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Theme and Variations on a Brownie

Some folks like their brownies chewy. Some folks like their brownies fudgy. Some people like them cakey and others claim that if they’re cakey then they are not brownies. Then there is the PN crowd (pro-nuts) and the other sort of people. Brownies bring out loyalties. Now, I’m PN and fairly AC (anti-cakey), but one thing is for sure – my mouth never met a brownie that it did not like.

At this time of the year, when the Christmas cookie trays are groaning under the weight of everything from gingerbread people (and architecture!!!) to Old World spritz, why bother with brownies?

Well, because chocolate is something that I think everyone likes. When the Little Siberians were younger and we were tasked with bringing cookies to bake sales and other events, I would (being a good younger Aunty at the time and rather a contrarian) always brought oatmeal raisin cookies, figuring that everyone else’s Mama would be bringing the horrific and totally worthless cookies. Needless to say, I’d watch the sale like a hawk so that I could cheer the people who’d buy my oatmeal raisin (with a little sneaked in powdered milk) and hiss the ones who’d buy up all the chocolate chippies. And at the end of the day, guess who’s cookies were still sitting on the trays, largely lonely, ignored, and unbought?

Yep, the oatmeal with raisin. Boo. Hiss.

People like chocolate. Now, I think most of us have, either marked in our cookbooks or scrawled on a 3×5 card, a brownie recipe that works for us, so I’m not going to flog readers with that. But here are two interesting (and perhaps a bit more adult) versions of brownies which would not be kicked off the plate or left lonely at the end of the evening.

Vienna Brownies (aka: Cheesecake Brownies) Your Old Aunty also refers to these as ‘Rationalizing Brownies’ because there’s enough protein (especially if you put on the optional slivered almonds at the end) to talk yourself into eating one. Not exactly ‘the breakfast of champions’ but getting close.

You’ll need an 8×8″ baking pan for this.
Cheesecake part:
1 8-oz. pk. of cream cheese (or Neuchatel cheese)
1/3 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. of almond extract

Brownie part:
2, 1-oz. bars of baking chocolate
1/2 cup of butter (that’s one stick)
2 eggs
3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Optional: Slivered almonds for the top

Whip up the cheesecake part and set aside in a separate bowl
Clean the mixer bowl and beaters
Melt the butter and chop up the blocks of chocolate and melt them in the butter, mixing it up as you go to combine.
Sift together the flour and baking powder and combine with the chocolate/butter mix.

Pour half the chocolate mix into a greased 8×8″ baking pan. Pour the cheesecake mixture on the top and plop the other part of the chocolate mix on top of the cheesecake mix (as if you are going to make a marble cake).

Then take a knife and grease it somehow – I dip mine into a little light olive oil (not the extra virgin stuff) and let it drip off. Using the knife, mix the top chocolate plops into the cheesecake layer. You should end up with something that looks a bit like this: Yes. It will be a bit lumpy. If you want to, put on a good sprinkle of slivered almonds on top.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 min. Cool and cut.

The second variation is a bit more cakey than brownie IMHO, but still good and definitely for people who love Almond Joy(tm) bars or anything coconut.

Congo Bars

I stick of butter
2/3 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 sq. of baking chocolate
1/4 cup of milk (plus a couple of tablespoons, really)
1 tsp. of vanilla
1/4 tsp. of orange flavoring
2/3 cup of coconut
1 cup of flour
1 tsp of baking powder

Now, one of the things that makes these cakey rather than brownie is the amount of flour – to make yours less cakie, reduce the flour to 2/3-3/4 of a cup of flour.

Melt the butter and baking chocolate together, mix with the sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients all at once and beat for 2 min. Pour into a greased 8×8″ baking pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. While still warm,, cut into bars and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Now, for folks who already have a brownie recipe that works for them – consider these two variations as inspirations. For YOUR version of cheesecake brownies, whip up the cheese cake portion, whip up YOUR brownie recipe and follow directions to make the Vienna brownies. For YOUR version of Congo bars, just whip up YOUR brownie recipe, but also throw in shredded coconut and the flavorings. That will work also!

Bon appetit!

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One Comment

  1. Martina says:

    Really? The oatmeal-raisins got left on the plate? They’re my favorites! (Even more than brownies–not that I met too many brownies I wouldn’t take home with me, either.)

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