Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

I don’t know whether to apologize for my absence or be grateful for it. I can’t stand a sub-par blog post and I’ve been feeling very uninspired lately so I’ve stayed away from my computer and my oven. If you think writer’s block hits you like a ton of bricks, I dare you to survive baker’s block. Thankfully, I can always count on three inspiring ladies to pull me out of this ennui – Julia Child, Dorie Greenspan and most recently, Ruth Reichl. I suppose you could also count Julie Powell in since they’ve been playing Julie & Julia on TV for the past two days and I always happen to catch it. You’d think I’d be able to look away after watching the movie so many times, but I still sit, spell bound, making mental notes of the hidden gems of tips in the movie and promising myself to use more butter. As for Dorie Greenspan, she’s the closest to Julia Child in spirit, recipe writing and general effortlessness when it comes to baking a mean pie. Real fan girl moment, people.

I’m also enamored with Ruth Reichl, reading her book (Tender At The Bone) every night before going to bed, wishing I had access to the food she makes come alive through her spirited writing. I’m constantly amazed at her attention to detail. One of my many favorite passages from the book reads:

It was just a filet of beef. But I had never tasted anything like this sauce, a mixture of red wine, marrow, butter, herbs, and mushrooms, It was like autumn distilled in a spoon. A shiver went down my back. “This sauce!” I exclaimed involuntarily. The sound echoed through the polite conversation at the table and I put my hand to my mouth. Monsieur du Croix laughed. 

“Your friend likes to eat,” he said to Beatrice.

It’s much more than a food memoir, though. Of course, it’s beautifully punctuated with anecdotes about Reichl’s childhood and such but not all of it is centered around food. Either way, it’s made me sing. I’m now a happy bunny, eager to get back to the kitchen, thinking of various permutations and combinations for menus that involve berries, fried chicken, pies and so much more. A little time away does everyone some good, you see.

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These cream cheese swirl brownies are just another addition to the brownie party I seem to have going on, you’d think. It’s not entirely true. Cheesecake is one of those fall-back desserts for me. Be it ordering off a menu (which I don’t tend to do here too often – impostor cream cheese is off putting) or making it as a last minute addition for dinner party and brownies have joined in. It was only a matter of time before the two got together. Similar to the excitement you feel when Ross and Rachel finally made it, I could hardly wait till they were out of the oven. Spoiler alert – they will be the easiest dessert you’ll have at your disposal. It’ll also be the one that makes you very popular amongst your friends, family and neighbors. And just like any other internet spoiler about your favorite couple on your favorite TV show, I’m going to keep mum till you make these for yourself. You’re welcome.

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Yields: 9 (kind of) even pieces

Source: Joy of Baking 

For the brownies:

1/2 cup (113g) butter

4 oz. (113g) bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks

1 1/4 cups (250g) caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup (60g) flour

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 deg C. Line a brownie pan with aluminum foil and place it on a cookie tray with a silicon mat.

2. In a medium mixing bowl (heat-proof), add butter and chocolate and melt in the microwave in 20 second bursts till all of the butter and chocolate has melted. Whisk well and immediately add the sugar. Continue to whisk well. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk again. Finally, add the flour and fold it in gently with a spatula. Remove up to 1/2 cup of the batter and set aside.

For the cream cheese layer:

8 oz. (226g) Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup (65g) caster sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of a food processor, add all the ingredients for the cream cheese layer and blitz till smooth. Do not over beat. You can also do this by hand.

To bake:

1. Pour all but the reserved batter into the prepared brownie pan. Add cream cheese in a steady layer and spread over the brownie with the help of an offset spatula. Use a tea spoon and drop small amounts of the reserved brownie batter a top the cream cheese layer. Then, use the back of a spoon or a wooden skewer to create swirls. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, checkin in after 25 minutes. Pierce your skewer into the brownie bit and it should come out clean with some crumbs attached. Refrigerate before cutting (at least 2 – 4 hours) and serve!

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