Decadent Desserts, Sweeter Surprises.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m feeling down or distraught, two things always cheer me up. First is sugar. I should mention that it can’t just be any kind of sugar. No, sir, an apple isn’t going to cut it here. It has to be some sort of devilishly-dense baked compound comprised of chocolate, butter, sugar, and God knows what else. Even if I can only take such heavy treats in (semi) minimal amounts, my face simply glows at the sight or more importantly, smell of it.

Second is surprises. I love unexpected acts of kindness – from thoughtful text messages to hand-written letters to lavish gifts,every once in a great while. Girls, you feel me? So you can imagine my giddy glee  in the presence of two very different yet equally delicious brownies and at the sight of….  (here’s a hint):

It’s not necessarily about the subject of the photo (or maybe it is with a little, or a lot, more to it), but can you tell what it is? (*giggle giggle  snort snort*)

A brand-new-spankin’ camera! I can’t even and won’t even begin to express my excitement since I know I should have had my hands on one of these babies a long time and plus, I don’t want to embarrass and go on and on about my shy and humble BF (thank you infinitely, Pat. You’re the best-est).

All right, enough of the boasting and flattering. Let’s get onto the far more attainable and inexpensive chocolate treats.

(Oops, used flash for some of the photos during the process of becoming more familiar with my new friend.)

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


Brownie batter

1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Cheesecake batter

8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Brownie batter

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate in a glass or heat durable mixing bowl (to create less dishes than the alternative method of heating it over the stove in a saucepan) whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Cheesecake batter

Whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a knife or spatula (I have not yet mastered this skill, which explains my lack of pretty and defined swirls).

Sprinkle chocolate chips over cheesecake/brownie batter swirl or mix into the cheesecake batter right off the bat.

Bake brownies

Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, or even chilled.

Peanut Butter Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


For brownies

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (4.5 ounces)
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (4.5 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt, see note**

For ganache

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (4.5 ounces)
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (4.5 ounces)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened


Make brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and butter parchment.

Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed or egg beater/whisk until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer or in my case, arm speed to low or slow, then mix in flour until just combined.

Mix in chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)

Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Make ganache

Put chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) in a heatproof bowl.

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute.

Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.

Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

*Brownies keep in one layer in an airtight container three days, and hopefully much longer in the freezer.


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