Cream cheese is having a big week on my holiday adventure. Yesterday was Bagel Day which naturally meant I had to slab on a smear of cream cheese to truly enjoy the day. And now today, they want me to add cream cheese to a brownie. I’ve never done that before, but I imagine that adding cheese is not the worse thing you could do to a brownie. Quite a week for one ingredient I would say.
Cream cheese is really just a soft, mild cheese that’s made with a significant amount of cream to give it that rich taste and texture. While there have been versions of cream cheese for centuries, the mass-produced cream cheese that we are familiar with today finds it beginning in the 1870’s when a dairyman from Chester, New York by the name of William A. Lawrence created a version that could be produced in a factory for mass distribution. That brand became Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which is the popular version we still see in the dairy case today. In fact, it is the number one selling cream cheese brand in America – not too shabby for a business that is almost 150 years old. Cream cheese has its use as a cheese that you spread on bagels or crackers, but it is also heavily used in baking and in sweet concoctions. Cheesecake is made from cream cheese, so you can thank Mr. Lawrence for that. I imagine that cheesecake is where the idea of a Cream Cheese Brownie originates. It was probably someone looking at a dessert menu trying to decide between a brownie or a cheesecake, and they just said give me both.
I went for an easy recipe here, as I tend to do. In this case, Betty Crocker had the answer. She had a recipe that pretty much had me make a box of brownie mix and just add in some sweetened cream cheese. That was perfect so I got all my supplies. I spent most of the morning today shoveling out. That was not an easy snow to shovel. It was heavy and thanks to the rain that preceded the snow, the bottom of it all was icy and hard to clear. I worked my way through it though. The sun was out while I was shoveling which made it enjoyable. I actually like shoveling snow – disappearing into my own little world with headphones on just getting it done. But today was a little much. I was sore for the rest of the day. When I got up to make the brownies later in the day, I lumbered to the kitchen, grunting and shuffling my feet like the old man I am. Who would think you’d ever have to stretch before making brownies?
The brownie mix was typical – combine water, eggs and oil with the brownie mix and add in the chocolate packet. Stir to combine. Then I just had to make the cream cheese part which was simply cream cheese with sugar, vanilla and an egg. I beat that together until smooth. It had a frosting-like look and probably was close to a cream cheese frosting, except for the raw egg. Then I had to combine the two in the pan. You pour out 3/4 of the brownie batter into the pan, then you scoop on your cream cheese mixture over that, and then top that off with the rest of the brownie batter. When it was all together, you run a knife through the iced batter so it creates a swirl effect. For extra chocolate, you top it with some chocolate chips and then you bake it for about 25 minutes. As far as aromas go, fresh baked brownies are probably among the top ten smells in the world. It was nice to have that in our kitchen. They came out looking pretty good. The recipe called for this to be made in a 13″ x 9″ pan although I usually like to make brownies in an 8″ x 8″ pan to get a thicker brownie. I was a little worried these would be too thin and would crisp up.
The time it takes from when you take brownies out of the oven until when they have cooled down and firmed up enough to eat is an eternity. Your whole house smells like this wonderful chocolate treat but you have to wait. Drool starts to involuntarily seep out the sides of your mouth. You keep checking back to test the waters. I waited. I finally broke into them at about 8 PM. They were still warm and the chocolate chips were slightly melty. They were worth the wait. First, the Betty Crocker brownie mix is a good brownie mix. The chocolate packet really gives it an extra boost of sweetness and the addition of chocolate chips makes them decadently sweet. The cream cheese brings in an element of moistness and sweetness to make it a party. When you get a cream cheese bite, it is reminiscent of cheesecake, but the chocolate brownie taste brings it to a new dimension. Really, really good, plus they look neat too. Like I had made something exotic. Lola opted against it at first, but later in the night when her sweet toot was calling, she had one with a glass of milk. She was a fan. This is a great recipe and I’d recommend it, especially on the ease of preparing it alone.
That was cream cheese brownie day which ended up being pretty darn tasty. I think it’s the perfect remedy for sore muscles from shoveling. It’s definitely the perfect remedy for a sweet tooth on a Friday night. I was glad I could celebrate too. I went to bed looking at a beautiful full moon and excited for tomorrow and our trip to New York. It was snowing too, so I knew that more shoveling was on the agenda. That’s ok. We are New Englanders and we can get through this. Plus we have a tray of tasty brownies on our kitchen table and that will get us through anything. That’s a nice thought to end the day with. Viva el brownies!
Next Up: National Peppermint Patty Day