Monday, August 31, 2009

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

Because Bon Appetit wishes to taunt me with its glossy pages and its delicious recipes and its close-ups of towering slices of cake--with glistening frosting and nothing but a lonely fork beside them, just begging begging to be picked up--I immediately fainted when I received the January issue this year. A whole spread on Peanut Butter Desserts, the cover advertised? I still haven't read the rest of the issue. Mostly I've just focused on pages 64-71.

What I love about the desserts in this particular article is that they all use natural peanut butter, not the processed peanut-flavored product endowed with shelf-immortality. Don't get me wrong, Skippy has its place. But if you're a peanut butter nut (yeah, it's a pun, get over it) like me, as close to the peanut is where it's at.

So yester-evening, as the temperatures started to sag in Boston, I fired up the oven and baked a downsized batch of their Peanut Butter and Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Brownies. I know, you just fainted too, right? Because I wasn't sure how big of a pan to use, I just meted out the ingredients into a cupcake tin and it worked perfectly. Unfortunately, I don't like brownie end pieces (I'm a gooey-from-the-middle kind of gal), which is basically what you get from the tin. If you hate this, use a muffin cup liner or simply do what I did and eat out the middle!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Brownies
makes 4; total time about 40 minutes, but I think they taste best cold, so if you can have patience, stash them in the fridge for an hour before eating

For the brownie layer:
2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten *(beat full egg and save other half for the topping)
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp flour
pinch salt

For the cheesecake layer:
2 oz cream cheese, soft
1 heaping Tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 egg
1/2 Tbsp cream or half-and-half
1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 325ยบ and spray 4 muffin cups with nonstick spray.
  2. First, the brownie layer: melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan or in a microwave (slowly--only 20 or so seconds at a time!). Set aside. Meanwhile, beat sugar, 1/2 egg and vanilla with electric beaters--or your indefatigable arm strength--until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Gradually add chocolate mixture then stir in flour and salt. Divide among 4 cupcake cups.
  3. Next, the cheesecake: Beat cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add remaining 1/2 of beaten egg and mix well, then cream, then flour.
  4. In a small bowl, place chopped chocolate and microwave at 15 second intervals until melty. Stir smooth. (You want to be extra special careful because chocolate on its own, i.e. no butter, oil, etc., will burn very easily. Go slow and check often.) When nice and melted, stir in 1 Tbsp of cream cheese mixture and mix well. Divide remaining cream cheese mixture between 4 cups and spread over top, then ladle chocolate-cream cheese mixture into the center of each. Using a toothpick, swirl chocolate and plain cream cheese mixtures together.
  5. Bake 15 minutes, then start checking. You want the edges to be slightly puffed and the center is set. I overbaked. Don't make the same mistake.
  6. Let cool slightly, then extract from tin. Chill in the freezer or fridge until ready to eat.

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