Colin and I frequently attend events that ask us to bring a dish to share. Most people probably dread this, but I love it because it gives me an excuse to bake something deliciously unhealthy, eat one serving and give the rest away. We had to go to one such event the other weekend so, naturally, I decided to bring cream cheese brownies and they turned out so good that I had to share them with you. The inspiration for the brownies came from my mom’s recipe, which, on my recipe card, is very accurately titled “Kim’s Best Brownies.” This is not her recipe, (don’t worry Mom, I’m not giving that away) rather my take on her delicious original.
The brownie layer is everything I ever want a brownie to be: thick, fudgy and deeply chocolate in flavor. My mom’s recipe adds almond extract to the brownie layer and, since that is my favorite part, I included it here as well. It gives the brownies an extra layer of flavor (it’s just faint enough that people may wonder exactly what it is that is so delicious) that pairs perfectly with the chocolate.
In many versions of this recipe, the cream cheese layer can get lost, usually from lack of flavor or over-swirling. I used two techniques from Cook’s Illustrated to combat this. Cook’s Illustrated adds sour cream to the cream cheese layer to increase the flavor and tartness usually associated with cream cheese. I felt their version was a little too tart, so I adjusted it in my version and found it was a better contrast of tart to sweet between the two layers. To make sure the brownies don’t get over-swirled, Cook’s Illustrated suggests reserving some of the brownie layer, warming it slightly, and then swirling it on top of the cream cheese layer. This technique works really well, without too much extra work, and gives the brownies a beautiful, marbled look. Plus, it ensures that you get both brownie and cream cheese in every bite!
Although my mom’s version of cream cheese brownies will forever be my favorite, these are a pretty close second. Since the tray was wiped entirely clean (I’m not kidding, someone literally asked me if they could steal one of the crumbs as I was carrying the empty tray away), I’d say they were a huge success. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll be well-known enough to be called “Kelsey’s Best Brownies” instead.
1. I think these are best served cold, although others may prefer them at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine July/August 2014.
Nutrition Panel: Serving Size: 1 bar Calories: 190kcal Carbohydrate: 21g Fat: 11g Protein: 3g
For the Cream Cheese Filling:
- 10 ounces full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
For the Brownie Batter:
- 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 cups MINUS 2 tablespoons (13 1/8 ounces) sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Line 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, making sure there is extra foil up the sides of the pan to form a sling. Grease foil.
To make the Cream Cheese Filling:
- Whisk cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, egg and vanilla extract together until smooth (some lumps may remain, that is ok). Whisk in flour until just combined. Set aside.
To make the Brownie Batter:
- Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Microwave chopped chocolate and butter in a small, microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds and stir well. Continue heating and stirring in 30 second increments until chocolate and butter are melted, about 1-2 minutes.
- Whisk sugar, eggs and extracts together in a medium-large bowl.
- Add melted chocolate mixture and whisk until incorporated.
- Add flour mixture and fold to combine.
- Transfer 3/4 cup brownie batter to bowl used to melt chocolate.
- Spread remaining batter in prepared pan.
- Spread cream cheese filling evenly over batter.
- Microwave bowl of reserved batter until warm and pourable, about 10-20 seconds.
- Using a spoon, dollop softened batter over cream cheese filling, 12-14 dollops.
- Using knife or small offset spatula, swirl batter through cream cheese filling, making marbled pattern, about 15 strokes, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.
- Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 35-40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.
- Let cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour.
- Using foil overhang, lift brownies out of pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
- Cut into squares and serve at room temperature or chilled, depending on preference.
- Bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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