October 1st, 2010

Swirling Brownies Forever


Of all the recipes I have posted, of all the recipes I have ever cooked, these brownies—marvels of rich marbled chocolate—are what I have made the most. Thousands of batches!!

Because of so many Auspicious Numbers—this marking the 100th Good Food Matters BlogPost, and 30 Years of Brownie Baking, all on the heels of 10-10-10 my daughter’s wedding—I wanted to share with you the recipe and the story.

It all started in an old warehouse in downtown Nashville.


It was called Goodies: the brainchild of Barbara Kurland, who rented the three story brick Victorian warehouse in 1976 as an emporium for little eateries and retail shops, along with art galleries, and studios for artists and craftsmen.

Rent was Cheap.

More than true urban pioneering–our riverfront district was not to be “developed” for another decade or so—Goodies was a place for underdogs and their dreams. For $30 or $50 or $100 a month rent, you could try your hand at whatever business you’d fancy.


Over its seven-year life, Goodies served as stage for more than 125 assorted ventures. Some were long standing–a stained glass shop, a photography studio, a museum card store, a saucy hot dog stand. Others, such as the painted pebble sculptor, the iris reader, the holograph artist, made their appearances and vanished, odd blips on the downtown screen.

When my daughter turned one year old, I was offered to take over a little food kiosk inside Goodies. Barbara’s daughter Amy had been running it, selling little quiches, chess tarts, and walnut brownies. She had decided to go the Culinary Institute. My sister and I decided to go for it.

Simply called “The Bakery,” the Kurlands had outfitted that warehouse kitchen sparely but to health codes specs. When my sister and I took over, we inherited two used refrigerators with defunct defrosters, a hand sink, a triple sink, a single hot plate and a relic of the sixties: an avocado green residential electric double oven that distinguished itself with its minimalist heating properties. The upper oven only operated at 400 degrees and the lower either on warm or broil.


No matter. You’d be surprised at what good things you can make with limited and/or funky equipment. We expanded the menu with sandwiches, salads, cakes-of-the-day, and tweaked the brownie recipe to make these swirly cream cheese delights.

Back then, I used a 4 qt. glass bowl–”Duralex” made in France, tempered to withstand high temperatures–for melting the chocolate in that minimalist oven. Countless searing rounds had fused bits of chocolate and sugar to the inner diameter of the bowl, distinguishing it with the look of a spinning comet’s tail.

Today, a microwave will do the same work, without the same cosmic results.


That funky kitchen and kiosk formed the foundation for a successful run in the catering business. And, the cream cheese brownies became one of the favorite treats–turning up in thousands of box lunches and on thousands of dessert trays. There are few ingredients and the basic recipe can be embellished with any variety of nuts. It can be mixed by hand for one batch, or multiplied by 8 (as we did years later when the business had grown and we had a 20 qt. Hobart mixer. )

The creativity comes in the swirling.

Globs of almondy cream cheese are spooned into warm batter, and with a chopstick or stem of beater, you can marbelize that creamy goodness throughout the chocolate. Tonya, who baked untold batches for us in the catering kitchen, always said she felt like she was writing a poem when she swirled. Or drawing a picture.


This morning, I was writing a couple of cream cheese brownie poems.

I have been busy making and freezing swirly slabs in preparation for the wedding reception. They will be cut up into nice bites, served with some petite chocolate cupcakes, alongside a grand tiered Wedding Cake. The wedding day is fast approaching–Sunday October 10th—10/10/10 !!


And so, dear friends, this 100th post will have to hold us for a few days–I invite you to make these brownies and swirl away. Craft your poem, paint your chocolate portrait. Have a warm brownie and cup of coffee. We shall visit again soon. I’ll post again, after the Big 10-10-10 doings! x Nancy



The Brownie
4 oz. (squares) Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) Butter
2 c. Sugar
4 Eggs (at room temperature)
1 c. All Purpose Flour
2 t. Vanilla
pinch Salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, convection oven (350 degrees conventional). Coat 9×13 baking pan with butter or pan spray.

In a heatproof (pyrex) bowl, melt chocolate, butter, and sugar together. Stir until you are certain that sugar is dissolved and no lumps of chocolate remain. Beat in eggs, One At A Time. Add vanilla and salt. Beat in flour. Do not overbeat. Pour batter into coated baking pan and add The Swirl.

Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes.
Makes 1 dozen big brownies.

Swirling Material
1/2 lb. Cream Cheese
1/4 c. Sugar
2 t. Almond Extract
1 t. Vanilla

Beat cream cheese well with sugar and extracts. Taste for sweetness, and intensity of almond, and adjust.

Using a tablespoon, gently but generously dollop several blobs of cream cheese mixture in spaced spots allover the top of the brownie batter. Take a “swirling tool” (like a chopstick, or the end of an electric beater) and begin rhythmically swirling and drawing the material through the batter, making your marbleized pattern.

Beware of overswirling—your design will disappear and you could lose the separation of the chocolate and the almond cream cheese.

After Baking: Maldon Finishing Salt
This is optional, but I found that a mere scatter of this chippy salt over the top (added after the brownies come out of the oven) brought another compelling flavor dimension to brownie.


The One Hundredth Post!!

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes

28 Responses to “Swirling Brownies Forever”
  1. Tracy Says:

    I’m due to make a batch of brownies. It’s been months, I think. I’ll have to try yours. They look amazing. Best wishes for a beautiful day, 10-10-10.

  2. Kath Says:

    Oh my goodness so many reasons to congratulate you. Congratulations on the 100th post, on the lovely brownies (they look very delicious) and on soon becoming the mother of the bride. A fantastic day to get married and your son-in-law should(hopefully) never forget the anniversary! Best of luck for the big day.

  3. Barbara Says:

    Lots of 10’s for you…10/10/10 party and your 100th post! Congratulations! And I KNOW the party will be spectacular.
    These brownies certainly are! The little bit of almond in the swirl sounds delicious. Swirls are such fun to make!

  4. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Oh, I need one or two or three of these brownies now. I really like the bit of almond in the recipe. Happy 100!

  5. Nirmala Says:

    Beautiful. I can’t wait to try this. I have at least 3 brownie recipes in the queue.

  6. Faith Says:

    What an exciting post! Congrats on your 100th, that is quite an accomplishment! Also a HUGE congrats on soon becoming mother of the bride! I’m sure the wedding and reception will be gorgeous.

    By the way, the brownies look phenomenal!

  7. mangocheeks Says:

    When I see brownies like these with loving swirls, I just know it is going to be magical where ever they are being eaten. And just jealous that I am not there.

    Congratulations on your 100th post and soon to become a Mother in Law. Kind wishes.

  8. foodonfifth.com, Teresa Blackburn Says:

    These brownies have always been my favorite brownies ever. Congratulation on #100 blog post…Hopefully I will be celebrating mine one day. I know this will be a much loved blog entry from you as all of us who have eaten literally hundreds of these morsels over the years can now make our own….but I think I prefer that you make them!

  9. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    First, congrats to your daughter! What a big change this will be!
    Second, congrats to your 100th post, this is such a great recipe to celebrate this occasion. I can tell by the enthusiasm with which you wrote this post that this is a great recipe!

  10. Michele Napoli Says:

    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe to celebrate two wonderful occasions. Congratulations on your 100th post; I’m looking forward to many more. All the best for your daughter’s wedding.

  11. Maggie Says:

    Congratulations, Nance, on the 100th posting!!! I personally know that these brownies are the best! And congratulations to Madeleine on her wedding – I know it will be a wonderful celebration!!! Sending love and blessings…

  12. Cathy Says:

    Lovely! And at last I know the significance of the comet’s tail of chocolate. Warmest wishes to all!

  13. my little expat kitchen Says:

    Congratulations on your 100th post. 100 posts, that’s so many!! I wish you many many more. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes you share with us.
    Your brownies look amazing, I love those swirls!

  14. Emily P Says:

    “This morning I was writing a couple of cream cheese brownie poems” – If THAT doesn’t get us into the kitchen to make these treats, what would! I’m stopping my Sat am routine to do this, right this minute. Thanks, Nancy. And triple ditto the congrats re the blog, Madeleine’s wedding and your great warehouse story.

  15. gg loyd Says:

    An inspiring post and a killer recipe. I swear you and I are, like your brownies, “cosmically” connected: I crave something, or start procuring things for a dish coming together in my mind and poof, you post it. I have been craving brownies all week:) Here’s more: my daughter’s 3rd bday is 10-10-10 and I’m making your chocolate zucotta cake (with raspberry filling) for her party!!!! I’m sure the wedding will be a sublime event to create a beautiful memory. And I would love to get together again when the dust has settled. Much love and cheers!

  16. goodfoodmatters Says:

    gg–I love all these connections. We absolutely must get together, post wedding. And Happy 10-10-10 to your dear one!

  17. FOODESSA Says:

    Today, I was fortunate enough to have taken some time to walk by our colourful Quebec trees all the while promenading by the swirling river waterfalls. Your beautifully created brownie swirls reminded me of the serenity that the water brought to me.

    I just love the background history on your treat…and how great for you to share it on two other memorable announcements.
    Congrats on continual great posts as well as having your daughter enter into the great bliss I call marriage ;o)

    Nancy, have a wonderful time at the wedding party!

    Ciao for now,

  18. Cristie Says:

    Nancy, Can I tell you how long I’ve looked for a good, I mean really good cream cheese brownie? Like forever. I can’t wait to try this recipe out. It looks delicious and your story was great!

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Cristie-look no further; this is it!

    Thank you to Everyone! Just 5 days, now, to the Big Event—I so appreciate all of your warm wishes.

  20. Karen Says:

    Wow!! These look amazing! My husband commented the other day that I haven’t made brownies in a while…what a perfect excuse to make these. Can’t imagine anything better for a wedding than an entire cake made out of these little friends. :-)

  21. Tammy Says:

    Loved this celebratory post Nancy. Your brownies look amazing but I especially liked that they came with a story. Enjoy the wedding and then relax.

  22. Allison Wright Says:

    Oh what beautiful brownies, and a lovely story to match! Congrats on the wedding, I think the weather will be PERFECT for her big day :-)

  23. Nicolette Says:

    These look so pretty with the dark and light swirls. I can see why you have made them so many times!

  24. Patrick O'Rourke Says:

    I have eaten many of these beautiful little buggers, my first ones at Goodies Warehouse. As I looked at the photos every insulin resisting cell in my body was screaming for me to eat another and another and….

  25. Ingrid Says:

    Oh my goodness…this is a keeper!!

  26. Barefeet In The Kitchen Says:

    These are beyond beautiful. I’m sure they are delicious.

  27. heather Says:

    This is our favorite brownie! It’s been getting rave reviews at dinner parties and requests from friends. Thank you Nancy!

  28. Good Food Matters » Blog Archive » Cream Cheese Crescents, and an early Christmas present Says:

    [...] old warehouse, “Goodies” where we sold sandwiches and baked goods, including the famous Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies. We were always on the lookout for something delicious and different. This recipe caught our [...]

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