For Chocolate Lovers only

Brownie Cheesecake

Tips: This is an adaptation of a recipe in Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts. A few months ago, I stumbled across a bakery that was using a recipe similar to hers. I thought that the cheesecake itself was very good, but I didn't get much chocolate flavor out of the brownies. In developing this recipe, I tried substituting fudge sauce and a ganache for the brownies, but neither was too successful, so I went back to my first thought. This cheesecake, in addition to its brownie chunks, has a chocolate glaze, which helps add to the chocolate flavor of the dessert.

You'll need a 9 inch square (or 7 by 11 inch) pan for the brownies, and a 9 inch springform pan (which MUST be 3 inches deep) for the cheesecake; an electric stand mixer for the cheesecake is also a good idea. Incidentally, my springform pan is a nonstick, heavyweight beauty made by Kaiser, which has lasted for some years now. As the cheesecake is baked in a water bath, a pan of larger but shallower dimensions is an additional necessity (I use a 15 by 11 by 2 inch baking pan, but a large enough roasting pan would work, too). If this pan is aluminum, sprinkle in about one teaspoon cream of tartar before adding the boiling water to keep the pan from discoloring.

This is a bit of a project, but it is a lovely party dessert and will keep well in your fridge (tightly wrapped) for at least a week. You can also freeze any leftovers.

Yield: 16 servings


  • 5 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, divided
  • 1-1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin pats
  • 1/4 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. orange liqueur
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs, graded "large", at room temperature, beaten to combine
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 eggs, graded "large", at room temperature
  • 3 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. water
  • Few grains of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

For Brownies:
Line a 9 inch square or 7 by 11 inch pan (at least 1 inch deep) with heavyweight aluminum foil or a doubled length of regular-weight foil, shiny side up, pressing out as many creases as possible. Grease the bottom only with a light layer of vegetable shortening. Set aside.

Chop 4 ounces of the semisweet chocolate into small chunks (1/4 inch or less on a side) and reserve. Finely chop remaining 1 ounce of semisweet chocolate and place it, along with chopped unsweetened chocolate and butter slices, into a heavy-bottomed 1-1/2 to 2 quart saucepan. Place over very low heat; stir almost constantly until nearly melted. Remove from heat; whisk in cocoa powder until only a few small lumps remain. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

After 15 minutes, add sugar, liqueur, vanilla, and salt to melted chocolate mixture. With large spoon, stir well to combine (texture will resemble wet sand). Add about one-third of beaten eggs and beat in until mixed; repeat with remaining eggs in two additions. Stir in sifted flour until almost combined; add reserved semisweet chocolate chunks and stir only until evenly distributed.

Turn into prepared pan and spread level; the layer of batter will be rather thin-OK. Bake in preheated oven about 15 to 20 minutes, turning pan once back-to-front about halfway during baking time. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted in center emerges with only a few moist crumbs still clinging to it; do not overbake! Remove to cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

When completely cool, remove uncut brownies, still in foil, from baking pan. Seal in airtight plastic bag and freeze for at least 2 hours, until frozen through (don't worry; they won't become too solid to cut). When ready to cut brownies, remove from freezer and plastic bag. Place on cutting surface; gently peel back foil from sides. Using a large, sharp, heavy straight-edged knife, trim off and discard about 1/2 inch of brownie along each edge, then cut the trimmed brownie into quarters. Cut one quarter at a time into small cubes, about 1/2 inch on a side. As you cut, scoop up the cubes with your hands and separate them as you drop them into a 4 cup measure. Don't pack them down as you measure them, and ignore any air spaces you'll see between cubes as they pile up in the measuring cup. You'll need about 3-1/2 cups of cubes, which will be roughly three of the four brownie quarters (you won't need the fourth quarter for this recipe-use it as you wish). Once you have enough cubes, put them back into the plastic bag and store them in the freezer until you need them.

For Cheesecake:
Assemble a 9 inch by 3 inch deep springform pan. As an optional step, trim a corrugated cardboard cake circle (at least 10 inches in diameter) so that it fits in the bottom of the assembled springform pan. Tear off two pieces of regular-weight aluminum foil, each about 12 inches long, and place in an "X" pattern on a flat surface; place the cardboard circle in the middle of the "X". Fold the foil over the top and around the bottom of the cake circle (any excess foil should be folded over onto the bottom of the circle, then flattened out as much as possible). When done, you'll have the cardboard circle covered with foil -- one side should be smoothly covered, and the bottom will have the excess foil folded over onto it. Place this, smoothly covered side up, into the pan bottom, then prepare pan as instructed below. This foil-covered circle will enable you to cut your cheesecake without worrying about scratching the bottom of your pan, and it makes transporting the cheesecake easier, too.

Cover the outside of the springform in foil to prevent water from seeping into your cheesecake. To do so, tear off two sheets of heavy-duty aluminun foil, each about 15 inches long. Place in an "X" pattern on a flat surface. Place the assembled springform pan in the middle of the "X". Bring the foil up around the sides of the pan; flatten it to the shape of the pan, crimping and pleating as necessary (there will probably be enough excess for you to trim some off with a scissors). The entire outside of your pan should be swathed in foil, right up to the lip.

With softened, unsalted butter, butter the sides of your springform (on the inside of the pan, of course). I do this even though my pan is nonstick. It is not necessary to butter the pan bottom, regardless of whether or not you've put the foil-covered cake circle there.

Have ready a pan that is longer and wider than your springform; it is important that this pan be shallower than your springform. If this larger, shallower pan is aluminum, sprinkle into it about one teaspoon cream of tartar to prevent discoloration. Have ready enough boiling water to fill the larger, shallower pan to a depth of one inch. Adjust oven rack to center position; preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Place softened cream cheese into large bowl of electric stand mixer. Beat at medium speed for one minute. Scrape down bowl and beater(s) with large rubber spatula. Continue beating cream cheese at medium speed only until perfectly smooth (you don't want a lot of air in this batter, so don't overbeat). Add sugar, vanilla, and salt; beat at a low speed until smooth (if necessary, increase speed to medium briefly). Add eggs, one at a time, beating in each at a low speed until blended. Be certain to scrape down bowl and beater(s) frequently during this process. When all eggs are in, batter should be on the thick side but still pourable, and it must be smooth. Set aside briefly.

Place the larger, shallower pan directly onto the rack of the preheated oven; add enough boiling water so that there's a layer about 1/2 inch deep in the pan (no need to measure). Close oven door.

Pour enough cheesecake batter into prepared springform pan to form a layer about 1/2 inch deep (no need to measure). Remove measured brownie cubes from freezer (you thought I'd forgotten about them, didn't you?); while still frozen, gently fold into remaining cheesecake batter until evenly distributed. Pour this brownie-studded batter over the plain cheesecake batter in the springform pan. The pan will be quite full. Smooth the top as best you can; with a toothpick or knifepoint, prick any obvious air bubbles.

Carefully place the filled springform pan into the hot-water-filled larger pan in the oven. Now, working carefully, add enough hot boiling water to the larger pan so that it comes to a depth of one inch (you might want to measure the hot water by briefly sticking in a heatproof or plastic ruler, though it sounds daft; too much water will slow baking time). Don't get any water into the cheesecake batter (a trick here is to place the filled springform pan slightly to one side in the hot-water-filled pan, to give yourself a bit more room for pouring water; the filled springform pan should not touch any of the sides of the hot-water-filled pan, however).

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Check at intervals to see if the water in the larger pan has evaporated to any degree; if so, carefully replace the evaporative loss with more boiling water. The cheesecake will rise slightly above the edges of the pan, and the top will brown somewhat. However, if the pan is tapped or shaken very gently, the center will still appear to be liquid-OK. Do not overbake.

Remove to cooling rack. Gently and carefully remove outer wrapping of foil from springform pan. Allow cheesecake to cool undisturbed for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, during which time it will sink back to its original level in the pan; by then, it should be at room temperature or just a bit warmer. Toward the end of this cooling time, start making the Glaze: In a small heatproof bowl, combine chocolate, butter, water, and salt. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often until almost melted. Remove from heat and hot water; stir until melted and smooth. (Alternatively, place these ingredients in a small microwaveable bowl. Heat at medium (50%) power for short intervals, stirring well after each, just until melted and smooth.) Stir in vanilla. Allow to cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until no longer warm and slightly thickened.

After the 2-1/2 to 3 hours of cooling, if necessary, loosen sides of cheesecake from pan very gently (I don't have to do this with my nonstick pan). Place cheesecake, still in pan, on a large flate plate or cutting board. Carefully remove sides of springform pan. If your glaze is ready, apply it now by pouring it slowly into the middle of the cheesecake top. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake, working glaze as little as possible (an offset spatula is a big help here). A bit of glaze may drip down the sides-OK. Chill the glazed cheesecake (if your glaze is not ready when the cheesecake comes out of its pan, chill it until the glaze is cooled enough).

If you used the foil-wrapped cake circle on the bottom of your pan, as I do, you can remove the bottom of the springform pan after the cake has chilled for about an hour. Carefully maneuver a thin plastic spatula between the bottom of the cake circle and your pan bottom; just as carefully, lift the cheesecake, still on the cake circle, from the pan bottom. Continue to chill the cheesecake.

Chill the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving. To cut, use a large, heavy, straight-edged knife. Run the blade under hot water, then shake it off (do not dry) prior to making every cut. Store the tightly-wrapped cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 10 days; freeze for longer storage.

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