Creamy vanilla bean cheesecake bars swirled with brownie batter! The batter stays ‘batter’ like so it’s just as smooth as the cheesecake. This is the brownie cheesecake mashup dream.
The first time I made this was a few years ago and I couldn’t tell you exactly what prompted it, but I believe I made it for my husband on one of our anniversaries (or his birthday? I really don’t remember). I seem to have gotten it in my head that cheesecake would be so much better if it had swirls of brownie in it, unbaked brownie at that and we both delighted in it – enough that I kept my notes!
In its firstborn form it was a round, tall cheesecake but when I tried remaking it like that recently I struggled to get it to bake fully without browning on top (I’m a water bath girl now, we’ll talk more about that in a min). Bars are generally more approachable anyway and, given I am publishing this with Thanksgiving right around the corner, serve a party well.
Fair warning: these are so damn delicious and will be fought and sought after so bookmark this page for all the holidays!
Cookie crumbs: I use chocolate sandwich cookies (the whole foods ones that are like oreos) but I scrape off the cream because we don’t need the added fat and sugar for the crust (it’ll mess up the ratios in the recipe below).
If you want to keep the cream and don’t mind a very sweet crust, use less butter. Whatever cookie you choose, grind it up well in a food processor then measure.
Cream Cheese: Firm cream cheese, not whipped, not spreadable, not anything in a tub. They should be in bricks. If the brand you usually use is quite soft, swap it for Philadelphia which is nice and firm.
Sour Cream: Full fat. You may also use labneh here if you have that on hand more often, it gives a bit more tang to the cheesecake.
Flour: All purpose. If you want to make this gluten free (and are using gluten free cookie crumbs) you can easily sub with a 1 to 1 flour swap.
Chocolate hazelnut spread: One thing I do remember clearly was purposely choosing to add ‘nutella’ to the brownie batter so that it would not bake into a typical brownie. This helps keep it like a thick custard. If you need to avoid hazelnuts, use another chocolate nut or seed butter (peanut butter, sunflower butter, a chocolate tahini spread could also work). It doesn’t have to be a chocolate spread per se, but it’s better if it is.
You’ll see me instruct you to have room temperature sour cream but honestly I never remember to take it out (plus it’s a big tub and I only need a bit?). The cream cheese though, you absolutely must have it as properly soft and almost ‘warm’ as you can.
Take the cream cheese out at least a few hours before you begin, if your kitchen is particularly warm and you’re concerned about it melting, you might just need an hour.
To hasten things along, remove the cardboard packaging and let it sit on the counter in just the foil wrapping.
100% yes. This is one of those things that when you start doing it, you can’t possibly imagine not doing it. The water bath is a protective shield against the heat; the water warms and creates a barrier around the custard so that it heats, and bakes slowly and evenly.
We are making these as bars so you’re using a cake pan which will sit nicely in a larger cake pan, no need to wrap anything or worry over water leaking in, filled just halfway with hot water.
If you are doubling the recipe you’ll be baking it in a 9×13” cake pan and well, likely not have a bigger pan to make a water bath out of. In this case I’d use another 9×13” cake pan, fill it with hot boiling water, and place it on the rack underneath the cheesecake. It won’t surround it in the same way but the added moisture to the oven will help it bake evenly.
Baking time may need to increase a bit, add about 10-15 minutes overall.
Yep, halve everything and bake it in a loaf pan. Loaf pan can sit in a square or 13×9” cake pan. It’ll likely bake a bit quicker, check it at 30 minutes. You’re looking for set edges.
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