These brownies are the perfect texture with a fudgy bottom layer and creamy cheesecake swirl topping. They're like a classic red velvet cake in brownie form, with the cream cheese frosting and nuts baked right in. I know nuts in brownies are a touchy subject, but we're nutty brownie people in this house, leave them out if you please.
Since the flavor, not the color, is what I'm after in red velvet, I've made these brownies with no food coloring at all. For a fun Christmas treat I chose to use red and green colors, I'll probably make them red and pink for Valentine's day. My only suggestion is to use gel paste colors and not liquid, if you use liquid color for the batter you'll get red brownies, but I can't be certain liquid would work well in the cheesecake swirl.
I'm sure Santa would love a plate of these for his Christmas treat. You could double the recipe, or make a few batches in different colors for a potluck dessert table. I'm envisioning a brown and orange version for when we watch our beloved Cleveland Browns lose, or, Scarlet and Grey swirl brownies for when our Ohio State Buckeyes win.
Makes 16 brownies
Original recipe found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/red-velvet-swirl-brownies-recipe/index.html
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
One 8 x 8-inch pan, either buttered, or what I find easiest, lined with non-stick foil
Red Velvet Brownie Layer:
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon red food coloring (As I said, I prefer gel paste colors, especially if coloring the cream cheese, start with a mere 1/4 teaspoon and blend until you get the color you desire.)
1 teaspoon vinegar (I used apple cider, white vinegar would also work fine.)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (her cookbook recipe uses 1/2 cup, that's what I used)
Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon green (or color of your choice) gel food paste, adding more as needed
Step 2: Prepare Batter
For the brownie layer: In a small saucepan on medium heat melt the butter. Remove the butter to a large bowl and add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order, mixing between additions.
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and stir it into the cocoa mix. Fold in the flour until lightly combined. Stir in the walnuts and pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.
For the cream cheese layer: Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla, and food coloring in a medium bowl. (I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer.)
Step 3: Bake, Cool, and Enjoy
Bake the brownies for 30 minutes. (Mine took almost 40 minutes baking at 325 F convection, start checking with a toothpick at 25 minutes, and about every 5 minutes, until a few crumbs are on the toothpick, the cheesecake layer is set, and the sides of the brownies are pulling in from the edge of the pan.)
Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting into 2 x 2-inch brownies and serving.
Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container up to 2 days. (I prefer eating them at room temperature, some like them cold.)
Happy holidays, enjoy!