Chunky Cheesecake Brownies

This chunky cheesecake brownie recipe has gotten me through mountains and miles, thick and thin, extraterrestrial encounters and existential crisis. Okay, maybe not the mountains. Think I’m exaggerating? Well, think again. These brownies have served the usual functional:

  • Potluck desserts
  • Get-together snacks
  • Gifts
However, they have also served rather less usual functions (or still typical, depending on your habits), including:
  • Bribery
  • Excuses to meet people (and it works!)
  • A full two days’ worth of lesson plans for my Academic Writing class
That last one is my most recent excuse for whipping up a batch of this recipe, and probably the most fun one as well. (Bribery is also fun, but in a marginally different way. Part of it has to do with that thing some people call a Conscience.) Last week, my Academic Writing students were working on their thesis statements. You know: argument, evidence, significance, and all that jazz. For all you writers, teachers, and/or people who happen to have connections with the outside world, feel free to dance around the room giddy with glee as you read the following ingenious introduction to my “Key Ingredients: The Recipe for Making Strong Arguments” handout:

In order to make a successful and tasty recipe, you need the right tools in your kitchen. For example, you can’t bake brownies if you don’t have all of the ingredients and tools: chocolate, eggs, an oven, a mixing bowl, and so on. Of course, if you do have everything you need, then it’s a lot easier, and the most amazing part is what you can create with even the simplest ingredients!

 Writing is a lot like baking—even when you assemble all the ingredients at the beginning, the end product will be so much more than what you started with (and hopefully a lot tastier!). That being said, here are all the ingredients you will need to make a strong argument and essay:

Etc. etc. etc. Fun, right?

And the best part of it is, that when you finish plowing through it (hey, even the most entertaining of analogies will get old after a little while), you can spike energy levels right up by pulling out a big tub of these drool-worthy chocolate delights!

Talk about putting sink-side skills to use, eh? That’s one great boxed mix if I ever saw one!

I love lesson planning and will frequently try to incorporate different parts of my own and/or students’ interests into them. I agree with some pedagogy teachers who say that instructors need to find a nice balance between learning through fun activities and having fun activities for the sake of trying to keep your students’ attention long enough to throw some lessons at them. Baking is one of the ways I do that, and I find it extremely rewarding for both the students and myself–not to mention just a whole bucket of smiles and laughs!

The Incentive, pictured again up close:

Anyway, I originally snatched this recipe from Allrecipes, but tweaked it a bit to my liking, since I’ve made these several times before and know just how I like ’em. I like to throw in a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips into the brownie batter and omit them from the cream cheese filling (I find that putting chips in the cream cheese layer mars the nice white streak you would otherwise achieve, and plus the texture of cheesecake just isn’t quite as conducive to it as the brownie part is).
For the recipe, along with the rest of the brownie-based lesson plan, peek below! Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Chunky Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer jumbo-sized)
 Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan.
  2. Combine softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 egg in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth.
  3. Place butter and 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds; remove and stir, then return to microwave. Continue to heat chocolate in 20-second intervals until chocolate is completely melted and smooth when stirred. (Note: Don’t overheat your chocolate! Stop microwaving before the chocolate is completely melted, otherwise you will scorch it. Stirring the chocolate until it is smooth and the remaining chips melt should do the trick.)
  4. Transfer chocolate to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 2 eggs. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir into chocolate until evenly blended. Add the final 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and gently stir in.
  5. Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread the most of the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate layer, leaving about 1/4 to create a marble pattern on top. Top with remaining chocolate mixture. Drop cream cheese in spoon-sized blotches onto the brownie batter. Run a knife gently through the top layer and blotches to create a marble pattern.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or the edges pull away from sides of the pan and an inserted toothpick comes out pretty clean. Cool and cut into 12 to 16 squares. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.

“Key Ingredients: The Recipe for Making Strong Arguments”

(Feel free to use and credit this in your own classrooms! The only real stipulation: Please let me know how it goes!)

In order to make a successful and tasty recipe, you need the right tools in your kitchen. For example, you can’t bake brownies if you don’t have all of the ingredients and tools: chocolate, eggs, an oven, a mixing bowl, and so on. Of course, if you do have everything you need, then it’s a lot easier, and the most amazing part is what you can create with even the simplest ingredients!

Writing is a lot like baking—even when you assemble all the ingredients at the beginning, the end product will be so much more than what you started with (and hopefully a lot tastier!). That being said, here are all the ingredients you will need to make a strong argument and essay:

  1. Debatable Claim: Someone reading your argument should be able to disagree with it. Saying that “brownies are made of chocolate” is not an argument; it is a fact. Saying that “brownies are good” expresses an opinion, but is not quite an argument. “Brownies are good not because they actually taste good, but because chocolate contains a chemical compound called Whoknowswhat that affects our body’s happiness hormones” is an argument. It makes a claim that can be debated, and it is something that needs to be proven through concrete evidence.
  2. Flexibility: You should be able to make a strong argument about anything. The best bakers work with materials they have on hand, and you should be able to write from either side of a question as well. So if you feel really strongly that the only dessert that should be served in restaurants should be brownies, you should still be able to write an argument claiming that brownies should never be served in restaurants. Your argument should be based on what you see happening in the text, not necessarily on your personal beliefs.
  3. Counterarguments: That being said, always anticipate how somehow might argue against your argument, and be sure to address these issues. So if you argued restaurants should serve brownies because they make customers happy, and happy customers pay more money, somebody might point out that there is no proof that customers will even want to order brownies in the first place. Then it’s your job to prove that they will, if you can.In other words, show that you know what the other side will say, then prove them wrong with supporting evidence.
  4. Provide concrete evidence and analyze it. It’s not enough to have examples of your argument. It is your job (and not the reader’s) to make the connection between your evidence and your main point. Remember: the fact that a story says “Brownies are good” does not mean that the story necessarily supports this idea, so you cannot use this statement as evidence by itself. Instead you have to look at the surrounding details and tone—how does the story portray brownies? How do the characters interact with brownies? Are there any conflicting views about brownies in the story?

A Good Starter Recipe for an Argument Statement:

STEP 1—CLAIM:

What are you arguing?

In the story “Little Red Riding Hood,” the little girl is not eaten by the deceptive wolf only because a huntsman shows up to save her. Even though it seems to be just a moral fairy tale that warns children against being too curious, this story also supports male-dominated society by using the huntsman as a hero. This shows that even children’s stories such as this one are not always as innocent as they seem, and can reinforce stereotypes without being obvious about it. (This last sentence is the significance of your claim.)

STEP 2—EVIDENCE:

Where in the story do you see this happening?

While the story describes Little Red Riding Hood as “afraid” and “helpless” when the wolf is about to eat her, it describes the huntsman as “brave” and “manly” when he shows up to save her. This contrast marks the huntsman as a male hero who must save the helpless female.

STEP 3—ANALYSIS:

How does the evidence support your claim?

By portraying the huntsman as the traditional strong male figure, the story reinforces the idea of a male-dominated society in which females cannot help themselves, and must rely on men in order to survive. Therefore, even though this story seems to be just another innocent fairy tale, it actually sends a powerful message about the weakness of women that makes it far from innocent.

Now It’s Your Turn!

On a separate sheet of paper, rewrite each statement as an argument. Make a claim, give three reasons for your claim, and show why your claim is important (or what significant impact it will have if your reader believes your argument.) Use the brownie paragraphs questions to guide you in your writing.

Remember this formula:

[CLAIM] because [REASONS], and this is important because [SIGNIFICANCE].

1. “Students should (or should not) be allowed to eat in classrooms.”

2. “All schools should (or should not) have uniforms.”

3. “Girls and boys should (or should not) be allowed to play on the same school sports teams.”

Now It’s Your Turn!

Read the paragraph below on brownies. Fill in the following spaces with your own claim, evidence, and analysis.

PARAGRAPH #1:

Every year, Americans eat a total of over 1 million pounds of brownies. Children are the largest group of brownie consumers: kids ages 2-18 years old eat nearly 75% of the 1 million pounds. Many schools serve brownies as part of their lunch because children seem to like them so much. These schools say that happiness is the first step to good learning, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make their students happy. In fact, some teachers say that the happiness of students directly affects their test scores, which means that students perform better when they have done things that make them happy, like eat brownies or play on the playground for an extra ten minutes per day. Studies have also shown that the chocolate contained in brownies contains a chemical that makes people who eat them much happier for at least an hour afterwards. If schools continue to serve brownies, these teachers say, it will be beneficial to students’ learning in the long run.

What is the claim that this paragraph is making?

Use the following sentence as a starting point:

“Brownies are ____ because…and this is important because…”

What evidence does the paragraph use to support this? Please list the evidence that it uses below.

How does it analyze this evidence? (In other words, how does it use the evidence to support its claim?)

PARAGRAPH #2

Unfortunately, the obesity rate in America is at an all-time high today. Some health reporters say that Americans eat too many brownies, and that this is one of the main reasons that so many children are overweight. Being overweight raises the risk of serious heart disease and sicknesses, according to medical studies. Even if it makes kids happy, they should not be allowed to eat so many brownies because their health will be affected by the extra fat and grease contained in brownies. Eating brownies gives kids only temporary happiness; in the long run, the negative effects of eating brownies on their health will shorten their life spans by 5-7 years (compared to children who do not eat brownies). Schools need to stop serving brownies in their cafeterias and start serving healthy foods instead, or else the obesity problem will only continue to grow.

What is the claim that this paragraph is making?

Use the following sentence as a starting point:

“Brownies are ____ because…and this is important because…”

What evidence does the paragraph use to support this? Please list the evidence that it uses below.

How does it analyze this evidence? (In other words, how does it use the evidence to support its claim?)

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3 Replies to “Chunky Cheesecake Brownies”

  1. “Writing is a lot like baking—even when you assemble all the ingredients at the beginning, the end product will be so much more than what you started with (and hopefully a lot tastier!)”
    Although with baking when you eat your mistakes it usually tastes better!

    1. Agreed! And I’m going to have to keep that in mind as an excuse to bake and make more mistakes.

  2. […] after he heard how many people said they were borrowing the lesson plan for their own use from my chunky cheesecake brownies post, he probably lost his appetite anyway…which was all the better for me, since we had ordered […]

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