I love a boxed brownie mix. I think it is very hard to make a brownie that tastes better than one made with the boxed dark chocolate mix, especially when you consider the price point and amount of effort required. But that does not mean I don’t like to tweak and futz with the mix — part of the fun of using mixes is that they give you the freedom to riff. So when I saw these cheddar brownies from Food52, I knew I had to make them — or at least some version of them — mine.
"These are my ideal brownies now, and not just for the novelty factor." https://t.co/AGwdV7CXjj
— Food52 (@Food52) May 10, 2021
Being me, I did not make the cheddar brownies from scratch, but instead mixed aged whited cheddar into the boxed brownie batter (swapping out the vegetable oil for olive oil and the water for coffee, as is my custom).
It turns out that chocolate and cheese isn’t just the name of a very good Ween album, it’s a fantastic flavour combination — provided you choose your cheese carefully. As author and podcast host Katie Quinn explains, you want to use “a mature cheddar for its crystallised structure, which not only breaks into bits more easily, but will take on caramel notes as it bakes.” So skip the Kraft, and get something old and crumbly. Aged cheddar worked well for me, but I bet an aged gouda or that Norwegian brown cheese would also be pretty splendid.
I used a little less cheese than Katie suggests — about 141 g in the batter and 15g on top — but only because a box of mix has a smaller yield than her homemade recipe. I added that last 15g halfway through the bake, so the brownies had just long enough to get a little browned and crispy on the edges.
These brownies are novel and interesting, but don’t let that scare you. The bits of salty, tangy cheddar inside the batter get soft and slightly chewy and — as promised — a little caramelised, almost like a salty, cheesy fudge; the cheese on top gets a little crisp, offering a nice textural counterpoint. If you’re a fan of cream cheese brownies, this is the next logical step in your brownie evolution. They’re less creamy, more flavorful and refined, and just as indulgent. Try a little cheddar in your next batch. If you’re a fan of chocolate, cheese, and the marriage of the salty and the sweet, it might become your new favourite addition.