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There are two camps in the brownie world: thick and fudgy, or light and cake-like. If you’re in the light, cake-like crowd, you might want to skip this recipe. (Or you could just make it and be converted. :) These are super dense and chocolaty, but they have the added appeal of swirls of smooth, tangy cheesecake. Top it all with a sweet ganache glaze, and you’ve got a brownie to rule the world.

I discovered by happy accident that the secret to deliciously dense brownies is covering and refrigerating the whole pan for at least three hours before cutting and serving. I am sure it has something to do with the steam created by cooling so quickly, but I just file it under the heading of “kitchen alchemy” and busy myself licking icing off my fingers.

Cheesecake Fudge Brownies
makes 24 brownies

For brownies:
1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process
1 tsp. salt (not coarse)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract (yes, a tablespoon)
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur)

For cheesecake layer:
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt (not coarse)

For glaze:
4 oz. heavy cream (1/2 c.)
1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 tsp. salt (not coarse)

Oven 350F. In a medium, microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt butter in microwave. Stir in sugar with silicone spatula and microwave one minute more. Stir in cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat eggs lightly in separate small mixing bowl, then add to brownie batter and mix thoroughly. Stir in flour, making sure there’s no lumps or unmixed egg. Pour into a well-greased, glass 9″x13″ glass baking dish and spread evenly with spatula.

In separate medium mixing bowl, use electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix cream cheese and sugar for cheesecake until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix thoroughly again. Pour cheesecake batter on top of brownie batter and smooth into even layer. Now use your spatula to swirl the layers together. (They are both very dense, so this isn’t a delicate maneuver — swirl like you mean it. :) Bake for 55-60 minutes until top is lightly golden.

Toward the end of baking time, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, heat all the glaze ingredients over medium-low heat until chocolate chips melt and glaze is glossy and smooth. When brownies come out of the oven, pour on the glaze and smooth into even layer. Allow to cool at room temperature until warm but not piping hot, then place in refrigerator. After a half hour or so, when glaze has set, cover brownies with plastic wrap stretched tightly so it doesn’t touch the top. Allow to cool in refrigerator at least three hours, preferably overnight. (Don’t skip this step — your patience will be rewarded, I promise.)

When brownies are well-refrigerated, cut into 24 pieces. This requires a sharp knife and a slow, steady hand. When you remove the brownies from the pan to serve, just accept that the first brownie will come out a complete wreck. I have never found a way around this, but I admit I haven’t tried very hard. (You should always taste everything you cook before you serve it anyway…) The other 23 will come out fine as long as you take your time.

P.S. — A plate full of these rivals any birthday cake, just stick your candles in the top layer. As my daughter used to say when she was tiny, “Hapty birfday to ME!”

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Come see other yummy desserts joining mine on Sweets for a Saturday on the Sweet as Sugar Cookies blog :)

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