If you want to see a normally placid French person go into a crazed frenzy, you don’t need to watch their reaction to me mercilessly butcher their language.
One just needs to utter a single word—cheesecake.
I’ve never met a French person whose face didn’t soften and melt at the mere utterance of the word, and le cheesecake is always spoken of with a reverence normally reserved for the finest cheeses and most exclusive wines.
Although can you find Philadelphia cream cheese here at various outlets in Paris, when you do find it, it’s prohibitively expensive. If you were to make your own cheesecake using four packages of the stuff, it’d run you about €20, which is nearly $30. Holy mother of Bristol Palin!
A couple of French supermarkets do carry their own variations on the Philly-theme, often labeled fromage à tartiner (spreading cheese). But usually the tell-take brick shape gives it away and since it can be kinda pricey, I like to gather the troops and combine it with another French favorite, le brownie. This recipe for Cheesecake Brownies uses just one brick of cream cheese so it’s not such a blow to the portefeuille.
I baked a batch last week and handed them out to friends who work at my outdoor market. Normally, the French taste tends to run more in the purist direction: one either serves them a cheesecake, or bakes up a batch of brownies. Combining the two surprised everyone, but not a single square was left at the end of the day.
Chalk another one up to good ‘ol American ingenuity.
One 9-inch (23cm) or 8-inch (20cm) square pan
Adapted from Ready for Dessert (Ten Speed)
For those of you who like higher brownies, use an 8-inch pan.
- 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 4 ounces (115g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (70g) flour
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (80g) chocolate chips
- 8 ounces (200g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- 5 tablespoons (75g) sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Line a 9-inch (23cm) or 8-inch (20cm) square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C).
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the 2/3 cup (130g) sugar, then the eggs.
4. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
5. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, the yolk, 5 tablespoons (75g) of sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
6. Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a dull knife or spatula and swirl the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter.
7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set.
Let cool, then lift out the foil and peel it away. Cut the brownies into squares.
Storage: These will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days. They also freeze well, too.