Even though I love to cook and bake, I’ve always shied away from Martha. You know who I’m talking about, right? She who shall not be named? It’s nothing personal, really, it’s just that she causes some sort of involuntary twitch in me. Maybe it’s because she reminds me of those girls in middle school who were totally together, planning their gallery openings and trips to Ibiza, while I was going to surf camp with a bunch of twelve year old boys and dressing as a life size, fully rotund, cotton stuffed chocolate chip cookie (think mascot for Mrs. Fields) for my first “cool kids” party (yeah, still hurts to even type that). Martha just seems too perfect and a little bit judgy.
Okay, a lot judgy.
And I’m guessing if Martha got a gander at me while I’m baking she would throw a complete hissy fit (which for her would probably involve some harsh whispering to a well-coiffed assistant). I always look a little like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future – Oh my, let’s add a little paprika to our cookies! Of course kimchee goes with raspberry tarts! – my wild hair piled on top of my head, eighties music blaring from the 70s wall speaker in our kitchen, and the puppy cowering under the table, covered in flour. No, Martha would not approve.
So, I’ve just avoided her.
Until the other day. For some reason I started thinking about having cream cheese brownies at Lisa Roth’s birthday party when we were little. Her mom (remember Harriet?) special ordered them from a funky, hip restaurant. They were quite a treat (clearly, because I remember them a billion years later). I wanted some! The problem was, I had no idea how to make them. I’m really not a huge fan of cheesecake (as you know), so cream cheese brownies were never something that seemed worth messing with. Plain ol’ brownies were plenty good enough for me.
But you know how I am when I start craving something (Ack!). I MUST MAKE!
And there was Martha. Calm as ever, showing up first on the Google search like the Boss. Her Cream Cheese Brownies had the best reviews. And come on, it’s Martha. I may have completely unfounded feelings of animosity left over from Morehead Junior High based on the pre-braces gap in my front teeth and that green hair we talked about awhile back, but even I know when you have to trust the master.
This recipe isn’t super complicated, but you have to pay attention. I’ve clarified some of the steps and changed the ratios a bit, simply because…well, because I wanted to. No, really just because I think the amount of sugar varies depending on the darkness of your chocolate, and some of the steps were a little fussy. Plus, let’s be honest, I have some middle school angst to work out.
Cream Cheese Brownies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
8 tablespoons butter (unsalted), plus more for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons room temperature butter (unsalted)
1 cup AP flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used 70% cacao, which is very dark, so I upped the amount of sugar)
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar (I used 1 1/2 because of the darkness of my chocolate) PLUS 1/4 cup sugar (for the cream cheese mix)
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub a 9-inch square baking dish with butter, then line with parchment paper, allowing the excess paper to hang over the sides for easy removal. Rub butter on the bottom section of the parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large heat-proof bowl (you will do all the batter mixing in this bowl), place 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter and the chocolate. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, slowly melt the butter and sugar. Do not allow the boiling water to touch the bottom of your bowl. Stir occasionally until smooth. This should take several minutes, but make sure it doesn’t burn.
After the chocolate/butter mixture is smooth, remove from heat and add 1 1/4 (or 1 1/2) cups sugar; mix well. Add 3 eggs and mix to combine.
Add flour and cocoa mixture and mix until just moistened. Do not overmix.
In a clean, medium bowl, whip (or whisk) the cream cheese with 2 tablespoons room temperature butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg and 2 tablespoons AP flour.
In your greased pan, alternate layers of chocolate batter with cream cheese batter (start with chocolate and end with cream cheese). Using a knife or spoon, swirl the top layer to create a “marbled” effect.
Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out fairly clean with only a few crumbs attached. Let cool for 30 minutes before transferring out of the pan onto a cooling rack.
Enjoy with some milk and reruns of The Brady Bunch or, if you can handle it, some Martha Bakes episodes.