At the risk of sounding like I’m a Dalai Lama impersonator or something, can we all agree that a balanced life is the best life? I’m always happiest when I’m living in a state of mind and stomach where there’s room for everything. Tall, icy glasses of fresh water living happily alongside venti Pinot Grigios. A lunch that involves a green salad the size of my head, and a dessert of frosted cake (preferably with a side of latte and gossip, if we’re being specific). That sort of living.
The thing is, I don’t want to trap myself into a dark corner where things are off-limits. That attitude was for my 20s, you hear? I am trying my best to live free and easy and balanced these (read: most) days. For much of the week, I aim for meals that are full of fresh, health-giving foods, so that when the time comes for a big honking brownie (or, uh, two), I’m not having to break emergency glass to get at it. And Lord knows there are certain times of a lady’s life when you will most definitely break glass to get at a big honking brownie. It’s SCIENCE.
So with those precarious times in mind, I present to you a recipe that is everything you could possibly want in a hormonally-driven splurge. Just the name might send you into a frenzy: BROWNIE BOMBS, FRIENDS. Let’s all get on board.
I’ve recently been going through a Very Midwestern Phase, perhaps due to this summer’s long dreamy trip to my hometown. But whatever caused it, I can’t stop digging through old cookbooks and recipe clippings that I’ve been collecting for ages for inspiration. I’m stopping short of making things involving non-dairy whipped topping and cake mixes (not throwing shade, I swear), but if a recipe calls for a 9-by-13-inch pan, mama is signing up, hard. And then of course there are the kind of midwestern desserts that were serving Pinterest realness before Pinterest was even a thing–layered desserts in bar form. I can feel my vowels flattening out just thinking about it.
If you’re a fan of brownies and cheesecake (so that’s, what, every normal human being, right?), then look no further than these over-the-top gems. Although their “mega hybrid dessert” quality might suggest otherwise, these really are a super rich, less-is-more kind of treat. You’ll easily get more than two dozen pieces out of a single 8-by-8-inch pan of them, and they freeze like a dream. Which seems like a great way to encourage moderation, until you discover that they are incredible when frozen. GAH. It’s always something, isn’t it?
Makes 25 brownies
Although I normally stash my very favorite 60% cacao chocolate in my pantry for almost every recipe that calls for chocolate, I recommend going higher with your cacao percentage her to avoid the bombs from being cloyingly sweet (70% or higher). If you have a raging sweet tooth, then go with semi-sweet chips for the topping instead of chopping more bittersweet.
After the pan has cooled completely, pop it into the freezer for about 10 minutes or so–you’ll get cleaner cuts that way. Cutting brownies with a cheap plastic disposable knife, like the kind used for picnics, is one of my all-time favorite Kitchen MacGyvering™ tricks.
For the brownie batter:
4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70 to 72% cacao), chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, cold
3/4 cup (3 3/8 ounces/96 grams) all-purpose flour
For the cheesecake-y layer:
1 8-ounce (225 grams) pacakge full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces/50 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (3 ounces/85 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70 to 72% cacao, or sweeter if you like–see note), chopped
Position a rack to the center of the oven preheat it to 350°F. Spray an 8-by-8-inch square metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with an 8-inch wide strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil, long enough to provide a couple inches overhang on two opposite sides of the pan.
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter. Stir in the sugar, salt, and vanilla, and let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes.
While the chocolate mixture is cooling, in a medium bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until soft and smooth. Beat in the sugar, egg, flour, and vanilla until well-blended.
Returning to the chocolate mixture, whisk in the eggs, one at a time until smooth. Switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold in the flour until no white streaks remain. Spread about two-thirds of the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Dollop the cheesecake mixture over the brownie batter (no need to smooth this layer, just try and dollop the clouds of cheesecake batter relatively evenly). Spoon the remaining brownie batter over the top (it should sort of ooze itself into place over the cheesecake layer). Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the entire pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until puffed and the edges of the brownies have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan ever so slightly–there will be a slight wobble in the center of the pan. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely at room temperature. Freeze the pan for 10 minutes before cutting into 25 squares, to make cutting a little cleaner and easier. Store any leftovers tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
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