Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Amped up Cream Cheese Brownies...

While I'm sure people are being inundated with Christmas cookies (certainly nothing wrong with that!), I thought we'd go in a different direction for this week's Wednesday Treat Day. Before I start with these Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with Heath Bars and Pecans though, I'd like to send a note of thanks to Jeff's co-workers.

Jeff came home with a surprise for me to open up last Friday - it contained a lovely card with a couple very generous gift cards. It is such a pleasure taking the time to bake and share a treat each week with them - in fact, I look forward to every Tuesday! I am touched that they took the time to sign and send that card along! So, if you are reading this, thank you!

On to the treats! Before I started with the brownie base, I prepared the cream cheese topping by simply combining cream cheese with just a touch of granulated sugar, an egg and a couple spoonfuls of flour.

Once that was smooth, the rich base started by melting together chunks of butter with bitter unsweetened chocolate. You can do this in the microwave, but I just tossed the two into a saucepan and it only took a couple minutes over low heat. When combined, you'll want to let the mixture rest for at least 5 or so minutes - while it isn't super hot by any means, you don't want to take the chance of cooking the eggs when you add them! To the slightly cooled mess of dark goo, a shower of sugar is stirred in, followed by a few room temperature eggs, a dribble of milk and a shot of your best vanilla. The dry ingredients are stirred in and when just combined, a scoop of toasted, chopped pecans are folded in, along with a handful of a chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars. We used Heath bars, but there are at least a couple brands out there to choose from. While we only needed a portion here, you'll need about 2 chopped bars (roughly 1 1/2 ounces each) worth for the entire recipe.

To get the marbled effect on top, most of the brownie batter is spread into a smooth layer inside the baking pan, with dollops of that cream cheese mixture we prepared first randomly dropped over. Spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter are then dropped in between the cream cheese dollops. This way, you only need to swirl the top layer together, leaving most of the brownie base underneath alone. Another scoop of toasted, chopped pecans is sprinkled over, along with the remaining bits from the chopped toffee bars - to encourage these additions to stick after baking, be sure to give them a gentle press into the top layer.

Doneness for brownies can always be tricky, but for the best texture with these, you'll want to take them out when a toothpick placed near the center comes out with moist crumbs attached - this doesn't mean raw batter though, it just doesn't need to come out clean. Don't be afraid to check a couple minutes early either, especially if your nose tells you they are ready!

My swirls on top looked spiffy and all before putting the extra dose of nuts and toffee, but once those were added, the effect was kind of lost - so I wouldn't put too much effort into that next time. The texture of the brownie base landed somewhere between fudgy and cake-y - a little chewy, pretty moist and not too dense. While these brownies call for quite a bit of sugar, using the very bitter chocolate explains the need for the extra. Fairly sweet, yes, but not cloyingly so, especially with the smooth cream cheese layer on top. Neither of us are the biggest fan of nuts in brownies, but we both thought they worked well here to cut through the chocolate-y richness. Oh, and please do us both a favor, don't forget to toast those nuts first - that extra nutty depth is always welcome. Besides adding little crunchy nuggets throughout, the caramel tone from the toffee bits were also a special treat!


  1. i would definately thank you too if i got your amazing treats every week!! glad you were recognized for your efforts :) These look absolutely AMAZING, and i bet they ship well, hehe!

  2. I love a good cream cheese swirl brownie. And with Heath and pecans too!? Outta this world!

  3. Oh do they look good. A friend of mine uses Heath bars as a brownie topping along with whipped cream that has a spoonful of Irish Cream.....Yours is a nice variation. Love the cream cheese!

  4. I'm likin' the look of your amped up brownies, very nice! Great photos, too!

  5. It's so funny to see these on your blog because I had made them a while back and was just taking a peek at my pictures of them last night. Haven't blogged them yet. These were gooood!!

  6. TTFN - Is that a hint? =)

    JTB - Agreed!

    Debbie - Thanks!

    Ingrid - You should give them a try!

    Lori - How come you haven't posted about them yet?

  7. Woah, now this is the ultimate brownie! I'll definitely be adding this to my recipe list!

  8. Thanks for another amazing and beautiful recipe. They look so decadent and elegant! I definitely have to add these to my list of holiday treats!

  9. Megan and Jociecee - Let us know if you try these brownies!

  10. oe, these brownies are absolutely amazing. I made them as a dessert for our employee Christmas party and they were a huge hit, not a crumb left at the end of the night. I also made a batch to give as gifts to friends and they ignored all the other goodies on the plates to gobble these up. I can see that these brownies are now my "go to" dessert for when I need something wonderful and impressive. Thanks so much for this recipe.

  11. Laurie - Good to hear! I'll have to make these again soon... I agree, they were so tasty!