These brownies talk a good talk, but in reality they are quite easy to make. There's a brownie layer, followed by a cheesecake layer, followed by another brownie 'layer.' Two batters, and they're both very simple.
I ran into a little trouble with the brownie batter being very thick while the cheesecake batter was very thin. But that could also be because I softened the cream cheese by nuking it in the microwave for 30 seconds rather than waiting for it to soften to room temperature. In any case, the final step of dolloping on some reserved brownie batter onto the cheesecake layer, then making the swirl patterns was a bit challenging, as the brownie batter didn't want to move much, and I didn't want to over mix it with the cheesecake.
I also used the microwave for the brownie batter step of melting the butter and chocolate together. You can, of course, use a double boiler if you like, but after discovering how I can bend technology to my culinary will, I can't resist the convenience. In this case, I broke the chocolate into pieces, put them into a bowl along with a stick of butter, and nuked it for 1 minute. It was long enough to melt the butter entirely, while softening up the chocolate. You don't want to microwave too long and risk burning the chocolate. At this point, I stirred until all the chocolate was melted and the resulting mixture was glossy and smooth.
I think I've mentioned this before, but I don't like my desserts super sweet. I adapted the recipe to use less sugar, and substituted some brown sugar for the white in the brownie batter. I thought this made the chocolate flavor stand out more. The resulting brownies are very moist, somewhere between cakey and fudgy. The cheesecake adds a bit of tang, but the brownie flavor definitely overwhelms it. In my view the cheesecake layer adds more aesthetic appeal than flavor appeal, but others may disagree.
Part of the ease of making these is because there isn't any special equipment required (unless you count the double boiler -- but I really recommend using the microwave) -- just a couple of handy bowls and a trusty wooden spoon. It's nice to know that great desserts can be made the old-fashioned way.
Cheesecake Brownies (adapted from Cookies and Brownies by Alice Medrich)
For the brownie batter
- 1/2 cup (8 tbsp or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 4oz dark or unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven.
- Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan. Create a foil sling (the idea is to help you lift the brownie out of the pan after baking) and fit it into the pan. Spray with cooking oil.
- Melt the butter and chocolate together, either by using a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir until glossy and smooth.
- Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the flour and salt, stirring for about a minute, until the ingredients are well incorporated and the batter is smooth.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the brownie batter and set aside. Pour the rest of the brownie batter into the reserved pan and spread it out as evenly as you can; it's not super critical.
- Process the cream cheese until smooth (you can use a hand mixer or food processor if you like, but I just used a fork after softening the cream cheese in the microwave). Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and stir until just incorporated.
- Carefully pour the cheesecake mixture over the brownie mixture in the pan.
- Next, place small dollops of the reserved brownie batter over the cheesecake layer. Use a table knife to swirl the two without overmixing.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the brownies have started to pull away from the pan and the edges are starting to brown.
- Cool the brownies until firm enough to cut (cool completely to room temperature, or after cooling a bit after taking them out of the oven, place the pan in the fridge to cool), then lift them out using the foil sling. Cut them into the desired number of squares with a sharp knife.