Nothing beats a classic, fudgy chocolate brownie except these Cream Cheese Brownies with Shortbread Crust. There are few better combinations than rich bittersweet chocolate and creamy, luscious cheesecake. They’re both absolutely delicious on their own, but together they are heavenly. And if that isn’t enough, add a buttery, shortbread crust under the brownies!
A hint of espresso enhances the chocolate flavor even more. The tanginess of the cream cheese nicely tempers the deep, richness of the chocolate. My favorite thing about these brownies is the textural differences – crumbly, buttery, gooey, fudgy, creamy, dreamy…. the perfect bite! Fortunately, they freeze well which I hope will keep you from eating them all at once!
Cream Cheese Brownies with Shortbread Crust
- 6 ounces butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Cream Cheese Filling
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- Preheat oven to 325° convection. Butter a 9” square or 7×11” baking pan. You can also spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray if you prefer. I recommend lining your baking pan with a parchment paper sling (instructions below) so that once the brownies have cooled completely you can simply lift them out of the pan and place them onto a cutting board.
Make the Shortbread Crust
- Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.
- Combine sugar, salt, flour and cornstarch. Add cooled butter and mix well.
- Distribute pieces of dough in the prepared pan and press the mixture down with the palms of your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup until it is smooth and even. Dip the measuring cup in sugar if necessary to keep it from sticking to the dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until beginning to brown around the edges and it feels slightly firm in the middle.
- Remove from oven and cool while making the Cream Cheese Filling and the Brownie batter. It is important to bake the shortbread crust before you mix your brownies. It must cool before adding the brownie batter. If you make the brownie batter before that, it will become too firm to spread over the shortbread.
Make the Cream Cheese Filling
- Start with soft, room temperature cream cheese. If the cream cheese seems too cold and firm, you can microwave it for 10 seconds to help soften it.
- Combine the ingredients. Whisk until smooth and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Refrigerate until needed.
Make the Brownies
- In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together; set aside.
- Melt butter and chocolate together (I use the microwave oven), stirring occasionally until smooth and melted.
- In a large bowl, whisk melted chocolate and butter together with the sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla.
- Whisk in eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding another. Continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.
- Add dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Reserve ¾ cup of batter. Spread remaining batter evenly over baked shortbread crust.
- Now, dollop and swirl. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter, then fill in the empty spaces with spoonfuls of the reserved brownie batter.
- Swirl brownie batter and cream cheese together, using the tip of a small knife or skewer.
- Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist, fudgy crumbs attached. Do not overbake.
- Allow the brownies to cool completely before attempting to cut or remove from pan. (If you have lined your pan with a parchment paper sling, see instructions below for removing the brownies from the pan).
- To cut, use a warm knife (the best way to warm a knife is to run it under hot water and then dry it off just before cutting), and wipe the knife clean between cuts.
- Store at room temperature for no more than two days or refrigerate for a week. The brownies freeze well.
How To Make a Parchment Paper Sling
- Be sure to grease your pan – this will help hold the paper in place.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper as wide as the pan and long enough to overhang the edges of the pan by 2-inches. No need for two pieces.
- Spread the batter in the pan trying not to move the paper. You can clip the paper to the pan if necessary (remove clips before baking).
- Cool completely, and then refrigerate for 15 minutes, before removing brownies from pan.
- To loosen, run a knife or spatula along the edge where the brownies touch the pan.
- Hold onto the parchment paper and gently lift out of the pan and on to a cutting board.