Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies
After being married to J. for nearly 7 years, I thought I knew all his favorite things to eat especially because food and cooking are such a big part of our lives. That’s why I was taken by surprise a couple months ago when I found out he loves cheesecake. I can’t remember the context of the conversation or why we were talking cheesecake, and J. was very nonchalant about it.  A passion for sweets is something we share, but no matter restaurant dessert or homemade creation, chocolate is the default selection.

I suppose I should have known about J.’s thing for cheesecake. Wanting to bake a dessert that combined our affection for chocolate with my new discovery about J.’s taste, I baked a batch of cream cheese brownies. Rich fudgy chocolate played off tangy bites of cheesecake swirl. Unlike a pan of standard brownies, the marbled top gave these bars a more formal look. While no substitute for full-fledged cheesecake, these brownies certainly ticked a couple boxes. Cheesecake is now on my to-bake list, and I know J. is anxiously awaiting a slice.

Cream Cheese Brownies
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Makes 16 brownies

For the brownie layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed plus additional for pan
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cream cheese layer
8 ounces full fat cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a foil-lined 9-inch square metal cake pan.

In a medium saucepan bring 1 inch of water to a low simmer. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over the saucepan without the water touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir frequently until the mixture is fully melted. (Alternatively, melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave in 30-second blasts stirring to distribute the heat.)

Add the sugar, vanilla extract and eggs to the chocolate mixture fully incorporating after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined.

Reserve 1/2 cup brownie mixture and spread the rest in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan.

To make the cream cheese layer, whip the cream cheese using an electric hand mixer for a few minutes until it is light and creamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and egg and mix until fully combined.

Spread the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the brownie batter in the pan. With the reserved brownie mixture, place 16 evenly spaced dollops on the cream cheese layer—4 dollops each in 4 rows. Drag a knife or chopstick through the dollops to create a marble effect.

Bake the brownies for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a bit of batter. Allow the brownies to fully cool before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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