Thursday, November 12, 2009

Black Bottom Brownies

Black Bottom Brownies - November 11, 2009

The real baking therapy last night were these brownies - "Black Bottom Brownies" from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. I had said yesterday was such a bad day that I needed more baking therapy than popping frozen cookie dough into the oven and these brownies were it. This is a brownie layer on the bottom and a chocolate chip cheesecake layer on top. For the most part, these turned out okay. People at work liked them (it was a 5-compliment, stop-me-in-the-hallway-to-tell-me-so brownie) but I'm my own worst critic and I think these could've been better. For one thing, they were so thick and it took so long to bake the cheesecake layer that the bottom brownie layer dried out at the corners and edges and even a bit in the middle. If you look closely at the picture, the lighter color of the very bottom of the brownies contrasts with the darker color of the brownie right underneath the cheesecake layer. The lighter the color, the drier the brownie. And we know how I feel about dry brownies. You'll also notice some of the tops of the cheesecake layer are browned golden and some are creamy white. That's because the edges and corners turned golden in the time it took for the cheesecake layer to set while the middle remained pale.

If I make these again, I would probably use less brownie batter and/or make it more liquid. You'd lose the dense texture but it might help with the moisture issue. And I would take it out sooner even though the cheesecake layer didn't look done and just let the cheesecake chill and firm. I actually baked it for 5 minutes less than the recipe suggested but that was still too long for the brownie layer. Although the recipe called for regular chocolate chips, I used the mini chocolate chips for aesthetic reasons - mini chips look prettier in a cheesecake layer.

Here's another little-known fact about me: I don't like cheesecake. Which may be another reason I'm only lukewarm on these brownies. Some people are astounded that I don't like cheesecake. We'll call them (duh) cheesecake lovers. I'm not one of them. Cheesecake lovers can wax poetic about all kinds of cheesecake while I look baffled. I can handle a little cream cheese but it needs to be mixed with something else like chocolate. A cream cheese swirl brownie? Okey-doke. This kind of layered cheesecake brownie? Okaaaaaayyyyyy. An actual cheesecake? Nah. I just don't like the taste of cream cheese that much and need it diluted by a stronger flavor like chocolate.

I still remember when I worked at eBay and my coworkers surprised me on my birthday with a cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. It was so nice of them that of course I couldn't tell them I didn't like cheesecake. So I sucked it up and ate a piece. Fortunately they got chocolate cheesecake so it went down better than a plain cheesecake.

Black Bottom Brownies

For the brownie bottom
6 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla

For the cheesecake layer
1 pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups (one 12-ounce package) semisweet (58%) chocolate chips

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13” pan. Line the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2. In the top of a double boiler over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the chocolate and the butter, stirring to combine. Set aside to cool to warm.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and combine with a whisk. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate/egg mixture and stir until just combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan, and spread evenly.
5. To make the cheesecake layer: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, sugar and the salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 2 at a time, and mix well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
6. To complete the brownies: Pour the cheesecake mixture over the brownie layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the cheesecake layer.
7. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. May be served cold or at room temperature.

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