–need I mention, once again, how satisfying the combination of cream cheese and sugar is? And the chocolate chips on top are the perfect textural foil for the creaminess of the cheesecake. Basically, in my opinion, these brownies have it all. They need no adjusting, no contemplation on whether or not they are worth it. Because let me tell you, they are. Good luck, will power, in trying to stay away from these.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (where would we be without her?)
Be generous in swirling the cheesecake batter into the brownies. You want a marbled effect, not a two-layered cheesecake-brownie bar (unless, I guess, you don’t). Also, these really are best when you let them cool all the way. Try them cold, from the fridge. They’re really, really great that way.
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
To make the brownie batter, preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in middle position. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate in a double boiler (glass or stainless steel bowl over a simmering, shallow pot of water) over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.
For the cheesecake batter, whisk together the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, yolk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a butter knife or spatula. Don’t be afraid (like I was) to really swirl the cheesecake batter in–using your knife to swirl the brownie batter up and throughout the cheesecake layer. It’ll leave you with a prettier marbled effect in the end. Sprinkle chocolate chips over cheesecake/brownie batter swirl.
Bake brownies until edges are slightly puffed and a little golden and center is just set, about 35 minutes. A toothpick pricked in the middle won’t come out entirely clean, but have faith. You don’t want to overcook these. Let cool completely. I like storing them in the fridge, and eating them cold.
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