For some reason, I seem to have an excessive amount of Nutella in my life.  There’s the big batch of homemade nutella in the fridge.  Then, we went to TechMunch a few weeks ago, where we each got a jar of the organic Whole Foods version in our goody bags.

And there is only so much toast one household can eat.  So I went out looking for recipes, and I found this one.  It’s a cake mix on the bottom, with a nutella cheesecake on the top.  I don’t usually buy cake mixes, and I was tempted to replace it with some sort of homemade cake, but I figured I’d make this once the way it was written.  I’m glad I did, because the cake mix doesn’t really mix up to be a cake – it’s just got barely enough liquid to come together.  If you don’t want to use a cake mix, I’d recommend a chocolate shortbread crust – there’s a good one at The Hungry Mouse.

The recipe calls for one egg and a stick of melted butter, mixed with one devil’s food cake mix.  It took a lot of mixing to get it to come together, and it ended up much like a shortbread dough.  Pat it into a (well-greased!) 13×9:

Nutella Brownies

The cheesecake topping is easy – just mix a cup of Nutella and a block of cream cheese until they’re creamy and completely combined.  Add some eggs, vanilla, another stick of melted butter, and powdered sugar.  The recipe calls for 16 ounces, and you should weigh it.  If you don’t have a scale, you can just buy a 16-ounce package at the store and use the whole thing. Be careful to add the sugar slowly, or it will end up all over your kitchen!

You’ll end up with a nice, thick cheesecake batter.  Mine’s got texture because my nutella had texture – if you use the store-bought version, it will come out smooth.  Yes, that is powdered sugar all over my kitchen, why do you ask?

Nutella Brownies

Pour the cheesecake over the crust, and bake for 45 minutes or so.  This is what you’ll end up with:

Nutella Brownies

They’re really good.  The crust is firm enough to give them structural stability, but the top is creamy and cheese-cake-y.

For an interesting variation, you could use plain, smooth peanut butter as a replacement for the nutella.  You’d get a peanut butter cheesecake over a chocolate crust.  You could make it in tiny tart pans, too, but you’d have to cut the cooking time significantly.

I’d make them again!

( see the recipe )

Blondies

I’ve been craving blondies, so last weekend I made a batch of toffee for the Bobby Flay blondie recipe.

The recipe said “Melt the butter, add the sugar, cook for a bit, then let cool”.  But I wasn’t patient enough – I rushed the cooling process, thinking that the only reason to let them cool was to keep from cooking the eggs when I added them.  So I only let it cool for 5 minutes or so, then carefully watched the eggs, which combined nicely with the butter/sugar mixture, so I breathed a sigh of relief and continued adding ingredients.

In went the vanilla, the flour mixture, the chocolate chips, and the toffee.  Then I turned my back for just a minute to prepare the pan – and when I turned back, I realized why I should have left the sugar cool.  The chocolate chips were entirely melted.  The toffee was mostly melted.  I no longer had blondies – I had brownies.

I sighed, mixed them a bit more to distribute the now-liquid chocolate, and baked them.  They were really amazing brownies – just enough chocolate, crunchy around the edges, and rich and gooey and caramelized in the middle.

But they weren’t blondies.  So last night I tried again, since I had half of the toffee left.  This time, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.  The night before, I put the chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips) and toffee in the coldest part of my refrigerator.  I was tempted to freeze them, but thought that might be a bit obsessive. I cooked the butter and sugars until they were caramelized, poured it into the bowl of my stand mixer, and left it alone for a solid half hour.  I preheated the oven, added the eggs, vanilla, and flour mixture, then prepared the pan.  Only then did I add the chocolate chips and toffee, omitting the nuts this time since I’d added nuts to this half of the toffee, and put the pan straight into the oven.

They took longer to bake then the recipe said, probably because so many of the ingredients were chilled, but they came out perfectly.  Here, have a close-up:

Blondies

They’re gooey and rich and buttery – everything a blondie should be!

( see the recipe )

Art of Darkness Brownie

Brownies are generally filed into two categories: fudgy and cakey. These are somewhere in-between – they’ve got the dense chocolate flavor of a fudgy brownie, but the texture is more cake-like.

You can rarely go wrong with Good Eats recipes, and this is no exception. Beat the eggs, add the sugars, add the butter, and then add the dry ingredients. I do it all in my stand mixer – I use the whisk for the eggs and the sugar, then switch to the paddle for the rest of the ingredients. The sifting is important – if you don’t sift the sugars and the cocoa, you’ll end up with weird clumps of sugar or cocoa in the batter, and you’ll end up having to mix it longer then you should in order to smooth it out.

This is a recipe that requires a very good cocoa. I’m fond of the Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa, but any really good, really dark, cocoa will do.

I usually find they take longer to bake then the recipe calls for – it may be my pan, my oven, or just my preferred doneness.

They’re very much worth waiting for, though.

( see the recipe )