This summer break has been very enjoyable so far. I spent most of May at home having fun with family and friends before packing again to come back on campus for research opportunities and workshops. While I was packing, my parents were already shocked at how many things I was bringing with me (I just can’t pack light even if I try …) that I made up my mind to leave my baking supplies at home. I thought I could just brainstorm recipes while I was away just like I did when I was out of the country for Spring Break.
Surprisingly though, I was lucky enough to run into my friend Bailey, whom I had the pleasure to meet during my freshman year. Coincidentally we live just a few doors away from each other in the same building! While we were talking and catching up, the subject of baking soon came up in the conversation. She mentioned that she brought some pans and kitchen supplies with her and that she even has essential baking ingredients such as flour and sugar. Since we both love to bake, we ended up setting a date and time to meet up ASAP and prepare a homemade dessert together!
From some of my recent posts, it is evident that I love baking with lemons and other fresh fruit flavors during warm seasons. I definitely wanted to incorporate lemons into another recipe. However, I was also having a huge chocolate craving and wanted to create another brownie recipe (click here to see my previous brownie recipes). So, I decided to go with lemon cheesecake brownies and was pleased that Bailey was enthusiastic about the idea as well! I went to Food Lion to do my usual grocery shopping as well as to obtain some good quality bittersweet chocolate, fresh lemons and raspberries, and a package of cream cheese (crucial for cheesecakes)!
While we were gathering up all the necessary supplies and ingredients, Bailey also found a bag of natural unsweetened shredded coconut that we could use! I know there are a lot of people who do not like coconut so feel free to leave them out if you want, but in my opinion, they definitely improve every aspect of this dessert: allure, color, flavor, and texture. They look like beautiful snowy white sprinkles that serve as a gorgeous garnish on top of the cheesecake brownies and their sweet and nutty flavor ties together the light citrus component and the rich chocolate component of the dessert. What I loved best about using shredded coconut though was hands down the complexity it offered to the texture. Every bite had a nice variety of textures that complemented each other: the chewy and fudgy brownies, the crunchy coconut flakes in the brownie base and on top of the lemon cheesecake, and the creamy and velvety lemon cheesecake topping. In my opinion, the coconut was the perfect mediator to ensure that lemon and chocolate would go well in a single dessert!
I could not take pictures of every step of the baking process because we had very limited space in the dorm building kitchen but the instructions are quite easy to follow and I’m sure anyone can bake these successfully!
~ Lemon-Coconut Cheesecake Brownies ~
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
10 oz bittersweet chocolate (chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate bar)
¾ of granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups flour
¾ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
Lemon Cheesecake filling:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of half a lemon
Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, butter a square pan, and line it with parchment paper.
2. Melt the cubes of butter and the bittersweet chocolate in a large mixing bowl either in the microwave or over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl is big enough to stand over the pan and the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water).
3. Stir in the granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Wait for the mixture to cool down before adding in the eggs (otherwise the eggs will cook right away and you don’t want that)
4. Fold in the flour and the coconut and transfer the batter into the prepared pan.
5. Bake the coconut brownies for 20 minutes and let them cool for 10 minutes.
6. In another large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it looks smooth, soft, and creamy.
7. Mix in the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
8. Incorporate the lemon juice and the egg and pour the batter into the square pan on top of the cooled brownies.
9. Bake the cheesecake brownies for an additional 20 minutes and let them cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
10. Refrigerate the cheesecake brownies for 1-2 hours until they set and can be cut into squares.
11. Serve with shredded coconut and raspberries on top.
This delicious recipe proves yet again that citrus and chocolate really do taste good together (click to see my orange and chocolate cake recipe for more evidence). While orange and chocolate are more commonly used as a combo than lemon and chocolate, I recommend trying lemon for once (at least just once!) and merging the two distinct flavors with the addition of coconut.