Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownies

Can't decide between brownies or cheesecake? Have them both! Cream cheese brownies are the best of both worlds. The two layers complement each other perfectly. The brownie layer is rich and sweet, and the cream cheese layer is light and tangy. And the best part is, you can customize these brownies any which way you want.

I had a serious peanut butter/ chocolate craving the other day, so I decided to combine peanut butter with the cream cheese layer. It's important to note that I didn't mix the peanut butter into the cream cheese; instead I drizzled melted peanut butter on top of the cream cheese and swirled it in.

I did that because it’s impossible to evenly spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter layer. So in order to make it look good, you need to swirl the top layer with the tip of a knife. By drizzling the peanut butter on top and swirling it with the cream cheese it looks really cool.

It’s important to note that you should only swirl the very top layer; you still want distinctive cream cheese and brownie layers.

As you’ll see in the recipe below, I used boxed brownie mix. I used boxed mix because in a recipe like this when there are several different parts it’s a heck of a lot easier. And in my opinion, it tastes just as good as a “made from scratch” brownies that would have taken me three times as long to make. When you take a shortcut like this, it’s important to use high quality ingredients. I used Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownie mix, and I used Challenge cream cheese because it’s made from incredibly fresh 100% cream and there are no additives or fillers.

Here are a few other tips for perfect cream cheese brownies:
  1. Line a pan with aluminum foil for easy removal and cutting
  2. Set brownies on middle rack in oven, no higher; this is because the cream cheese layer on top bakes quicker than the brownie batter
  3. Cool pan completely before cutting; you need to allow the cream cheese a chance to set

 Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownies
Yield: Makes about 16 servings

For the brownies
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 package brownie mix

(These are the ingredients necessary for the Ghirardelli brownie mix, but you should use whatever ingredients are listed on your brownie mix)

For the cream cheese layer
  • 8 ounces Challenge cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 5 Reese’s Peanut Butter cups chopped into small pieces
Directions for the brownie layer
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Line a 9x9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil
  3. Thoroughly mix egg, water and oil in large bowl
  4. Add brownie mix to bowl and stir until fully combined; set aside
Directions for the cream cheese layer
  1. Add cream cheese, egg, and sugar to medium bowl and beat until smooth
  2. Spoon cream cheese mixture on top of brownie batter
  3. Melt peanut butter; drizzle peanut butter on top of cream cheese mixture
  4. Using the tip of a knife, swirl the very top of the cream cheese layer, and in the process attempt to spread it out over the brownie batter as evenly as possible
  5. Sprinkle Reese’s Peanut Butter cup pieces on top
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes; my brownies were perfect after 40 minutes.
  7. Brownies are done when you insert a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean
  8. Let pan cool for several hours or overnight before cutting – you need to give the cream cheese layer time to set
  9. Brownies will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about five days

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