Ah, the weekend. That means it’s time to reward myself--and my kids--for surviving the week. Hey, everyone actually got all their homework done and in on time, that’s reason to celebrate with some brownies.
I stumbled on this brownie recipe leafing through Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I have all of 15 cookbooks in my kitchen—this is one of them. If you want a good resource, and plenty of fabulous recipes you should give Bittman’s tome a try (seriously, it’s about 3 inches thick). Of course, one of my favorite sections is cookies, brownies and cakes. Next to chocolate and peanut butter, my kids’ next favorite dessert combo is chocolate and cream cheese. So let’s get cooking.
Ingredients: 4 ounces chocolate, roughly chopped 5 tablespoons butter, softened 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 cup sugar 3 eggs 1 cup all purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon ½ teaspoon lemon juice 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract ½ teaspoon baking powder pinch of salt ½ cup chopped nuts ½ teaspoon almond extract
Turn up the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch baking pan.
You’re going to need four bowls to make these brownies—one for the dry ingredients, one for the melted chocolate, a third to fluff your cream cheese and a fourth for the brownie batter. Don’t worry, getting to lick the brownie bowl clean is worth the dish duty later.
To start putting together your brownies, Bittman suggests melting the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over a low-heat burner. Here’s where I differ from Bittman, I don’t believe in melting chocolate over the stovetop; same goes for double boilers (it’s too many extra pans to clean up). I’m patient enough to melt my chocolate in the microwave. One key is using a glass dish so the heat gets evenly distributed AND heating at a low power then mixing vigorously afterwards. Melt your butter and chocolate in a large glass mixing bowl at low temperature in your microwave (around 1-2 minutes at half power). I have to say, I tried out milk chocolate recently and the flavor just wasn’t intense enough for my taste, so I’d stick with semi-sweet or dark varieties. Let the mixture cool while you put together the cream cheese.
Beat your cream cheese and ¼ cup of the sugar in your second bowl. Add one egg and then stir in the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla and 1tablespoon flour. I’ve tried some substitutes for the lemon juice like fresh orange juice and zest and even a dash of vinegar. My advice: if you don’t have a fresh lemon for juice just omit the ingredient; I haven’t noticed a real difference in the finished flavor.
In another mixing bowl beat the remaining 2 eggs together with the left over (3/4 cup) sugar until it forms ribbons when you pull the mixer away from the bowl. In yet another bowl mix your dry ingredients together. Gently stir together the melted chocolate, the egg/sugar mix and your dry ingredients (and don’t forget that last teaspoon of vanilla). Add the almond extract. Usually, I’m all for nuts in desserts, but they seem a distraction in this recipe so I omit those.
To put the batter together, Bittman suggests pouring half your chocolate brownie batter into the pan, then all of the cream cheese then finally the rest of the chocolate batter. I like my cream cheese and brownie flavors to remain more separate, so I pour all the chocolate batter in first, followed by the cream cheese mixture. Next, using a table knife, make swirls in the batter for a marble effect. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes or until just golden brown. These are one set of brownies that taste better after they’ve had time to sit. In fact, we keep them in the fridge at our house. If you’re serving these for company, swirl some warmed raspberry jam on the bottom of the plate then top with the chilled brownie and whipped cream. Yummy.