Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies: Brownies From A Box

Brownies made from a boxed mix may not be the most sophisticated dessert, but they are one of the cheapest.  Making brownies from scratch involves several sticks of butter, good quality chocolate and a handful of other ingredients; boxed brownies require oil, water, eggs and a mix that generally costs less than $2.  Budget-wise, it makes sense to use a mix.  If you add in the convenience and familiar deliciousness then making boxed rather than from-scratch brownies is a no-brainer.

Using a prepared, idiot-proof mix allows you to experiment with different incarnations of brownies.  A great way to spruce up a standard batch is to add in other ingredients like chopped candy bars, nuts, fruit or peanut butter.  One of the most delicious - and visually appealing - additions is cream cheese that is mixed into the batter before baking.  The result is creamy, tangy, cheesecake-like swirls in a base of rich, sweet chocolate.  It only takes a couple extra steps and the payoff is a gorgeously marbled pattern that tastes as great as it looks.

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies


  • 1 box brownie mix
  • eggs (as directed)
  • oil (half the amount directed)
  • water (as directed)

Cream Cheese Swirl

  • 8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese
  • 1/4 C milk


  • bowl
  • bowl, microwave safe
  • whisk
  • spatula
  • wooden skewer
  • measuring cups
  • 9” x 13” baking pan
  • parchment paper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease or line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment paper.  In a microwave safe bowl combine the cream cheese and milk.  Microwave in 30 second bursts, whisking in between until melted and smooth.  Set aside.

In a bowl combine the brownie mix, water, oil and eggs.  Stir until well combined.  Pour batter into the pan, smooth and level it then tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles.  Drizzle or spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the batter; the technique doesn’t matter as long as it is fairly evenly distributed.

Using the wooden skewer, swirl the brownie batter and cream cheese together.  Be sure to lift the skewer out to pull the batter up.  Work through the whole pan, swirling to the edges and breaking up any large areas of just cream cheese or brownie.  Do not overwork it; you still want to see the individual swirls.

Once you are satisfied with your design, place the pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.  To test for doneness, poke into a brownie portion in the center of the pan.  If it comes away clean or with only a few crumbs, the brownies are done (the cream cheese will stick regardless; this is why you need to test the brownie portion).

Allow the brownies to cool completely before serving.  Cutting these can be tricky as the cream cheese is very sticky and will gunk up any knife.  I’ve tried many techniques to get the perfect cut and there were only two that were a success.  A warm, oiled knife or piece of wire, string or fishing line cut through these brownies perfectly - but both tools did have to be wiped clean after each pass to keep the edges clean.