The first time I ever had cheesecake brownies, they were a variation on a box brownie mix that my mom baked. I had cheesecake brownies this way for years. Some of those box brownie mixes are very good (Ghiradelli is one of my favorites) and I always enjoyed it when I found a batch in the kitchen. Presentation-wise, it’s a beautiful dessert, but the thing that makes it good is how the creamy cheesecake really contrasts with the rich chocolate flavor and texture of brownies.
I may like versions of this dessert made with box brownie mix, but these blow them away. The brownie base is dark and rich, the cheesecake is light by comparison and the ratio between the two is spot-on.
The brownies don’t have a tremendous amount of chocolate in them – some melted chocolate and a small amount of cocoa powder – but deliver a lot of flavor. Chocolate makes the brownies taste richer than cocoa alone, while the cocoa powder deepens the flavor. I used dark (65% cacao) chocolate and, while you could use semisweet chocolate in a pinch, I think that darker chocolate (or even half dark and half unsweetened) will give you the best finished flavor. The brownies are very fudgy when served at room temperature, largely because there is no leavening in the brownie batter aside from eggs, and they have a great chewiness to them when refrigerated. I usually prefer things at room temperature, but this is one that I actually prefer chilled.
Since this batch of brownies bakes in a fairly small pan (8×8-inches), there is a generous ratio of cheesecake to brownie, which makes this a good choice for cheesecake fans. The cheesecake is not too dense and I found that the flavor of the cream cheese, combined with the hint of vanilla in the mix, made a great match to the brownie. I didn’t swirl my brownies too much and, as a result, most of my pieces were brownies on the bottom and cheesecake on top. If you want more of a mixture, you can be a bit more aggressive with the “swirling” of the two batters.
1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisking steadily, pour chocolate mixture into sugar mixture. Stir until smooth. Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt into the bowl and stir until just combined.
Pour into prepared pan and prepare cheesecake mixture.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Drop in dollops onto prepared brownie batter. Gently swirl two batters with a butter knife.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.
Cool in the pan completely before slicing and serving, either at room temperature or chilled.
Brownies can be refrigerated, covered, for several days.
Makes 16 large brownies.