Monday, October 5, 2009

Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies

For someone who claims to be on a diet, I seem to spend a lot of time in the kitchen baking stuff I'm not allowed to eat. Brown sugar shortbread. Biscuits. Those chocolate chip cookies I baked for my son when I sent him the biscuits. Chocolate truffle squares. And now it's cream cheese brownies. WTF????

For the record, I will tell you that I am still sticking to my eating - or should I say "not eating"- plan. I have to go for the first official weigh-in on Friday so that's enough to keep me in line. At least for now. And it certainly kept me from eating those shortbread shards or consuming vast quantities of raw cookie dough. (In the old days, I probably scarfed down more dough than I actually baked). But of course, none of you have ever done that, right?

I didn't eat any of the cream cheese brownies I made last Friday, either. Not the first crumb! And yes, I made them for a very specific reason.

You already know that I bake mason jar cakes to send to our deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan every month. What you don't know is I also volunteer at the VA hospital in Atlanta. I think it is equally important to support our veterans (many of whom are forgotten) so I make it a point to go in and hang out with them. Mostly, they just want to talk. Sometimes we just get silly as you can see from the picture on the left. That's me with Mr. W, goofing around on Valentine's Day. It's little enough that I can do.

So did I make these brownies for our veterans in the VA nursing home? Well, no. Many of them are diabetic, so sugar is not an option. Since I have never eaten or made a dessert with artificial sweetener that I thought was edible, I guess I won't be baking for them anytime soon.

No, I made these brownies for the VAVS staff and volunteers who worked like crazy last weekend to organize, staff and run the annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans. Approximately 500 of our homeless vets showed up on Saturday for medical care, hot showers, food, clothing and support. It was an all-day event and it was HUGE - in every sense of the word.

Believe me, these VAVS staff members deserve far more than just brownies. (People, you know who you are). They are the epitome of what every employee (government or otherwise) should be. No matter how many diets I am on, I would happily bake for them every day of the week.

Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies (adapted from Magnolia's, Charleston S.C.)

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup butter

Place chocolates and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until mixture is melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth then gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time and beat on medium speed until just blended. Add vanilla. Use a spatula to fold in flour and chocolate chips. Set aside.

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Using electric mixer, beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat on high speed until thick and fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla and blend well. Using a spatula, fold in flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in chocolate chips.

Reserve 3 cups of the chocolate batter. Spread remaining batter into a 13 x 9-inch pan that has been lined with overhanging foil and greased well. Pour cream cheese batter over and smooth well. Drop remaining chocolate batter over cream cheese layer and swirl with a knife to marble.

Bake in oven preheated to 350-degrees for 40 - 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake.

When cool, remove from pan and cut into squares. These are good alone, but you can gild the lily and top them with vanilla ice cream and drizzle with warm caramel (or chocolate) sauce.

Yield: 12 - 18 brownies, depending upon how generous you are when you cut them!

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