Sometimes it’s easier to skip the hard stuff. Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe you never read Marley and Me because you saw your friends (or in my case, students) feeling weepy towards the end. Maybe you switch off the sad songs, avoid the poignant movies. Maybe you make a joke in the difficult moments to defend yourself from the truth of your emotions, but also keep a secret stash of tissues in your purse for when it doesn’t work.

Some things you can’t skip, though. Some trials are ordained for you. God has known them — and you — since before the foundation of the world, and when He says you’re going through and not around, it’s the right path. Go.

One of the things I can’t skip is the fact that Mike is no longer a Charlottean. Wonderfully and sadly, he moved to Raleigh at the beginning of August to start his graduate program in math.

Mike and I have been together for 11 and a half years now. He saw me complete my first year of high school, get my license, graduate, enroll at Davidson College. He sat with me the morning before my Teach for America interview, picked up the pieces with me as I quit my first real job and moved on to my second real job, and shared my joy when I found Woodlawn, where I teach now. He saw the demise of my first website, the beginning of my blogs, the constant ebb and flow of my poetry. He’s been there.

During my difficult high school years, I’d sometimes drive straight to his apartment after school and play housewife, making Hamburger Helper and eating it on the couch with him while watching Star Trek. On a trip to Charleston in 2003, he bought me flowers that I still have dried in my closet. I saw him eat his first funnel cake in Gatlinburg. During our relationship, I’ve been the girlfriend of a cable guy, a dental technician, a programmer, a mathematician, a college student, a college grad, and now a graduate student. I can’t explain how his transition has inspired me.

What with all that “being there” we’ve done for over a decade, it was particularly difficult to see him pack up his things and move at the beginning of August. While I haven’t been able to ignore the fact that he now lives three hours away and can’t pop over as needed, I have been able to skip talking about it much, so instead I’ve been talking about popsicle molds and Piers Morgan. I know you understand.

The week before he moved, Mike came over and we made going-away brownies. He loves brownies, but I’d never made him any — something I felt I had to remedy before he moved. We mixed and baked together, another thing I’d always meant to do with him, and the final product was sweeter for it.

These brownies were a great choice — they’re indulgent and fudgy, with the gorgeous tang of cream cheese that I love. The marbling on top looks fancy, but is extremely easy to accomplish. In half the pan, we embedded funsize Snickers in the batter, which added a superb nutty, caramelly crunch to the brownie base. Naturally, knowing he was moving in a week made each bite a bittersweet experience, but the brownies themselves were the perfect treat for us to enjoy together.

Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

Recipe by: adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 9 large or 16 smaller brownies

Brownie Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces (115 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
funsize Snickers (optional)

Cream Cheese Layer Ingredients:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan: Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Create a foil sling for the pan by cutting two 16-inch lengths of foil and fold them to widths of 5 inches each. Fit foil pieces into baking dish, one overlapping the other, pushing them into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. This creates a sling that will help you remove the brownies after baking and cooling. Spray foil lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Place a heat-proof stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Place the butter and chocolate in the bowl to melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well with a wooden spoon after adding each. Add the flour and salt and continue stirring with the wooden spoon until the batter is glossy, smooth, and pulls away from the side of the bowl (about one minute). Reserve 1/2 cup of brownie batter for topping. Pour the rest of the batter carefully into prepared pan (here, you can stud the batter with rows of funsize Snickers if desired.

In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and egg and blend just until smooth. Spread this mixture carefully over the brownie layer, and then place dollops of the 1/2 cup reserved brownie batter at even intervals over the top. Use a table knife or wooden skewer to carefully marble the dollops through the cream cheese, careful not to mix the batters.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and are just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack until almost cool. Then, chill the brownies in the refrigerator for about two hours, until they’re firm enough to cut into squares. Once chilled, remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the ends of the foil sling carefully. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 9 or 16 squares as desired, cleaning the knife with a warm, damp cloth between cuts. You can store leftovers in airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

P.S. – Some people are experiencing even greater trials right now. Erika of Ivory Hut just lost her house and all her possessions in a horrific house fire. Would you consider donating to help her through this difficult time?

P.S. 2 – In the midst of a trial, there is great blessing. We received news recently that my dad is still cancer-free!

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29 Comments on Bittersweet Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

  1. Kat
    September 8, 2010 at 1:27 am (14 years ago)

    Sorry you’re going through a tough spot…
    It’s times like this where a fast-forward-to-the-other-side-of-this button would be a real help.
    Wallow for a bit without feeling guilty and then come out with your head up.
    And eat lots of brownies. LOTS of brownies!

    • Julie
      September 8, 2010 at 1:47 am (14 years ago)

      Thanks, Kat! I especially like the brownies part . . . 😉

      And I have to agree about the FFWD button! I want a rewind, too. And a pause. Can I get TiVo?

  2. Anna Johnston
    September 8, 2010 at 2:49 am (14 years ago)

    Awwhhh, that’s a cute story & nice you guys have been able to cook together. Sweet.

  3. Wei-Wei
    September 8, 2010 at 4:01 am (14 years ago)

    That is a sweet story. I don’t know what I would do without my loved one(s) to talk to everyday. And bake for. Though I don’t usually bake for my loved one(s) because t(he)y usually don’t eat sweet stuff.

    I hope you caught on all the hints in there. Heh.

  4. Jenni
    September 8, 2010 at 7:26 am (14 years ago)

    Beautiful Brownies.

    It is so tough to be far away from your loved one. But 3 hours isn’t too far away. It could be far worse! 🙂 And just think of all the goodies you will get to mail him in care packages!

  5. Kaitlin
    September 8, 2010 at 8:16 am (14 years ago)

    Awww. It’s sweet to hear about the two of you baking together, but still so very sad.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, though. I feel like that’s an odd thing to say, but I mean it!

  6. Andrea @ Thin Thighs & Sweet Potato Fries
    September 8, 2010 at 8:33 am (14 years ago)

    Ok, I’ve decided that when we bake together, we are making these!

    I’m so sorry to hear about Mike, friend. It sounds like you guys have a great relationship, so I’m sure even though he’s away you will still be just as close as ever. And luckily, he’s only a couple of hours away. I am glad to hear about your dad, though! That is great! 🙂

  7. Towanda
    September 8, 2010 at 10:59 am (14 years ago)

    These brownies look FABULOUS! I am really going to make these!!! They probably won’t look like yours, but I’m okay with that, 🙂

    p.s. So many times we keep moving and making things look perfect on the outside, when inside we have new, difficult adjustments to make. Thanks for sharing the fab brownies and the personal struggle, too. It helps us feel normal.

  8. newlywed
    September 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm (14 years ago)

    Sorry to hear about the change to a long-distance situation. Hopefully you will be able to mail some brownies on over! These look great.

  9. Megan
    September 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm (14 years ago)

    Aw. I’m sending you a hug. I know what that’s like. Your post made me teary-eyed. You guys will get through it. And you’ll be “there” to support each other still.

    And brownies for the sendoff were a spectacular idea. I love the little Snickers embedded in them.

  10. Sandie {A Bloggable Life}
    September 8, 2010 at 4:35 pm (14 years ago)

    This is a very sweet post. My husband and I had a long distance relationship through our entire courtship (4 hours each way). When we finally got married & lived together, it was like heaven on Earth and I was so happy not to have all those miles in between us anymore. But you know something? Those miles didn’t hinder a thing between us, so who is to say they weren’t a Godsend in their own way?

    Also, I’m so glad your dad is cancer-free. Now THAT is something to celebrate!

  11. Joanne
    September 8, 2010 at 4:46 pm (14 years ago)

    YAY on the dad front! That makes me incredibly happy for you.

    I’m sorry that the BF had to move. But at least it’s 3 hours away and not 3,000 miles! I try to avoid the heavy stuff, too, especially on my blog. But sometimes it’s so pervasive, so much a part of who you are, that it’s hard to avoid. I’m glad you shared with us! Both your story and these brownies. <3

  12. Maranda
    September 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm (14 years ago)

    Yay for your dad! Sad for you and Mike. Devastating for Erika. 🙁

    This post was pretty sad but I think if I made these brownies I would probably perk right up.

    Sorry you are having to deal with this hardship right now. I hope the time goes by quickly for you! ((hugs))

  13. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    September 9, 2010 at 2:54 am (14 years ago)

    Awww Julie, a big hug from me all the way across the ocean. I hope you’re holding up ok? 🙁

  14. Monica H
    September 9, 2010 at 3:38 am (14 years ago)

    Aw sweetie, you’ve done good at finding many distractions over the past month. I’m glad you finally decided to share your story with us though. I don’t know how long Mike and you will live apart, but I hope the time passes quickly and when you reunite, there will be SWEET brownies.

    Hugs my friend,

  15. Julie M.
    September 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm (14 years ago)

    It’s so hard to be separated from a good friend like that. When we left Texas I left one of my best friends behind. We still chat on the phone a few times a month, but dang if I don’t miss her (pass one of those brownies this way, will ya?)

    Thankfully, he’s only a couple hours away so you can still catch up and see each other when the mood (or the need for a good friend) strikes.

  16. natalie (the sweets life)
    September 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm (14 years ago)

    aw such a sweet post, even if its about the hard stuff! love the look of those brownies!!!

  17. Cathy
    September 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm (14 years ago)

    Great looking brownies!!

    Mike’s going to miss all your goodies, and you’ll miss each other while he’s away 🙁

    GREAT news for/about your Dad!!! Praise the Lord!!

  18. Natalie
    September 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm (14 years ago)

    So sorry to hear that you’re going through some tough times. I hope things work out for the best.

    These brownies look amazing! I am looking for something to send to my sister for her birthday and was thinking of brownies since they seem to taste better after a day or two anyway… do you think these would ship well if I left off the cream cheese layer? Any other recommendations for tasty treats that would survive being mailed from Washington to Texas?

  19. butter
    September 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm (14 years ago)

    The pictures of the brownies got my attention and your writing sucked me in. I am new to your blog and am enjoying it so much. I am really sorry to hear about your Mike moving. That’s a really tough thing to go through when you love someone so deeply.
    – Butter

    • Julie
      September 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm (14 years ago)

      Thank you, Butter — I appreciate it!

  20. butter
    September 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm (14 years ago)

    The picture got my attention and your writing sucked me in. I am new to your blog and am enjoying everything. I am sorry to hear about your Mike moving. It’s a tough thing when you love someone so deeply. I can feel the sentiments through your writing.
    – Butter

  21. butter
    September 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm (14 years ago)

    I also wanted to say that I am happy to hear about your Dad. My father is a cancer survivor now going on 6 years. He was originally given 3 months to lie. It is such an amazing feeling when those test results come back and there is good new attached. I am happy for you 🙂

    • Julie
      September 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm (14 years ago)

      Aw, I’m so happy to hear that!! It’s always nice to meet someone who knows just exactly how you feel. 🙂

  22. Anita Menon
    March 10, 2011 at 3:14 am (13 years ago)

    With Such a fantastic story tagged to these brownies, I am glad I chose them for the challenge.

  23. Grace D
    February 11, 2012 at 4:36 am (12 years ago)

    Hi! I just made these brownies for my mom in heart-shaped molds for Valentine’s Day!! She loves chocolate, cheesecake, AND snickers! Can’t wait to try them 🙂

  24. Ana
    January 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm (10 years ago)

    While these were quite quick to make and pretty, and generally well-liked by my friends, I did not fall absolutely in love with them. I always find myself wishing that desserts with some sort of cheesecake marbling had more cheesecake, and while these were better than most, next time I think I’ll try out a different brownie to cheesecake ratio!


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