Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

I was severely disappointed last week when I made the cheesecake brownies from my Passion for Baking book, which was surprising because overall it's a good book with lots of over-the-top recipes. But those brownies were drab without enough chocolate flavor, or enough cheesecake flavor. Sure I liked them, but they seemed like something you might find individually wrapped in a supermarket -- advertised as high-end or something -- but ultimately boring and mass-produced.

Luckily I remembered that my Dorie Greenspan book, Baking from My Home to Yours, had a similar recipe for brownies topped with cheesecake, and I already knew that Dorie's brownies were all pretty good (see here, here, and here for the ones I've blogged about -- but I've actually made most of the recipes in the book.) This recipe is the same concept as the Passion for Baking recipe -- a base of brownies, topped with cheesecake, and swirled in. The only real differences is in the proportions of the ingredients, and the fact that the Dorie recipe uses espresso to flavor the cheesecake, and adds a sour cream topping.

The sour cream topping makes all the difference. The brownie layer is actually pretty thin in this recipe, and I was surprised by the fact that there were only 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in it -- once again, I wanted more chocolate. But at least the Dorie recipe had the fudgy brownie texture and flavor going for it, I just wanted more. The cheesecake layer was quite good, and the sour cream topping nicely accentuated the coffee flavor in the cheesecake and contrasted sharply with the brownie -- just the way I was hoping it would.

Overall, much better than the Passion for Baking version, but I was still left wanting more brownie. If I had baked this in a round springform pan, it simply would have been an espresso cheesecake with a brownie crust -- I want brownies with a cheesecake topping... I guess I'll have to start experimenting if I'm going to get the version I really want. :)

For the brownies:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cheesecake:
1 1/2 tsps instant espresso powder
1 tbsp boiling water
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp all purpose flour

For the topping:
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan, dust with flour and tap out excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the brownies: Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the butter in the bowl, top with the chopped chocolate and stir occasionally until the ingredients are just melted -- you don't want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

With a whisk, stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla and beat vigorously for a few seconds. With a whisk or rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Set aside while you prepare the cheesecake.

To make the cheesecake: Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water; set aside to cool to tepid.

Meanwhile, working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until completely smooth. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes or so, until well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and espresso mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the sour cream, followed by the flour. The batter will be smooth.

Give the brownie batter a few stirs with a spatula, and pour three quarters of it into the prepared pan. Smooth the brownie layer and pour the cheesecake batter over it, tilting the pan as needed to even the batter. Dot the top of the batter with spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter, then, using a table knife, swirl the dark batter into the cheesecake batter, taking care not to plunge the knife into the lower brownie layer. The cake looks and tastes best if you swirl sparingly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan and the cheesecake layer is beige in the center, lightly browned around the edges and puffed all over. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temp.

When the brownies are completely cool, refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until thoroughly chilled.

To make the topping: Warm the sour cream and sugar in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour the topping evenly over the cold cheesecake layer.

Return the brownies to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 more hour, or until the topping is also thoroughly cold.

The easiest way to cut this dessert is to run the knife blade under hot water, wipe it dry and cut the cake into quarters. Remove the quarters from the pan and again using a warmed-and-dried knife, cut each quarter into 4 pieces.


bacon-goddess: jihad-worthy! sacrilegious! said...

(repeat as necessary until sugar satori is attained, usually around 350 degrees Farenheit)

Anonymous said...

i liked this better than i expected. i thought the distribution of brownie-cheesecake-sour cream was balanced and all got their equal due on the taste buds and all complimented rather than competed with each other. my only complaint is that i couldn't keep the topping out of my mustache. that won't be a problem next week, though :(

LyB said...

That looks way delicious! I love the idea of the sour cream topping. So different from the brownies I usually make!

Joy said...

These are next week's TWD's pick. My brownies are waiting, but I'm still debating the sour cream topping. It sounds like a good recommendation to include it, though!

If you're still looking for a brownie with a cream cheese topping, you might want to check out Maida Heatter's Santa Fe Brownies. They're tall and fudgy, and still my favorite brownies :) They're from her Best Dessert Book Ever.

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