Before we moved back to Santa Cruz I told Jonji, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be a two-market-a-week woman. That first week back in town, when I went on Wednesday and then again on Sunday, I told myself, I just haven’t been meal planning consistently, I need to go twice in order to get enough for the rest of the week. The following week I thought, Phoebe loves strawberries—we have to go back and get more for her. The week after that, I had to admit that, in fact, I am a two-market-a-week woman.
It’s not my fault, really: we live in one of the agricultural meccas of the world, where fruit and vegetables thrive in our unique blend of ocean fog, temperate seasons, and warm hills. No wonder I need two chances every week to take advantage of the bounty! Still, I am not the most market-crazed person in my family; my mom is a three-market woman, going on Wednesday and to two markets on Saturday. When we were kids she would tow my sisters and I to the Wednesday market, where we tiredly trailed after her cart, delirious from the heat that always seems to bake just that parking lot Downtown, hoping she wouldn’t run into friends and get sucked into a long chat (we hoped in vain). Our consolation prize was a big cheesecake brownie each from one of the bakery booths, long gone now, which was so large and rich we could never quite finish it. The rest of the experience was seen through a haze of chocolate and cream cheese, our vision narrowed down to the decadent square that seemed to both energize us and make our feet even more leaden as we trodded after Mom’s groaning cart.
Despite our less-than rosy experiences at the farmers markets of our childhood, each one of us sisters grew up to appreciate (and, for two of us, occasionally be fanatical about attending) the markets near us. I somehow even inadvertently subjected my husband to the same soporific market experience I had as a kid, weekends seeing him trailing behind me in Palo Alto as I called back to him to keep up—if we didn’t get to one booth early we’d miss all the good lettuce, couldn’t he see that? Despite my urging of “here, take a twenty and buy something you want!” he was still mostly despondent about the whole thing. Needless to say, he’s mostly stopped coming with me. It’s clear that it’s only fun when you’re the one deciding which of the bounty you’ll be taking home with you (or if you have a toddler to chase around, but then you’re mostly just sweaty). If that’s you, have at it—buy all the summer fruits and vegetables and revel in your autonomy and solid decision-making skills! And if you do have someone trailing morosely behind you, buy them a treat to make it worth their time—there’s usually at least one bakery stall at each market. If not, bake up a batch of these cheesecake brownies and bring one along for them. Slip it into their hand when they look ready to keel over, and watch their market experience transform from one full of dread and boredom to, at the very least, one with a few delicious minutes only sandwiched by dread and boredom.
My cheesecake brownies are not quite as gut-destroying as the ones from my childhood memories, which means you can eat more of them (blessing or curse?). But they’re just as satisfying, not to mention quite beautiful to look at—who doesn’t like seeing chocolate swirled in dramatic contrast with cream cheese? They’re fudgy and rich, which is everything I wanted them to be. I prefer them completely cool, perhaps even cold, and recommend keeping them in the fridge after they’ve cooled.
makes one 8×8-inch tray | adapted from The Cloudy Kitchen
135g (5oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
120g (about 8 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into large chunks
10g cocoa powder, sifted
2 large eggs, at room temperature
135g (½ cup) granulated sugar*
65g (⅓ cup) brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp vanilla extract or paste
70g all-purpose flour, sifted
225g (1 block) cream cheese, at room temperature
80g granulated sugar*
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ tsp vanilla extract or paste
½ tsp kosher salt
*Use caster (superfine Baker’s) sugar instead of granulated sugar for a shinier finish, if you care.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray or butter an 8×8-inch baking dish (preferably metal, which cooks more evenly) and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
Heat two inches of water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Set a heatproof bowl on top (one that won’t touch the water below) and toss in 135g chopped chocolate and 120g unsalted butter. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolate are completely melted. Remove from the heat. Sift in 10g cocoa powder and stir to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl using an electric handheld whisk), whisk 2 large eggs with 135g sugar and 65g brown sugar until pale, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture, 3/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp vanilla, and whisk just until combined. Sift in 70g flour and fold in with a rubber spatula or spoon until you no longer see streaks of flour.
Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Set aside while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Place 225g cream cheese, 80g caster sugar, 1 large egg, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt in a large bowl. Using an electric hand whisk (or stand mixer), whisk everything together until smooth and no lumps remain (having room temperature cream cheese will ensure a lack of lumps).
Dollop the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter in even globs. Stir or fold the batters together slightly, so the top isn’t primarily white. Using a knife or skewer, swirl the two mixtures together until you have a marbled effect.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few crumbs attached. The top will be set, and the middle will be only slightly jiggly. Things will be pretty moist inside. Err on the side of underbaking.
Let cool completely, then slice into squares. Enjoy at room temperature or cold!