I'm so sorry but my post for this month's Daring Bakers challenge will be marked down due to lateness. I Hate being late on anything but I just fell behind this time. It will go up as soon as it's finished. Meanwhile, I hope these brownies will score some brownie points to help make up for my laziness.
Today is Johnny Cash's birthday so I thought I would honor it by making something multi-layered, rich, and dark, With just enough sweetness to smooth out the rough edges. These brownies are so lush with flavour, they will break your heart. Maybe they could cure one as well. They are that extreme.
I'm in love with making homemade dulce de leche. It's a long process but worth the wait. Of course as soon as I learned how to make my own, I discovered a place which sells it by the jar. But after trying the pre-made version, I prefer the more caramel-like flavour that comes with making it from scratch. You have more control over how light or dark you want the sweet milk to be and you can flavour it with salt or vanilla. For these brownies, I only let the milk sit on the double-boiler for 2 hours ( I know some of you are yelling at me right now. Once you have tried it, you won't mind the wait.) I love cream cheese, I didn't want it to be the shrinking violet of the recipe. If you prefer a deeper taste to your dulce de leche, increase the cooking time to 3 hours.
David Lebovitz has a recipe for dulce de leche brownies and I have had my eye on it for several months. But there was a package of cream cheese in my refrigerator that was pleading to be used in something. The thought of cream cheese and dulce de leche combined into a rich brownie was too hard to resist. And it was a boring day, nothing was on television, I didn't feel like reading, I didn't want to see people or be seen, baking was the only alternative. So I put on a Johnny Cash album ('The Essential'). And spent the day laughing and crying.
These are my favourite brownies so far. They have everything one can ask for in a brownie. Fudgy, rich, creamy, sweet, with a smooth yet tweedy texture thanks to the way the way the dulce de leche/cheese mixture swims through the batter as it heats up in the oven. I was worried about the baking time because it looked as though the edges were done long before the center. I pulled it out when the middle was just a little bit wiggly. It firms up nicely as it cools off. I would like to think that Johnny Cash would have found these quite satisfying. :)
Dulce de leche Cream Cheese Brownies
* printer friendly *Recipe *
4-5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) of butter, chopped into pieces
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups of sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
Dulce de leche/Cream Cheese ingredients:
1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces of cream cheese at room temp.
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 egg, at room temp.
Dulce de leche: Find a heat proof bowl that fits snugly into a heavy pot. Fill the pot about an inch high with water. *Make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water* Bring the water to a simmer. Empty the can of sweet milk into the bowl and place it over the simmering water. Cover with foil and cook for about 2-3 hours depending on how dark you want the dulce de leche to be. Stir the milk about every 20 minutes or so. Once you have the desired colour, remove the bowl from the heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth and set it aside to cool. You can use the simmering pot of water again for the brownies. Add more water if necessary.
Brownies: Preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8x8 inch square baking pan with foil and lightly spray or butter. Set aside.
Using the same double-boiler method as above, place the chopped chocolate and butter into a heat proof bowl. Stir just until everything is melted as smooth. Remove from heat. Using a large spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla extract and sugar. One at a time, add the eggs, beating well (using spoon) after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt. Mix vigorously until it becomes shiny and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Set the batter aside.
Cream cheese: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until it becomes creamy (about 30 seconds.) Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat to combine. Add the egg and beat for about 20 more seconds. Slowly add the dulce de leche. If it's still warm, add a small amount to the cream cheese, wait a few seconds and beat it in. Gradually add the remaining dulce de leche and beat until completely combined with the cream cheese.
Scoop out 1/2 cup of the brownie batter and set it aside. Pour the remaining batter into the prepared pan and spread it around into an even layer. Pour the dulce de leche/cream cheese mixture over the brownie layer. Drop in the remaining batter using a spoon or spatula. With a butter knife, carefully swirl the brownie batter into the dulce de leche. It's alright if the batter is too thick in some spots. Try not the mix the ingredients too much, just enough to make things interesting.
Bake for 35-45 minutes. Or until the center is just slightly film. Don't worry if it jiggles around, it will harden as it cools off. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting.