I recently started reading a blog called Joe Pastry. I read it mostly for techniques and baking science, but I have been eager to try his recipes. When I decided to make brownies, I hopped over this his site to see if he had a recipe. He had two. The first didn’t have measurements, I skipped to his other one.
His second recipe is adapted from another prominent food blogger, Dorie Greenspan, and his praise for this particular brownie was high indeed.
All that is beside the point to me, as I consider this recipe to be the highest expression to date of the American brownie-making art. These are my personal died-and-gone-to-heaven brownies. As a chocolate experience, I vastly prefer them to flourless chocolate cake, which is so decadently chocolate-y as to be almost profane. These are dense and rich, but somehow also light. Try them, friends.
With a recommendation like that, how could I refuse? The only problem was the raisins; I hate raisins but without them, it seems a bit plain. Since I had half a stick of cream cheese leftover from the vol-au-vents, I decided to add some tangy creamy pizazz to the chocolate-y fondant goodness.
It was only halfway through the recipe did I realize this was far more involved than I previously imagined. The moral of the story: Always read the directions first. It was not even close to a one-bowl recipe. I used four!
But the biggest challenge was the lack of a handmixer. I imagine the magical texture of Joe Pastry/ Dorie Greenspan’s brownies is due to the eggs beaten to ribbons. After four minutes, my arm felt like it would fall off and the eggs were still stubbornly yellow although noticeably thicker. The resulting texture was spongy but not unpleasantly so. However, they tasted much better after a quick pop in the freezer. Fudgy chewy deliciousness, the deep chocolate taste offset by the brightly flavored cream cheese.
LAST NOTES. Be sure to taste the melted chocolate before adding the butter and sugar. I used one ounce of Belcolade melting chips (80% cocoa) and five ounces of Barry Callebaut chocolate chips (cocoa content unknown). It tasted quite sweet so I halved the amount of sugar.
Not a fan of cheesecake? You can check my other brownie recipe or simply omit the cheesecake.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BROWNIE 2.5 ounces (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 6 ounces (12 tablspoons) butter at room temperature, 3 eggs, 3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
INGREDIENTS FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING 4 ounces of cream cheese (1/2 of an 8 oz bar), 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS Begin by preheating your oven to 300. Prepare an 8″ baking pan by lining it with foil and greasing it with butter. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon and set aside.
Joe Pastry suggests melting the chocolate in the microwave, but Ms. Greenspan uses a double-boiler. I ended up using a combination of their methods as the melted chocolate was not warm enough to melt the butter. I had to rewarm the lukewarm mixture in a double boiler with two tablespoons of butter reserved. I removed the melted butter-chocolate mixture from heat and add the remaining butter to lower the temperature of the chocolate so it wouldn’t cook the eggs. If I had to do it all over again, I’d use a double boiler because it feels like there is a smaller chance of burning the chocolate.
In the meantime, whip the cream cheese until fluffy, add the sugar, whip, and finally the egg. The mixture may curdle but it melted later.
Next, combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip attachment or whisk by hand. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and whip until the sugar and eggs are light in color, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the chocolate mixture and whip another 30 seconds until a thick batter forms. Add the flour and whip only another 30 seconds or so. The flour may not be completely incorporated, not to worry.
Scrape half the mixture into the pan, dollop the cream cheese over the batter, try your best to get it evenly distributed. Then add the last of the brownie matter so that most of the cream cheese is buried. Swirl with a knife so the cream cheese mixture and brownie batter create a marbled surface. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer.
I baked it for thirty minutes and then rotated the tray. Cool completely, then de-pan them by picking up the tin foil and lift the whole mass out. Deb from Smitten Kitchen recommends chilling it in the fridge to make it easier to cut. You can also cut them with the bottom side up so you don’t fracture the delicate crust. Then carefully use a spatula and flight them right side up on a plate or tray.