I’ve made these a few times for parties and they’re always very popular. I have to make them for parties otherwise I’d be left with a whole tray of brownies myself. No good can certainly come of that.
Brownies are brownies, and I’d never kick one out of the kitchen, but cream cheese just has a way of elevating the whole shebang into the stratosphere. (Along with your blood sugar.)
It’s just an extra step or two, but so worth the effort. And if you really need to gild the lily stir 1/2 cup chocolate chips in right after you add the dry ingredients to the melted chocolate.
But that would just be crazy, no?
Cream Cheese Brownies
Makes 12 to 16, depending on how you cut them.
3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate or equivalent in chips, about 3/4 cup
3/8 cup (6 Tbsp) unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp lemon zest, optional
Place an oven rack in the center-lower position. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray an 8″x8″ square pan. Place a strip of foil in each direction, forming 4 overhanging strips, one on each side. You will use these to form handles to lift the brownies out of the pan. (It seems like a lot of trouble, but you will be so glad you took the time to do it.) Spray the pan again.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sea salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the chocolate, cocoa, and butter in a double boiler over low heat, whisking frequently until smooth. You may also use a small saucepan sitting on top of a larger saucepan with a bit of simmering water in it.
Essentially, you’re using the steam of the water to gently melt the chocolate without scorching it. You can also do this in the microwave carefully on medium power, checking and stirring until melted.
Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Whisk in each egg completely, one at a time. Stir in dry ingredients, taking care not to overmix, until just incorporated.
Place the cream cheese in a small bowl and beat with the 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and lemon zest, if using.
Spoon about half of the chocolate mix into the pan. Add dabs of cream cheese on top, again using only about half the amount.
Spoon the remaining chocolate mixture on top of that and finish with dabs of the remaining cream cheese mixture.
You could leave it and bake it this way, but I like to swirl it some. I find a thin, flat knife or offset spatula is the best tool. You just stick it straight down and move gently through the pan, turning and pulling to get the effect. Then lift and stick into another section and do it a bit more. Take care not to overdo it or you’ll just end up mixing it all together. (It will still taste great.)
Bake until the sides pull away slightly and the middle seems still slightly moist. It’s easy to overbake brownies. These will seem almost slightly underdone when ready. The baking time could be anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour. Mine take about 55 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then gently lift the foil handles to remove the brownies from the pan. Place back on the wire rack and cool completely. To set up best, refrigerate for a couple of hours before slicing and serving.