My favorite kind of brownie is fairly simple: lots of chocolate, chewy -- never cakey, with toasted walnuts or pecans to add some crunch. To me the perfect brownie should be simplicity in itself. Perfect all by itself with no need of fancy toppings or frosting. However, every now and again it's good to up the ante and make something a little fancier. It also helps that I happened to have some cream cheese that needed to be used up and I was craving chocolate...
Another reason I chose this recipe was that it called for cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate, which made it quicker and easier to make than other brownie recipes I have. I pulled the recipe from my King Arthur Flour Cookie book, and the base brownie recipe is pretty damn close to a perfect brownie all by itself. The Irish Cream Cheesecake variation is simply one of the many options the book offers (another was the peanut butter marshmallow brownies which were also quite good...)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnut or pecans (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 and grease a 9 x 13 pan.
In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat briefly, just until it's hot (110F to 120F), but not bubbling; it will become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture the second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth, then add the flour and nuts and chips, again stirring until smooth. Spoon three quarters of the batter into the prepared pan.
Two 8 oz packages cream cheese at room temp
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup Irish Cream liqueur
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 large eggs
To make the cheesecake swirl: In a medium sized bowl beat the cream cheese until no lumps remain. Add the sugar and liqueur and blend until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and eggs, mixing until everything is well combined.
Spoon the cheesecake swirl on top of the batter in the pan. Dollop the rest of the brownie batter on top, then use a knife to swirl the brownie batter into the cheesecake layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes (you may need more time) until the top is set and the edges are puffy. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool temp. They taste great still warm from the oven, but they will be a mess to cut that way. If you want pretty looking brownies, chill them in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting them.