Trick or Treat? Treats, please! Halloween is just around the corner. While I’ve seen lots of Halloween festivities in the past few weeks, this coming weekend is when the majority of Halloween parties take place. If you’re hosting, or attending, and wondering what to make, I’ve got you covered. I recently gave cream cheese swirl brownies a Halloween boost and the results were so delicious, it’s scary!
Brownies are typically, well… brown, but since the traditional Halloween colors are black and orange, I was on a mission to figure out how best to achieve super dark, closer to black, than brown, brownies. I knew I wanted to avoid food coloring, because no one wants a black mouth after indulging in a brownie, so I went down the rabbit hole of cocoa powders, and I learned a lot along the way!
Did you know that there is black cocoa powder? If you have any on hand, you can, and should, absolutely use it in my recipe – but I didn’t have any, and it’s rather expensive ($15 for less than a pound!), so I decided to use Hershey’s Super Dark Cocoa. The important thing is that you are using a dutched cocoa (not natural) when making these brownies.
What is cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder is a powder made from the leftover solids in the process of extracting cocoa butter from cacao beans. What’s the difference between dutched and natural cocoa powder? Dutched cocoa powder is made by starting with beans that have been washed in an alkaline solution of potassium carbonate – this neutralizes acidity. As a result, dutch process cocoa does not react with baking soda, so in recipes with dutch process cocoa (like mine), you’ll want to use baking powder (not soda). The alkaline process makes the cocoa darker in color, but it also has a more mellow flavor, and is easier to dissolve in recipes. I’m willing to bet you’ve had dutch process cocoa without even knowing it. Have you had an Oreo? Bingo! Those are made with dutch process cocoa.
Natural cocoa powder, in comparison, is more acidic and bitter and has a stronger flavor than dutch process cocoa. Because natural cocoa powder is acidic it is used with baking soda in recipes. It’s important that you don’t substitute natural and dutch cocoa for each other because they react differently. If a recipe doesn’t specify, bets are that it is natural cocoa being used.
Now that you know more than you bargained for about cocoa, grab your dutched cocoa and let’s get to baking some scary good brownies for Halloween! I like thick brownies, but you can use a larger pan (like a 9x11) or halve the brownie portion, if you like a thinner brownie.
Scary Good Brownies
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes
For the brownie batter:
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup Hershey Extra Dark (dutched) Cocoa Powder
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the cheesecake batter:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs vanilla bean paste
Orange food coloring
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease a 9x9 pan.
3. In a large bowl, combine melted butter and cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth.
4. Add sugar, whisk until smooth.
5. Add in eggs and vanilla bean paste. Whisk until smooth.
6. Add salt, flour, and baking powder. Whisk until smooth.
7. Pour 3/4 of brownie batter into your prepared pan. Reserve 1/4 to the side.
8. In a small bowl, whisk together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg.
9. Once the cream cheese mixture is smooth, add enough food coloring of your choice to get the desired color orange.
10, Pour the orange cheesecake batter over the brownie batter.
11, Dollop the remaining 1/4 of your brownie batter over the cheesecake batter.
12, Run a knife or skewer through the batters to create a swirl.
13. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the cheesecake just jiggles slightly.
14, Allow the brownies to cool for an hour, cut into squares, and serve!
My daughter Scarlett and I are ready for Halloween, are you?
If these brownies have you in the baking mood, we’ve got some great classes coming up! How to Bake Bread is coming up on Wednesday, November 22 at 11am just in time for Thanksgiving, and tomorrow, our December calendar will post and it’s going to be full of festive baking classes. We don’t sell cocoa powder in our retail store, but we do carry some excellent items to up your baking game, so be sure to stop by and visit us soon. Happy Halloween!