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Worth the wait!

March 1, 2010


Back in December I made cream cheese brownies for a coworker’s birthday, which everyone seemed to enjoy.  Some people liked them even more than others.  The Pregnant Girl ate more than one (I’m not allowed to say exactly how many), and has been hinting that she’d like some more ever since.  When she found out that the February theme was brownies and bars, you can just guess what she asked for.  I knew I wanted to make them again, but I kept putting it off, until suddenly it was the end of the month, and I only had one workday left.  So Thursday night, I went to pull out the recipe that I had used previously………and came up totally empty.  No idea where it went.  Disappeared into thin air.  And of course the fact that I’m amazingly disorganized had absolutely nothing to do with it!

So back to the drawing board.  I needed a good, reliable recipe, since I wouldn’t have time to make a trial version first.  Aha!  Cook’s Illustrated (home of the magazine by the same name, and the America’s Test Kitchen TV show) does all the work for you!  They’ll pick a recipe, research the heck out of it, make a zillion versions while tracking the differences in each, and then come up with one final recipe that is the end-all and be-all for that particular item.  That said, because of this sometimes their recipes can be a bit labor intensive, or take forever, and you just want to make something fast and easy.  But I’ve found time and again that if you’ve got a little bit of extra time, it’s totally worth it.  So I pulled out my Baking Illustrated, turned to page 488, and got to work.

The brownies, they were HEAVENLY.  Rich and fudgy and oh-my-lord-SO-chocolatey.  Slight crackle on the top.  The cream cheese swirl was substantial without being overwhelming, and it tasted like little bites of cheesecake melting in your mouth.  With other marbled desserts, I’ve often found that the swirl will separate from the main item, causing unsightly ravines.  Not so with this brownie – other than one or two isolated spots, the two textures melded perfectly together.  Just amazing.  This is now officially my go-to recipe for cream cheese brownies. No need to look any further, I’m more than happy to take the extra steps (which are easier and faster than reading the recipe may lead you to believe, and totally worth it.).  And The Pregnant Girl?  Well, after she got over being mad at us (because we were as mature as schoolchildren, and hid them from her before she got to taste one – don’t ever do that to a pregnant person, trust me), she loved them too.  And she ate more than one.

CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES

(BROWNIE BASE)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used semisweet chips)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

(CREAM CHEESE FILLING)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, and preheat oven to 325F.  Spray and 8×8 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line with foil or parchment, leaving enough overhang on either end to be used as handles later.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  • Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth (you can also use the microwave, I use a saucepan directly on the stove top, and just monitor it non-stop).  Remove from heat, whisk in sugar and vanilla.  Let mixture cool slightly, and then whisk in the eggs 1 at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.  Continue whisking until completely smooth.  Add dry ingredients, and whisk until just incorporated.
  • In a small bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar, vanilla, and egg yolk, until evenly blended.
  • Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Drop half of the cream cheese mixture, by spoonfuls, over the batter.  Repeat, layering the remaining brownie batter and cream cheese filling.  Use the blade of a butter knife to gently swirl  the two together, creating a marbled effect.
  • Bake until the edges of the brownies have puffed slightly, the center feels not quite firm when touched, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with several moist, fudgy crumbs adhering to it, 50 to 60 minutes (may take longer if you double and use a larger pan, which I did, but forgot to note exactly how long they cooked for).
  • Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  The remove from the pan using the foil or parchment handles.  Place on wire rack; allow them to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.  Cut and serve.

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