Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brownies and Cheesecake Get Married

Sweetie loves cheesecake. When I read through the four choices for the March Cake Slice Bakers challenge I pretty much decided on the cheesecake right away. Homemade brownies are delicious and wonderful by themselves, but imagine how good they are when folded into a decadent classic vanilla cheesecake batter and that combination is baked in a water bath for the most creamy, decadent dessert ever. What a marriage made in baker's heaven!

Since I wasn't able to even taste the batter, I made sure to bake this delight for Sweetie's Birthday Bash, so that at least some of the two dozen or so other guests could enjoy it and even take leftovers home. You would not believe the groans of delight, the compliments I was showered with, nor the realization that we would only have one small slice for leftovers. This was amazing considering that I made it in an oversized heart shaped pan, using an extra 4 oz. of cream cheese on top of the two pounds...I know, that's a lot of cream cheese...two pounds of cream cheese, almost a whole batch of brownies, 4 eggs, and a lot of love.

As you can see, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I think that Maida Heatter has some of the best recipes for sweets, but sometimes she seems to complicate things. For the brownies she wanted us to mold aluminum foil first outside of the pan, then inside it. I just sprayed my 8" square pan with baking spray and it worked just fine. The brownies came right out, were diced in about 1/2-inch dice, then frozen.

For the cheesecake she wanted us to use a one piece cheesecake pan. Well, I don't have one of those, so I used the heart shaped springform pan, lined the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, did the foil molding on this pan so that the outside of the pan was surrounded by foil...this keeps any water out during the bake in the water bath. I also created some chocolate cookie crumbs plus butter to put in the bottom of the pan on top of the parchment. Maida wanted us to bake the cheesecake, turn it upside down and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs, and, I think, then turn it right side up. My cheesecake would never have made it through that. There were some pretty good sized cracks and the texture was so creamy that I think the whole thing would have fallen apart. Sorry Maida.

Although I was able to bake the brownies with no dairy, so I was able to enjoy a taste, there was no way I could taste the cheesecake batter, so I had Sweetie do it. He pronounced it good and when he had the first piece today at the party he pronounced the cake great! The intensely chocolate brownies married to that rich white cheesecake was, by all reports, one of the best cheesecakes ever!

This recipe is really two recipes in one but it is worth the effort for a show stopping cake. If you are rushed for time, just make the brownie part. The brownies are moist, dense, deeply chocolate, a tiny bit chewy on the outside and very tender and soft on the inside, except for the crunch of the walnuts. They make a fine dessert all by themselves. Just cut them in larger pieces than the dice in the photo above. The dice worked great for the cake, but a nice sized square would be better for dessert.

Do check out the cakes baked by the other Cake Slice Bakers...we had some really good choices this month. Click on the photos at the bottom of the post. They will show up once I do the Linky tool.

Brownie Cheesecake
a variation on the recipe in Maida Heatter's Cakes 

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process is best
1 teaspoon powdered coffee (espresso powder) or instant coffee granules
pinch of salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) or 1 stick margarine or butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, cut or broken into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup (3.5 oz.) walnuts, broken or chopped into large pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with baking spray. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, coffee powder and salt and set aside.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on half power for a minute at a time, stirring well after each heating, until mixture is smooth. Use a potholder to move the bowl to your work counter and stir in the sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, until well mixed. Let sit 10 minutes.

Stir in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added. Add the sifted dry ingredients in two batches, stirring well to mix after each addition. Stir in the nuts.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 22-25 minutes. You'll know it is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out clean and dry.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Place a plate or board on top of pan and turn brownie out onto it. Then place a cutting board over that and turn the brownie right side up. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and cut brownie into 4 equal pieces. Set one quarter aside for another use (or just to snack on!) and cut the remaining three quarters into 1/2 inch dice. Return diced brownies to the freezer and freeze for at least an hour.

The Cheesecake:
When brownie dice have had enough time in the freezer to become very firm, begin making the cheesecake batter.

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature. Maida specified Philadelphia brand, and that is what I usually use, but a good quality cream cheese is what is needed, no matter the brand.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup chocolate cookie or graham cracker crumbs
Pinch of cinnamon if using graham cracker crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan with baking spray. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment, Spray with baking spray again. Using a very large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, set the pan in the middle and mold the foil up the sides of the pan. Cut the foil off at the top of the pan and fold any part of the foil that sit above the pan edges down onto the pan edges. Set aside. Find a large pan that can hold the springform pan with a little space on the sides and that is tall enough to hold water halfway up the sides of the springform pan. I used a large roasting pan. Set that aside as well.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth, scraping sides, bottom and beaters with a spatula frequently. Add vanilla extract, salt and sugar. Beat well until well mixed. There should be no lumps of cheese visible.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, using low speed and only beating until the egg is incorporated. Set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl melt the butter or margarine. Add the crumbs (and the cinnamon if using graham cracker crumbs) and stir to combine. Spread this mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan. It will be a very thin layer. On top of that spoon enough of the cheese mixture to make a layer of about 1/2 inch. I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to place dollops of the batter all around the pan edge and then the middle, then used a spatula to gently even out the batter.

Add the frozen, diced brownies to the rest of the cheesecake batter. Very gently fold them together, being careful not to break up or crumble the brownies any more than necessary. Turn this mixture into the pan and use the bottom of a spoon the smooth the mixture.

Place the cake pan into the larger pan and add hot water until the water is about 1 1/2 inches deep.

Carefully place the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. The top of the cake will rise, maybe even slightly above the rim of the pan, during baking and then sink when the cake is cooling. When the cake is done, remove the cake pan from the hot water and place it on a rack to cool. There may be some cracks...that is OK.

Once the cake has cooled, remove the foil outer covering and discard.

When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake, then loosen the pan sides. Either place the cake with the spring form pan bottom included onto a serving plate, or, if you are daring, try to slice the cake and parchment away from the springform bottom and onto the serving plate.

Decorate as desired and serve. Having a hot towel handy to wipe the knife after each cut will make for nicer slices.


Laura@ Baking in Pyjamas said...

I'm sorry you couldn't taste the whole thing Elle, so glad your hubby and party guests enjoyed it.

Carlee said...

Oh man! It has to be so hard to not be able to taste something so beautiful! I'm glad it was a hit for you too!

Gina said...

That sounds lovely... I'm tempted to give it another try as I wasn't happy with mine.

OvenDelights said...

Now that's a show stopper! Nicely done Elle! I'm glad the recipe turned out well! I agree sometimes recipes are complicated for no reason...

Hazel said...

Now I am so happy that you had success with this Elle, for you and Sweetie! This looks great and the heart shaped pan is just too cute. Well done you. Hazel x

Emily said...

Elle, at least you got to eat one part of the cheesecake, the non-cheesecake part! Happy Belated Birthday to your Sweetie! With so many bakers of this cake, I am so tempted!

Kathleen said...

What a great cake you made. So fun that you made it a heart shape and not a regular round shape. I agree that there seems to be some unneeded complications in the instructions.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Genius my dear.