Fig and Almond Cake

The summer of 2016 is the summer when I learned to love figs.  Thanks to some friends who have a huge fig tree that produces the sweetest fruits, I’ve been lucky to have an abundance of figs to eat on their own and to use in baked goods. The latest fig-themed dessert to come out of my oven is a Fig and Almond Cake.  This hearty but delicate cake perfumed with almond extract is nutty, tender, and barely sweet.  Figs are scattered on top of the cake batter and sprinkled with a bit of sugar to caramelize in the oven.  The cake is best eaten the day that it’s baked as it tends to get mushy pretty quickly because of the moisture from the figs.

If you want to learn a little more about figs, check out this article on how figs get pollinated.  A bit of a warning though, the details are a bit of a horror movie, and depending on how easily grossed out your are, you may never want to eat a fig again.  So remember, you’ve been warned.

Gorgeous figs from a friend’s treeIMG_6642[1]

The cake comes out looking beautiful with figs scattered over the top of the cake batter [even though I put my figs “wrong side” (cut side down ) up].
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Fig and Almond Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake
(from NYT Cooking)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup natural raw almonds (not blanched)
¼ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon cinnamon
teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon almond extract
12 to 14 ripe figs

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Butter or spray a 9-inch fluted tart pan or pie pan (I used one with a removable bottom, and that helped ensure that the cake stayed intact when I removed the outside of the pan); set aside.
  3. Put almonds and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and grind to a coarse powder.  The finer you ground the almonds, the less crunchy the cake will be.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; pulse to combine.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, honey, and almond extract.
  6. Add the dry ingredients (the almond mixture) to the wet ingredients, and stir together until batter is just mixed (don’t overmix).
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Remove the stem from each fig, and cut the fig in half.
  9. Arrange the fig halves cut-side up over the batter. Don’t leave a large space between figs as they will shrink when they bake.  It’s OK if the figs are touching each other.
  10. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the figs.
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake is golden outside and dry at center when probed with a cake tester.
  12. Cool before serving.

Note:  This cake is best when eaten on the day that it’s baked.

Classic Caramel Sauce

I’m pretty serious about making caramels, so it should be no surprise that I own a cookbook dedicated solely to caramel.  This Classic Caramel Sauce is so much richer and more flavorful than the stuff that comes from a bottle or jar at the grocery store.  The most difficult part of making caramel sauce is watching it intently and stirring (and refraining from stirring) at just the right times to make sure it doesn’t burn.  So, if you feel like you can dedicate half an hour to watching caramel cook, give this recipe a try.

I like making this caramel sauce a bit thicker than the original recipe calls for and using it for a glaze on cakes.  I drenched my Norwegian Sour Cream Pound Cake in caramel sauce below.
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Classic Caramel Sauce

Makes 1 cup
(from Carole Bloom’s “Caramel”)

Ingredients

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulate sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons (2 ounces, 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a boil.
  2. In a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan combine the sugar, water, and honey, and cook over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
  3. Brush around the inside of the pan with a damp pastry brush at the point where the sugar syrup meets the sides of the pan.  Do this twice during the cooking process to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.  Cook the mixture over high heat, without stirring, until it turns amber colored (6-10 minutes).  The darker amber the sugar mixture is, the fuller flavored the caramel will be.  David Lebovitz recommends caramel to be the color of an old copper (US) penny.  I tend to err on the side of the caramel being darker colored, but I make sure to watch the caramel carefully as it can start to burn in a matter of seconds.
  4. Lower the heat to medium and slowly add the hot cream to the sugar mixture while stirring constantly.  Use caution as the cream will bubble up and foam.  Continue stirring to make sure there are no lumps.
  5. Stir in the butter until it’s completed melted.  Depending on how thick you like your caramel sauce, you can take the sauce off the heat at this point (it will be quite runny), or you can keep cooking it over medium-low heat for another 2-5 minutes until it thickens a bit.  When I drizzle caramel sauce over my cakes as a glaze, I continue to heat it for at least 5 minutes until it reaches the desired thickness.
  6. After the caramel sauce has been removed form the heat, stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Transfer the caramel sauce to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, cool sightly, and server warm.

Note:  The caramel sauce can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Slowly warm in a microwave or over a double boiler until it is a bit more fluid before use.

Norwegian Sour Cream Pound Cake (with butterscotch chips and caramel glaze)

With so many baking options out there, typically I don’t like to make a recipe more than once or twice.  But I make an exception for this Norwegian Sour Cream Pound Cake recipe which holds a permanent place in my baking repertoire.  As a plain pound cake, it has a dense but tender vanillay crumb that is anything but “plain”.  The batter also holds up well to a variety of mix-ins and flavorings.  My favorite combinations are an addition of cake spice for a dash of zing to the flavor and butterscotch chips for a bit of caramel.  And if I’m feeling extra decadent, I’ll pour a homemade caramel sauce over the top.

An overhead view of the cake drenched in a dark caramel sauce.

A side view of all the goodness.  The butterscotch chips create little pockets of caramel flavor in the cake.

Norwegian Sour Cream Pound Cake (with butterscotch chips and caramel glaze)

Makes 1 bundt cake (about 20 servings)
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cake spice or other flavoring like cinnamon (optional)
2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste (I prefer 3 teaspoons which is equal to 1 tablespoon)
4 cups (17 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 (12 ounces) cups sour cream
1 package (11-12 ounces) butterscotch chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease a full-size (10″) tube pan, bundt-style pan, or angel food pan.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cake spice (optional).  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
  6. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  7. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream to the wet ingredients.  Start  with adding the flour about 1 cup at a time and then the sour cream 1/2 cup at a time. Mix at medium speed between additions, until ingredients are thoroughly combined. The finished batter will be quite stiff/thick.
  8. Stir in the butterscotch chips (optional).
  9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it with your wet fingers or a spatula.
  10. Bake the cake for 55 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester, bamboo skewer, or long toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Don’t overbake to ensure that the cake is moist and tender.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, and gently loosen its edges from the pan.
  12. After 15 minutes, carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Note: The cooled cake can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap securely and freeze.

Fig Bars with Pecan Crumble

When I moved to my house almost a year ago, my yard was mainly grass and concrete.  One of the first things I did was plant some fruit trees (peach, plum, and nectarine).  In the meantime while I try to patiently wait another year until my trees yield fruit, I get an extra jolt of excitement when friends surprise me with fruit from their mature fruit trees.  The latest food gift was 2 pounds of ripe, sweet black figs from a 20 year old tree.  I don’t usually bake with figs, but this unexpected gift inspired me to make Fig Bars topped with a pecan crumble.  Somehow the soft, buttery bottom crust manages to support a thick, juicy layer of fig jam while the nutty, sweet pecan crumble provides a bit of crunch and holds everything in place.  That said, this is one of those recipes where if you love figs, you’ll absolutely love this recipe, but if you’re just mildly into figs, this one might be fig overkill for you.

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Fig Bars with Pecan Crumble

Makes one 8×8 inch pan
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

Crust and Crumb Topping

2 oz. (1/2 cup) pecans
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fig Jam

2 lb. very ripe figs, stems removed, unpeeled
1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 Tbs. lemon juice; more or less to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.  Prepare an 8×8-inch baking dish by lining it with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Crust and Crumb Topping

  1. In a food processor, grind the pecans with 2 Tbs. of the sugar until fine; remove and set aside.
  2. Put the flour, the remaining 1/4 cup white sugar, the brown sugar, salt, and baking powder in the food processor and process until blended.
  3. Add the butter to the food processor and process until the mixture looks crumbly.
  4. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and pulse until the mixture is wet and clumping, about 30-40 seconds (it won’t form a ball).
  5. Pack two-thirds of the dough into an ungreased 8×8-inch baking dish; set aside the other one-third of the dough.
  6. Bake until the dough is lightly browned and keeps a slight indentation when you press it lightly, about 15-25 minutes.

Fig Jam

  1. While the crust is baking, coarsely chop the figs.
  2. Put the chopped figs in a nonreactive skillet with the sugar, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices have reduced and the fruit is tender and thick, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the lemon zest, add the lemon juice to taste, and set aside. Note: If not using right away, refrigerate in a closed container.  This fig jam keeps for weeks, so if you like, make it well ahead of time.

Assembling the Fig Bars

  1. In a mixing bowl, crumble together the remaining dough with the reserved pecan and sugar mixture.
  2. Gently spread the fig jam on top of the baked crust.
  3. Sprinkle the dough mixture over the filling. The top will look crumbly.
  4. Bake until browned on top, about 25-35 minutes.
  5. Cool completely before cutting into bars 1-1/2 inches square.

Note:  The bars keep well for about a day or two.  They’ll get a bit too mushy and soggy after that.

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

Because it’s been so hot this summer, my bananas stand very little chance of remaining in an “acceptable” range of yellow-green.  If you too are plagued by overripe bananas combined with a strong chocolate craving, bake up a batch of double chocolate banana bread.  The recipe is on a previous post, but instead of making a loaf, you can make muffins.  I like making mini muffins because they’re cute and perfectly bite sized.  The only changes to the recipe that you’ll need to make are to:

  • use mini or regular sized muffin liners, filled about 2/3 full with batter
  • bake for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins and 20-25 minutes for full sized muffins (don’t overbake or they’ll be dry)

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Crawfish Etouffee

I’ve had a recipe for crawfish etouffee on my “must make” list for 9 years (!!).   The recipe was on my cooking bucket list for so many years because I never knew where to find crawfish tails, but recently I found frozen ones at an Asian market (H mart).   The recipe for crawfish etouffee was from a friend of a friend, and it looked so simple that I thought that there must be more to this dish.  A quick google search yielded Emeril’s recipe which was very similar to the recipe I had.  So I combined the two recipes, and the results were delicious.IMG_6453[1]

Crawfish Etouffee

Makes 4-6 servings
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse and a friend’s recipe)

Ingredients

6 tablespoons of butter (3/4 stick) (do not substitute with oil)
2 large onions chopped (about 2 cups)
4-5 stalks celery chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large green pepper chopped (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound crawfish tails (I used frozen), thawed
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water (I used chicken stock to make it more flavorful; seafood stock would have been even better, but I didn’t have that)
4 teaspoons cornstarch, flour, or other thickening agent (I like King Arthur Flour’s Signature Secrets)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons chopped green onions

Directions

  1. Thaw and lightly rinse the frozen crawfish.  Drain and lightly dry the crawfish, and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch or flour in 1 cup of water or stock, and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
  4. Add the onions, green pepper, and celery to the melted butter, and sauté until the vegetables are softened (about 10-12 minutes).  Add salt to taste.
  5. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the cayenne pepper, black pepper, and white pepper and stir to combine.
  7. Add the tomato sauce and bay leaves, and stir gently to combine.
  8. Add the cornstarch and water mixture.  Stir until the mixture thickens, and simmer for about  5 minutes.
  9. Add the crawfish to the vegetable mixture, and sauté until heated through.
  10. Stir in the green onions, and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
  11. Serve over steamed long grain rice.

Fruit and Nut Bars

I’ve said it once before, but I’ll say it again, homemade granola bars outshine every store bought version.  This quick and easy recipe for Fruit and Nut Bars is so simple that at one point in the recipe, you use your hands to combine the ingredients (no fancy mixer needed).  The most “advanced” step involves using a fork to stir the egg and vanilla together.  You can totally do this.

My version of these bars included pecans, cashews, almonds, dates, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and dried blueberries.  Some brown sugar, a little  bit of cinnamon and vanilla, an egg, and just enough flour to hold it all together round out the ingredients.  The result is bars that are dense and chewy, sweet and nutty, and slightly tart.

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A close up of all that deliciousness.

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Fruit and Nut Bars

Makes 16 2-inch bars or 25 smaller bars (8×8 inch pan)
(from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1.625 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt [less if the nuts you use are salted]
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon [optional; this was not in the original recipe but I like a hint of cinnamon in my baked goods.]
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2.625 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
2 cups (7 ounces) of nuts [can be whole or pieces; I prefer a mix of almonds, cashews, pistachios, and pecans.  The original recipe specified walnuts only.]
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) dates, pitted and cut into quarters [I like a mix of dried fruit so I used 5 ounces of dates, 2 ounces of dried cranberries, and 2 ounces of dried blueberries.  Dried cherries are also a nice flavor addition.]
1 cup (5 ounces) lightly packed dried apricot halves, each cut in half [I used a little less than this because I didn’t want my bars too tart.]
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Line an 8-inch square pan (the bottom and all 4 sides) with heavy duty foil and spray with baking spray or line the pan with parchment paper.  The bars are pretty sticky, so I prefer using parchment paper.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (if using) in a very large bowl, and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
  4. Add  the brown sugar, nuts, dates, and dried fruit (including the dried apricots).  Use your fingers to mix the ingredients until the nuts and fruits are coated with the flour mixture, and separate any sticky fruit pieces.
  5. Vigorously whisk the egg with the vanilla in a small bowl until light colored and thickened.
  6. Scrape the egg mixture into the large bowl, and mix with your hands until all of the fruit and nut pieces are thinly coated with batter.
  7. Spread the mixture into the pan, pressing down to compress the batter and even it out.
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the thin batter coating is dark golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
  9. Cool in the pan on a rack.
  10. Drizzle the top with honey, if you like your bars a little sweeter.
  11. Life the ends of the foil/parchment, and transfer the bars to a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut 16 or 25 squares.

Note:  The bars can be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks at room temperature, or longer in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Caramels

These Chocolate Caramels are proof that the best recipes don’t need to come from a fancy cookbook or famous chef.  This recipe for Chocolate Caramels was included when I ordered candy wrappers.  The ingredients are basic, and the instructions are simple, yet the caramels are utterly sublime.  They taste a lot like See’s Candies chocolate lollipops but with a chewy caramel texture.  I made a few slight modifications like adding a little bit of cinnamon and a finishing salt.  Adding 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon provides a hint of cinnamon without overpowering the chocolate.
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Chocolate Caramels

Makes a 9×9 inch pan of caramels.  The number of caramels will depend on the size that you cut them.
(from Caramel Wrappers.com)

Ingredients

3 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup cocoa (I prefer natural high fat cocoa powder)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finishing salt to sprinkle on top (optional, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes is always one of my favorites)

Directions

  1. Butter a 9×9 inch pan or line it with parchment paper.  I prefer using parchment paper as it makes it easy to remove the caramels from the pan.
  2. Mix the sugar, light corn syrup, cocoa, butter, and whipping cream in a heavy, large saucepan.
  3. Boil, stirring constantly until a candy thermometer reaches 248°F.  If you want slightly softer caramels, cook the caramels to 246°F.  Don’t boil the mixture too vigorously, otherwise the caramel will burn.  Also stir the mixture constantly and don’t take your eye off of it to keep it from developing hot spots and burning.  It will take a while (15 minutes or more) for the caramel to reach the right temperature so just keep stirring.  Your patience will be rewarded.
  4. Take a caramel off the heat, and quickly, but carefully whisk in the vanilla and cinnamon (be careful as the vanilla may cause the caramel to bubble up a bit).
  5. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt on top of the caramels.
  7. When cool, cut into small squares with a buttered knife or pizza cutter and wrap in waxed caramel/taffy wrap or waxed paper. I really like the convenience and look of cellophane candy wrappers.

Note:  The caramels will keep for two weeks in an airtight container at room temperature and longer if refrigerated.  Bring them to room temperature before eating.

Hazelnut and Almond Brittle

Because it’s not slathered in chocolate or piled high with toppings, I always forget how utterly delicious and super addictive nut brittle is.  This nut brittle recipe is proof that keeping it simple is super.  I used whole hazelnuts and almonds, but you can use nearly any nut you like.  One of my favorite things about this recipe is that although the brittle is hard, once you bite into it, it has an airiness and light crunch to it, and the richness of the nuts provides a good contrast to the sweet caramelized sugar.  I’ve been told that this brittle was so delicious that people fought over the crumbs.

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Hazelnut and Almond Brittle

Makes one 11 x 17 inch sheet
(from Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America by Peter P. Greweling)
My notes are in [ ] below.

Ingredients

1 pound (2 cups) sugar
4 ounces (1 1/2 cup) water
12 ounces (1 cup) light corn syrup
1 pound (3 cups) unsalted hazelnuts, almonds, or other nut that you like (skin on is OK)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter, unsalted, soft
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

  1. Line a large sheet pan [I prefer 11×17 inch pan so that the brittle isn’t too thick and difficult to bite into] with parchment paper [making sure the parchment paper goes up the sides of the pan], or you can lightly oil it [I prefer using parchment because it makes for super easy clean up and it doesn’t add any extra flavors and grease like oil can].
  2. Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula.  Cover and boil for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the cover, insert a thermometer, and cook without stirring to 240°F.
  4. Add the nuts and cook while stirring to 320°F, or until the batch is light brown [My batch started to brown around 310°F, so make sure to keep an eye on it.  Also, the brittle will darken up when you add the remaining ingredients, so it’s OK with it starts out only very lightly browned.].
  5. Remove the pan from heat, and quickly mix in the salt, butter, vanilla, and baking soda thoroughly.  Be careful as the ingredients will bubble up as you add them.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to the edges using an offset spatula. [The texture may seem a little puffy and difficult to spread, but it will settle down it cools.  Just try to make the top as even as possible.  Also, try to keep the brittle off the sides of the parchment paper.]
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature.  Break into the desired pieces. [Depending on what size pan you use and how thick the brittle is, you can use different methods to break the brittle into pieces.  When the brittle is thick, I use a meat tenderizer to break up the brittle.  But that also creates a lot of “wasted” tiny pieces of brittle, which can be used for ice cream topping or sprinkling over other desserts.  I prefer to break the brittle up with my hands as I can control the size better, which is why I use an 11 x 17 inch pan as the brittle is just the right thickness for me.]

Note: The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.

Double Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge Brownies

You should avert your eyes right now if you’re weak of heart, because these Heath Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge Brownies may just make you swoon.  These thick, fudgy dark chocolate brownies are swirled with a tangy, smooth cream cheese sprinkled with toffee bits.  While the amount of butter and sugar needed for this recipe may make you gasp, rest (a little bit) assured that the recipe makes a lot of brownies (and you should share them because you don’t need to be eating 3 sticks of butter).

This recipe will take a little bit of extra time to make because you have to make two different batters, but don’t be intimidated by the swirling/mixing of the batters.  Make sure not to overbake the brownies so they stay moist and fudgy.

Dolloping the toffee cream cheese batter on top of the brownie batter.
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The toffee cream cheese has been successfully swirled into the brownie batter.  IMG_6272[1]

Perfectly baked!
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These brownies taste as good as they look. IMG_6277[1]

Double Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge Brownies

Makes 2 dozen square brownies
(from Abigail Johnson Dodge’s The Everyday Baker: Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Swirl

8 ounces (277 g) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces/50g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 yolk from a large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup (2 ounces/57g) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or mini chips [I used Heath toffee chips]

Brownies

Nonstick cooking spray or softened butter, for preparing the pan
24 tablespoons (12 ounces/340g) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1 1/4 cups (3 3/4 oz/106g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
2 cups (14 ounces/397g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz/149g) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups (7 1/2 ounces/213g) unbleached all purpose flour

Directions

Cream Cheese Swirl

  1. Put the cream cheese, sugar, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using and electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters), and beat on medium speed until creamy and no lumps remain, about 2 minutes
  2. Add the yolk and vanilla, and beat on medium until blended, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the mini chips [I used Heath toffee chips], and beat on low speed just until blended.

Brownies

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325F.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan (straight-sided kind) with foil [I like to use heavy duty foil] leaving about a 2-inch overhang on the short sides.  Lightly grease the foil [or spray with baking spray].
  3. Put the butter in a large saucepan, and set over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is melted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Slide the pan off the heat.  Add cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt, and whisk until blended and no lumps of brown sugar remain.  Using your fingertip, check the temperature of the batter- it should be warm but not hot.  If it’s hot, set the pan aside for a minute or two before continuing with the recipe.
  6. Add the eggs, two at a time, whisking until just blended.
  7. Add the vanilla with the final egg addition.
  8. Add the flour, and stir with a silicone spatula until just blended.
  9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and, using a small offset spatula, spread evenly.
  10. Drop the cream cheese mixture in medium-sized dollops evenly spaced over the batter.  [I like to use a tablespoon scooper].  You should have a total of 12.
  11. Use the tip of the offset spatula, swirl the batters together, leaving large streaks of cream cheese.
  12. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie batter comes out with only small bits of brownie sticking to it, 40-46 minutes.  [Make sure not to overbake so that the brownies say moist and fudgy.]
  13. Move the pan to a rack and let cool completely, about 3 hours.
  14. When the brownie is completely cool, use the foil edges on the short sides of the pan to lift it from the pan and place it on a large cutting board.  Run a long think knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut into 24 squares, heating and wiping the knife after every cut.  [Since these brownies are so dense and rich, I like to cut slightly smaller squares to make 32 total squares.  I serve them in cupcake liners.]

Note: The baked, cooled, and cut brownies can be layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container and stowed at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.