Hats off to Edvard Munch, the Norwegian expressionist painter whose famous painting, The Scream, inspired me to make these Halloween Scream Cheese Brownies, together with a second recipe of spider web brownies. Munch’s work depicts a lone figure in the foreground, standing on a bridge, hands held up against either side of his tormented face. But he is not alone. Ironically, he is made even more solitary by the presence of two barely discernible figures behind him. Munch then further mirrors this poor soul’s suffering in the painting’s background with bold, swirling brushstrokes. Harsh colors starkly contrasting against dark and somber ones effectively convey a mood of strong emotion and despair. It is haunting.
And so, with all due respect to Munch’s fine art, I find The Scream so fitting for Halloween. The mood, the mysterious quality to the subject’s cry for help and just the general aura remind me of late night Halloween movies.
It was a bit of a challenge though, painting with cream cheese using a toothpick against the soft brownie batter that was my canvas. I’m sure Munch had no idea his work would be recreated on, of all things, brownies.
I also baked a second batch of brownies with spider web designs as another option for Halloween—a really quick and easy design.
I really wasn’t sure if the design would hold once baked or if it would even look the same. But I thought I would try it anyway to see how it would come out. Here are photos of the batter before and after baking. The recipe yields delicious cream cheese brownies of the shiny surface type.
I used the exact same recipe in my earlier cream cheese brownies swirled with hearts. Like before, I again added the optional chopped walnuts for texture and flavor.
Making the spider webs couldn’t be easier.
1. Start out by pouring the cream cheese into a squeeze bottle. Squeeze the cream cheese onto the brownie batter to make a small circle first, and then surround that with a larger circle, then surround both circles with a third circle.
2. With a toothpick lightly drag a line starting from the center towards the outer circle.
3. Bake the brownies. It’s that simple and so much fun, kids would love helping out making spider webs.
As for the flavor, plainly said, the brownies are delicious. The chocolate and just a hint of cream cheese make for a great flavor combination. It is the right texture of fudginess without being too dense or heavy, and chewiness without being cakey. The shiny surface’s texture also provides a nice contrast to the interior. The optional finely chopped walnuts made it all the more scrumptious.
- 1 (8 oz) package reduced fat cream cheese (226 g)
- ½ cup sugar (115 g)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (227 g)
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (113 g)
- 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar (150 g)
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (184 g)
- ¾ teaspoon salt (4 g)
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract (10 g)
- Optional: 1 ¼ cups chopped nuts (150 g)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with foil with allowance for the foil to hang about 2” on the long sides of the pan. Spray surface with non-stick cooking spray.
Using a flat beater attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar.
Add egg and beat to combine. Add vanilla and beat until smooth and well blended. Set aside. (This cream cheese mixture is more than enough for one recipe, so just chill whatever is left over for another batch.)
Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler (a heat-proof mixing bowl over a small sauce pot with a small amount of simmering water). Or melt in the microwave in 30 second increments, repeating until completely melted. Stir mixture until smooth and melted.
If using a double boiler, turn off heat. With the chocolate mixture is still on the double boiler, add the sugar and beat until well blended. If melted by microwave, just add sugar while the chocolate is still warm and beat until well blended.
If using a double boiler, remove bowl from the double boiler. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended after each addition.
Beat in flour and salt. Mix to combine. Then add vanilla and beat until smooth. Optional: add chopped nuts at this point and beat to combine.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula.
To make spider webs, pour the cream cheese in a squeeze bottle. Start by squeezing out a small circle of cream cheese, then around that small circle, squeeze out a larger circle, and around the second circle, squeeze out the third largest circle. Repeat making sets of cream cheese rings for a total of about 12 – 15 sets. Drag a toothpick starting from the small center circle towards the outer larger circle. Repeat all around each circle set to make a spider web.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Place pan on cooling rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Lift the brownies out of the pan with the foil and allow to cool completely before slicing.
Halloween SCREAM Cheese and Spider Web Brownies