Last weekend, en route to the Professional Bull Riders Showdown at Madison Square Garden, and after some beers at what, without a doubt, must be the most sordid bar in Manhattan, Jocelyn’s roommate told me that even the sound of a baby crying could immediately bring on PMS-like symptoms for her. She’s that repelled by them. I laughed, because she’s damn funny, but then it hit me: earlier this month I held a friend’s 3-month old baby, marveled at his wrist-less arms and ankle-less legs (hidden beneath rolls, you see) and sniffed his tiny baby noggin and since then, I cannot stop eating chocolate. It’s getting worse and worse. What is usually just a two to three day bout of increased chocolate cravings every, oh, 28 days or so is incessant. Unending. Borderline obsessive, minus the borderline part.
And now we’ve graduated beyond the cookies that brought us no world peace to cream cheese-swirled brownies. I try, I really do, to offset the inevitably amassed results of the fact that I am incapable of avoiding the ingestion of cocoa mass: boiled brussel sprouts, dull vegetable udon soups, miles and miles of crunchy salads as well as distances on my other tormentor, the roller-blade like hulking machine mass at the gym, but all of this just dances around the fact that in the freezer, a few marbled beauties wait impatiently for our reunion. I mean, I couldn’t bring them all work, could I?
This isn’t really a new recipe, but an adaptation of the Cooks Illustrated Classic Brownie recipe I fell hard for a months ago. That was the point, after all, to find a dreamy go-to recipe and then tweak it to my
hearts cravings content, which last night, came in twists and swirls. I spilled a small amount of a cream cheese mixture between layers of the brownie batter and circled it about with the tip of a knife. Playing with my food has rarely been this much fun. I had to add 10, maybe 15 minutes to the baking time to get the center to set. It’s not the first time I’ve had a hard time getting them to cook through and while I’m not sure if my oven runs cool (likely, and no pun intended) or if the recipe needs adjusting but I am sure that nobody complains about a stickier center, especially from the freezer, two at time, sometimes before noon. So, what’s Alex’s excuse?
Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies
Adapted liberally from Cook’s Illustrated
Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.
[Note: This recipe was refreshed and updated in September 2009 — Check it out.]
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325°F. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Beat cream cheese and two tablespoons butter in medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in egg. Mix in one tablespoon flour. Set mixture aside.
3. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
4. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
5. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
6. Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Pour cream cheese mixture over, then second half of brownie batter. Swirl the batters together decoratively with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 45 minutes, watching carefully for overcooking. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)