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calling all nerds…

On Thursday, my summer finally started. I felt light as a feather mainly because my summer session on campus had ended. Yes, I was one of those unfortunate souls who signed up for summer school and it was a tough 8 weeks. 2 days a week, from the hours of 6 to 9, in a small FREEZING room is enough to turn even the most sane in to nut jobs. But I persevered and came through unscathed. 

Besides the ungodly time, I enjoyed my class. You see, I am kind of a nerd. I am one of those girls who spends hours and hours reading. As a child, I dreamed of being a librarian. Getting lost in the stacks, swimming in a sea of books. 

I told you I was special.

But, truth be told, most of my childhood was spent in the neighborhood library. I remember weekend afternoons, my mom holding my hand as we wandered through the children section, sitting down with all the other kids as an older woman read to us, and leaving the library with a nice wagon full of books (yes, I really did bring a wagon.) Some kids prayed for their parents to take them to Toys R Us, I prayed to go to the library. 

Anyways, back to me being a nerd, I don’t mind college or class. All you really do is show up and read through some books. But my upper division major classes have been rather stressful so I chose to do a fun class this summer. Something interesting, something I’d actually like. Well, photography was filled and so was sewing. The next best thing? Women in US history.

The verdict? It might’ve been one of my favorite classes, coming in second to my Digital Imaging course. If I hadn’t had a kick-ass teacher, I’m sure my opinion would’ve been quite different. There is something so refreshing about a passionate, young, and open professor teaching women’s history. It’s like being able to see the world differently. It’s a bit of a travesty that all these great women in history did these magnificient things and they get little recognition. Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Margaret Sanger? Alice Paul? Am I ringing any bells? Well, don’t feel bad if you are lost because I was too. But 8 weeks of reading and dissecting personal journals can do a lot. I was a little sad to leave the class behind because it was seriously eye-opening but man, am I glad to have my summer back. 

In honor of my new found freedom, as well as a small homage to the women who came before me, I felt like celebrating that Thursday. But, alas, most of my friends were sleeping/broke/busy/lazy/etc. So I ended up baking these cream cheese brownies. I know, poor me :) Not exactly how I envisioned my night, but hey it will do.

I stumbled upon this recipe a while back in a past issue of Gourmet magazine and enjoyed its simplicity. Not much to it, I thought after reading it. That being said, I definitely knew I wanted to make my own additions since it was a rather basic recipe. I’m glad I played around with it too because it would’ve been a major letdown if I hadn’t.

I added an ounce of 70% dark chocolate from Trader Joes, as well as 3 tablespoons of Frangelico liquer to the wet batter. For the cheesecake part, I added in 3 tablespoons of sour cream, to thin out and balance the tartness of the cream cheese. My little tweaks resulted in some of the best damn brownies I’ve made. I normally struggle with brownies, but not this time. Soft with a nice edge, the chocolate was sweet without being overbearing. The cream cheese balanced the sweet chocolate, and added a salty aftertaste. My brownies baked for about 33 minutes, but next time I’d take them out after 30 minutes since I like them a little underbaked.

These do well when refrigerated before serving, especially if you are like me and enjoy your cheesecake cooled. The brownie part stayed moist and soft, even after a couple of days in the fridge, which was great since I didn’t feel up to the challenge of polishing off the pan in one day. These brownies reminded me of the black-bottom cupcakes I made a while ago too, with the brownie batter differing slightly in chocolate flavor. A little deeper, a little more intense I think.

These brownies were so good that they replaced most of my meals in the following days. Brownies for breakfast?! Yes please, with a big cup of coffee. Midnight snack?! Brownies, duh. College educated & a kitchen maven?! think my female forefathers would be proud. Other examples of lust-worthy cream cheese brownies can be found at Bake or Break and at the ever-so-delicious Tartelette

Cheesecake Marbled Brownies
adapted from Gourmet magazine


for brownie batter:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 ounce dark chocolate (semi-sweet would be fine)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

for cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Make brownie batter:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Heat butter and chocolate in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, Frangelico, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Make cheesecake batter and bake brownies:
Whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a knife or spatula.

Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes.

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August 3, 2008 - 3:26 pm

Chuck - Amanda, Those cheesecake brownies look amazing. Love the photos! I feel as though I can smell them through my computer screen.

August 3, 2008 - 6:09 pm

alesbianandascholar - Hello!

I’m a newbie to your blog but I just wanted to say hi and that your class sounds great. I’m a huge library nerd, and I have a History degree as well. I’ve been spending my summer doing two hours a day of foreign relations law, so I know how you feel. I only wish I still had courses where I got to read journals, though! I did one Russian history class that was taught through novels and memoirs, and that was amazing. Anyway, anytime you have a book rec throw it my way!

Judith (foodblog at

August 4, 2008 - 3:11 pm

cindy - these look amazing…and i am a nerd as well and minored in women’s studies while in college. seriously good stuff.

August 4, 2008 - 6:27 pm

Megan - glad to hear you enjoyed your class…i’d say it’s about durn time you enjoy all that summer has to offer now! and those brownies look so scrumptious. a combination of my two favorite desserts, what could be better?

August 5, 2008 - 7:22 am

Ishmael - Delightful! Beautiful pictures, and your recipe seems amazing! What a collection of food you have on here! Keep on keeping on. Bravo for food-nerds everywhere.

August 5, 2008 - 10:14 am

nicole - As always, your photos are just glorious.

August 10, 2008 - 8:20 am

ilikemealot - I just had to comment on this entry! I’m reading through “Naked” right now, having just finished “Me Talk Pretty” and “When you are Engulfed in Flames”… I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m through with Sedaris’ books!

August 10, 2008 - 10:09 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - yum! i’d love to have one of those while i read. i don’t ofen tell people this, but i actually had a volunteer job at our little local library one summer during high school. :)

August 11, 2008 - 7:00 am

Amanda - steph- NO KIDDING?! me too! I volunteered during this summer reading program and I kind of liked it. I’d roam through the stacks, hide in the corners and read until the ladies made me sit outside and read to the kids :)

August 24, 2008 - 1:31 pm

Hélène - I’m new to your site. I like it. Beautiful pictures. Since I’m young I spent hours and hours in libray and reading books. I still do but now I take out a lot of cooking books that I read like novels.

January 12, 2009 - 3:27 am

strawberry - are you for realz reading david sedaris for a class?? he’s my favorite author everrrr.

January 12, 2009 - 8:47 am

Amanda - not for a class. I love him too, so it’s all for personal pleasure.

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