April Showers bring May Migraines – and Cold War Brownies

May 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm 45 comments


Oh, my gosh. What makes these Cold War brownies?

Maybe it’s like this. There’s cream cheese, yeah? It’s tangy and dominant. It likes to ripple through everything. Cause hey. Cream cheese will make it taste better. Cream cheese is good for you. Cream cheese demands to get its way. (It’s the US, okay?)

Then there’s the chili powder. You don’t really notice how much ammunition it’s got until you take the first bite. Then you feel it, in the back of your mouth. It’s got a bit of heat, and it wants to be there. (Clearly the USSR!)

And the nutella. You’re not entirely sure what it’s doing there. It’s a bit of a surprise, a shock. You don’t want to underestimate it, and yet, you can’t help wonder what business nutella has in your brownie. (Obviously Cuba.)

And it’s like… They’re all together, on the playing field. (Brownie = earth.) They’re marbled together, but can’t possibly mix. In your mouth, you can’t decide which flavor wins. It’s too much wonderfulness to handle.

Alternatively, maybe it’s because, as my friend G- put it, they’re bomb. !!! I know. Not funny. Sorry.

…Orrrrrrr, maybe they’re Cold War Brownies because I (sort of) studied and baked at the same time. You decide.

No matter what, they’ll make a pack of exhausted, brain dead juniors smile again.

Yes, I confess. I came home from school, like I always do, already tired. This week I have a test every single day. Two tests on Thursday. Each test is at least two hours long. Today took three. We had to stay past the end of school, past the end of tutorial, writing 3 essays and answering short answers. About history (partly, the Cold War.) We write another 3 essays tomorrow.

Yesterday? Yesterday was English. Two hours of essay writing. I don’t ever want to analyze diction, syntax, or onomatopoeia ever again. (Until Thursday and next Monday, whoops!)

And the rest doesn’t get much better. Calculus on Thursday and Friday, US government, biology, and two days of French.

So who can blame me for coming home and not being in the mood to study? Besides, it didn’t take long to make these.

Jeez, I sound like a big complainer. Sorry. Despite everything, I’m happy. I know that testing will be done when May ends, and it won’t be the end of the world. When I’m done testing, it’ll be summer!

These brownies just sort of came together. Originally my break consisted of a slice of cinnamon bread and 15 minutes to check my favorite food blogs. I was browsing David Lebowitz’s archives and came across cheesecake brownies.

Oh, hello!

As I was making them, I got a bit of inspiration. I threw cinnamon and chili powder into the brownie batter and added cinnamon to the cream cheese too. Just as I was about to marble – what the heck – I added a few dollops of Nutella. Because my friends deserve it. ;)

These brownies are thick, chocolatey, and intense. They beg for milk. They were best straight out of the oven, all gooey and warm, or after a day in the fridge, when they became fudgy and the flavors more distinct. These brownies are comfort food, not that sophisticated. Some more refined tastes might argue they were too sweet, or contained too many flavors. You could leave out the nutella in that case. But me, I needed these brownies. Exactly how they are.

Cold War Brownies
Adapted from David Lebowitz
Makes a 9″ pan

Brownie
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
Rounded 1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Topping
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
5 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon

4 tbsp Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9″ pan with foil, allowing it to hang over the edges. Lightly grease.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate together. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs. Add the flour, cocoa, chili powder, cinnamon, and salt and mix in. Finally, stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.

In a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and cinnamon. Drop dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownies. Drop dollops of nutella, too. Use a dull knife to swirl the whole thing. (Alternatively, mix the nutella into half of the cream cheese mixture and swirl. Or leave the nutella out.)

Bake 35 minutes, or until just set. Let cool completely before lifting out and cutting into bars. Store in the fridge.

Printer Friendly Version – Cold War Brownies

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Under the Wing of Erin Cooks – plus Triple Berry Frozen Yogurt Mother’s Day Lemon Chiffon Cake

45 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elissa's Dad  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Oh Elissa, if you used the chili powder that was not in a store bought spice jar but in the plastic container, that is my home-made chili powder. It too has asubtle hint of cinnamon if tasted by itself. And for those of you who want my recipe, sorry, some things are family secrets. Even Elissa doesn’t know what is in it, but she loves to eat it…

    Reply
  • 2. Elissa  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    No worries Dad – it was the store bought spice. Your chili powder should be used in sauces and stuff where it really counts, not brownies :)

    Reply
  • 3. Baking Monster  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    you are a baking genuis but im sure you know that!and are you doing AP testing right now?sounds like it because we are too. but I dont get out until june.

    Reply
  • 4. Wendy  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Ooh! Chilli Powder in brownies!
    Aaah tests! Mine are coming up next week too! I have 2 biology exams, 2 chemistry and 1 geography exam.D:
    I wish I can bake too amid all the academic stress!
    (btw I’m 16 nearly 17 too, lovely too see your blog so successful :))

    Reply
  • 5. Alana @ The Good Girl Gone Blog  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Haha you crack me up. Good luck on your exams girl!

    Reply
  • 6. Elissa  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Baking Monster – It’s an ugly combination of AP and IB.

    Reply
    • 7. Mykelin  |  January 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      I’m so jealous of your ability to balance your blog and school!! I’m in the middle of the IB + AP program right now, and the stress is overwhelming! That’s why I’m so thankful for blogs like yours- it helps me get my mind off hw for a while :)

  • 8. Valerie  |  May 5, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Nothing like baking brownies to make oneself feel better after a long day – except maybe eating them, especially if they look as delicious as these!

    Reply
  • 9. Peter  |  May 5, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    wow, Elissa, I had no idea you were super into baking, that’s awesome :D

    Reply
  • 10. Jake  |  May 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    You are into baking? Now I know. What a great hobby unlike me who procrastinate too much. hahahah

    Reply
  • 11. Amanda  |  May 5, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    These brownies look delish! I haven’t had a good brownie in forever.

    Best of luck with all your exams!

    Reply
  • 12. The Craving Chronicles  |  May 6, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Wow, these look heavenly! Definitely comfort food.

    Reply
  • 13. Jen  |  May 6, 2009 at 8:01 am

    If being overburdened with studying and tests in high school brings forth this inspiration, I look forward to what you’ll create when in college! Good luck with everything and continue baking the stress away! :)

    Reply
  • 14. Marta  |  May 6, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Hahahahaha your rationale for the name is hilarious! I laughed out loud (in the office, oops!). I come to you blog because I always learn new things in it, little did I know today I was going to become better versed in world history :) The brownies look delicious. I’ve decided (as of right now) that they’ll be the next recipe I make. See, I’m doing some research on the best brownie recipes. So I’m trying “celebrity” brownies like Martha’s, Barefoot Contessa’s, Dorie’s, Baked’s, etc… Dave Leibovitz only makes sense at this point!! Thanks for enlightening me in my search for the perfect brownie!
    Good luck with exams! The end is near, then you can dedicate yourself to baking lovely treats for a while :)

    Reply
  • 15. MountaineerGirl  |  May 6, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Hi! I ran into your post through the Tastespotting website, and I must say – these brownies sound sinfully amazing and politically correct all at once. I’m a sophomore at West Virginia University, and this is our Finals Week. So the quip about kickin’ the studying blues caught my eye. Now that I finished my last exam about two hours ago, I can definitely try out this recipe for a cook-out w/ friends later this week. Thanks for the recipe, and good luck on the rest of your tests!

    ps. – I’ll make sure everyone knows where I got the goods from! ;)

    Reply
  • 16. Cristine  |  May 6, 2009 at 11:14 am

    YUM!!!! Bookmarking these!

    Reply
  • 17. Martina  |  May 6, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Sounds like we’re in the same boat: USS Pre-Exam Stress Baking.

    Reply
  • 18. Lauren  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Mmm, those sound yummy =D Love the explanation!

    Reply
  • 19. Elissa  |  May 6, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    hey this looks delicious I might use it to study for my international relations final…
    PS I never knew anyone else spelled their name the same way I do. Sweetness!!

    Reply
  • 20. Cze-Johnson Carrie  |  May 7, 2009 at 5:51 am

    I hope you do well on your exams…. you’ve obviously passed this test with flying colors! looks delicious, complex, and right up my alley!

    and uh.. you DAD doesn’t have a cooking blog either by any chance? He sounds like a guy I could like to have cook for me! :)

    Reply
  • 21. Erin  |  May 7, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Your Cold War analogy is simply inspired. I bow down to you oh blogger of brilliant word play.

    Reply
  • 22. alicia  |  May 7, 2009 at 9:07 am

    These look sooo delicious.. im seriously contemplating if i have all the ingredients…hehe.

    Reply
  • 23. Eliana  |  May 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    These brownies look fantastic I love how you used all of these great intense flavors and can only imagine how great they taste. This will be going on my “to-be-baked” list. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • 24. BitterSweet  |  May 7, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Oh, now these sound like some killer brownies! Fantastic pictures, too. :)

    Reply
  • 25. Erin  |  May 7, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Love your writing style! Your posts are so fun to read- not to mention huge-craving inducing! ;)

    Reply
  • 26. kai  |  May 7, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    hey! when are you bringing sweets to french? i can’t wait (you have no idea how much i’m looking forward to it). we have paper 2 tomorrow for math and (believe it or not) i’m horrified. i heard yours was pretty tough too, although i haven’t seen the test.

    you had some nice cold war stuff going on there. too bad i didn’t read this post until after the test =/

    <333

    Reply
  • 27. Elissa  |  May 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Elissa - When I saw your comment I did a double take. Nice to meet another Elissa! Do you say it “eh-lisa” or like “melissa” without the m?

    Cze-Johnson Carrie – He doesn’t have a blog, but I wish you could try his food! He is a really great cook. Next time he makes homemade pasta or something that I could potentially make on my own, I’ll blog about it!

    Kai - So you know the french party after testing? Jordan likes to bake too, and I thought we would just both bring something… but she talked to me and said we should bake something fancy together! I’m kind of excited! Plus I did bring these CW Brownies to school. I think you were studying for ap french and missed them….

    Reply
  • 28. Julia @ Mélanger  |  May 8, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Very funny. I don’t think I’ve ever described a baked good in the same way. I’m very intrigued by chilli + nutella. I have seen both separately in brownies but not together. Very creative.

    Reply
  • 29. pat  |  May 9, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Are you sure about the amount of chili powder 2 Tablespoons.
    I made these brownies and all I could taste was the chili powder
    What a waste of chocolate and cream cheese.

    Reply
  • 30. Elissa  |  May 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Pat, it should be two tsp. I’m sorry for the error and hope the brownies weren’t an entire waste of ingredients.

    Reply
  • 31. MJ  |  May 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    mmm these look AWESOME!

    Reply
  • 32. LnddMiles  |  July 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

    Reply
  • 33. Gourmet Mama  |  July 22, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Whoa! Look at that brownie! Isn’t that one delectable way to describe cold war. I’m a bit doubtful about the chili powder, but it’s worth a try. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    Reply
  • 34. Eleventh St » Cold War Brownies  |  September 8, 2009 at 12:12 am

    [...] Cold War Brownies Taken from 17 and Baking [...]

    Reply
  • 35. Leebot  |  October 20, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Love your Cold War analogy. If you don’t go into the food business, you would make a great teacher if Metaphorical Baking Experience was part of your lesson plan. (I’m a grandma now, but when I was in high school our French teacher was a graduate of the Cordon Bleu cooking school and cooking French dishes was part of our routine. Learn French and Grow Fat!)

    Back to the brownies — cinnamon, chocolate and chili powder is also a Mexican combination. I make killer cookies with these ingredients.

    BTW — WHOOPS is Onomatopoeic.

    Reply
  • 36. madelinestevens  |  January 11, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I actually made these tonight and they turned out really good. Though, I haven’t made many brownies, these are definitely the best so far. I threw some walnuts on top because these already seemed kind of like hodge-podge brownies (in a good way) so I figured one more ingredient couldn’t hurt. I’m glad I did, it added a pleasant crunch.

    Reply
  • 37. Night Owl Chef  |  January 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    These look so tempting – I’m not sure if it’s because of the fanciful description (hilarious, intriguing, mouth-watering, and SO apropos) or the flavors themselves. I love all of them separately, so why not together??? These should be a hit! Am bookmarking the recipe now….
    Hope the tests all went well for you!

    Reply
  • 38. melissasakow  |  June 14, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I made these while I was interning for an NGO in India and craving some baked goods. I had to use all Indian ingredients so I made a few substitutions, but they were delicious! In fact, I made one batch and they were gone in 20 minutes. And then one of the NGO staff requested that I make another batch for him to buy! Thanks so much for this recipe–it’s going to be a staple for me I think. :)

    Reply
  • 39. Helen  |  July 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    This is amazing, I gotta make this! I will just use gluten free brownies as a substitute :-) Thanx

    Reply
  • 40. Recipes to Try (Sweets/Desserts) | Schmelly Eats  |  August 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    [...] Cold War Brownies From 17 and Baking (05/05/09) [...]

    Reply
  • 41. sara  |  November 9, 2010 at 1:56 am

    I have never seen a recipe that I have wanted to try as bad as this one. Most original idea I have seen yet. The chili and Nutella are two ingredients I would never think to combine but am certainly willing to try it. They look lovely, as does your entire blog. One of your recipes is sure to become a favorite of mine, I just know it.

    Reply
  • 42. Valentine’s Day Ideas A-Brewin’  |  February 2, 2011 at 2:29 am

    [...] Kind of Fudgy Brownie Consisting of Espresso, Buttermilk, Cinnamon, Cayenne, Cardamom, Raspberries, Nutella & Cream Cheese Swirl, and/or [...]

    Reply
  • 43. kitchenchica  |  January 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Trying your recipe now! I have all the ingredients and hoping for a great success for the dinner party! Muchas gracias!

    Reply
  • 44. Nicole (@whatnicoleate)  |  March 16, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I always start my studying breaks by browsing through food blogs. (I’m on one right now!) When inspiration strikes, I can’t stop thinking about it. Your cream cheese rippled pumpkin bread is on my mind. Fortunately for my research paper, I’m at the library. But when I get home, I’m dashing to the kitchen…

    Reply
  • 45. thebakingyear  |  March 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I love david lebowitz and frequently use baking as a de-stressor during times of intense studying :)

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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