You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

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I dislike not knowing things. Whether that means what I’m doing this weekend or what I’m doing for dinner, I’m not a fan of the unknown. I come from a world where presentations are planned, ingredients measured, outcomes predicted, and plates executed. That’s what I know, and that’s the approach I take to my social life and professional career.

But of course, I can’t know everything, and I’d be an idiot to think that I could.

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Life isn’t about knowing; it is about experiencing. It is about taking what you do know and working that up-do. And it is about taking what you don’t know and either giving it the finger, figuring out how to know it, and/or going with the flow. All of these things I’m still learning, so thank you to friends who tolerate my ten thousand questions about what’s happening on the weekend when it’s only Tuesday.

You don’t know what you don’t know (holla at this movie for context). I don’t know if things will work out the way I want them to; I don’t know what I got myself into by signing up for a half marathon, and I don’t know if Thursday night mixers are for networking, speed-dating, or taking free tequila shots.

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But after 3-mile walks around the city, one too many whiskeys (tequila was all good), and a well-stocked pantry, there are some things I do know. And if you decide to indulge yourself in these lemon-cheesecake-brownies (which I fully advocate you do), know the following:

  • Keep all your ingredients at room temperature to ensure a smooth mixture. Use good quality chocolate (not that Safeway crap, please. Especially if you are a fellow SF resident, I expect something of the TCHO variety or GTFO).
  • Go with the flow! If you dislike lemon, make the cheesecake plain pumpkin chocolate cinnamon whatever you know and love.
  • Dessert makes people happier, no matter who they are. They also make me happier, no matter where I am. And lemon+cheesecake+brownies are a flavor party in your mouth.

I have too many lemons.

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Lemon Cheesecake Brownies

Brownie batter
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake batter 
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Zest and juice from 1 medium-sized lemon
1 Tbsp flour

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  • Heat butter and chocolate over a double-boiler (See the photo above – Take a large bowl with the ingredients and set it over a pot of simmering water). Whisk regularly until everything is melted. Remove from heat and whisk until slightly cool, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla, and flour and spread in pan.
  • Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until well-combined. Add egg yolk, vanilla and salt and beat until incorporated. Slowly mix in the lemon zest, juice, and flour until just combined.
  • CAREFULLY spread this over the brownie later. I used my spatula to drop dollops all over the pan and then smooth everything out with an offset spatula. Take your time with this – if you hurry, you risk mixing the cheesecake and brownie layer together, in which case you would have a marbled effect, which is fine as long as that’s what you are going for. I wanted two distinct layers.
  • Bake for 35 minutes until cheesecake is slightly puffed and set. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve them at room temperature or after refrigerating them for a few hours.
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