When I was in 6th grade, my grandparents brought my dad and me along on one of their trips to Manhattan. Since my grandma grew up in the Bronx, they flew back east at least once or twice each year to catch up with old friends, soak up the culture, and visit their favorite museums and restaurants.
They reserved a suite for the four of us at an upscale hotel, located just a few blocks away from Central Park, and the bedroom windows overlooked the bright blue awnings of a market where we purchased fresh fruit and jumbo-sized muffins for breakfast each morning. (Although we never went, there was even a theater attached to the hotel!)
Because Grandma loves to research and plan, she printed out a detailed itinerary for me outlining our week-long vacation, along with a binder packed full of informational printouts and brochures for all of the activities on our list. Two Broadway shows, a ballet performance, the Natural History Museum, a ferry ride to Staten Island, the Empire State Building, lunch at Tavern on the Green, a trip to Bloomingdale’s, an afternoon Yankee game (she’s the one who helped ignite my love of baseball and taught me how to meticulously record ballgames in a scorecard!)… And more.
Since my grandparents also passed along their love of food to my dad and me, we dined at plenty of delicious places, too. For lunch on one of our first few days, we stopped by one of their favorite delis, and although I stuck with simple ham and cheese, Grandpa insisted that I sampled his humongous classic pastrami sandwich with meat stacked so high that I could barely open my mouth wide enough to take a bite!
And after one of the musicals, we visited a dimly lit restaurant nearby, one of their preferred spots to sit and sip coffee after a show. At only 11 years old and with no need for caffeine, I planned on sitting politely with the grown-ups while we relived our favorite moments from the performance, but Grandpa sneakily ordered dessert so I’d have something in front of me other than ice water.
The waiter brought over a generous slice of New York cheesecake, along with a fork for each of us. As my first time trying cheesecake, Grandpa insisted that I took the first bite, so I slide my fork into the creamy dessert and brought it to my mouth.
Since nobody had explained what a New York cheesecake actually was—a rich dessert made from cream cheese, sour cream, and heavy cream—the tangy taste completely surprised me! I took a few more small bites along with everyone else before setting down my fork to give them the rest. At that age, I definitely preferred my desserts on the sweeter side!
Since I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents lately, I decided to bake a dessert I knew they’d love and that reminded me of that incredible trip to NYC… Which resulted in these Healthy Fudgy Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Swirled Brownies! Since that vacation, I figured out that I really enjoy cheesecake when it’s mixed with another flavor—fruity, pumpkiny, or chocolaty—and because brownies are my all-time favorite dessert, it just seemed natural to pair them together. Almost too natural… The entire pan barely lasted a few hours!
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY CHEESECAKE SWIRLED BROWNIES
The brownie layer begins with two main ingredients: white whole wheat flour and cocoa powder. White whole wheat flour is made by finely grinding a special type of white wheat, whereas regular whole wheat flour comes from heartier red wheat. This gives white whole wheat flour a lighter taste and texture, similar to that of all-purpose flour, but it still has the same health benefits as whole wheat flour.
Note: Whole wheat pastry flour would be the perfect substitute, and I’ve also included my gluten free recommendations, if you’d like to make these healthy cheesecake brownies gluten free instead!
As for the latter ingredient, you just need regular ol’ unsweetened cocoa powder. Because you’ll use a full ¾ cup, the brownies will already taste really dark, so need for Dutched or special dark cocoa!
Note: Dutched and special dark cocoa powder have a different acidity level than regular unsweetened cocoa powder, and that affects the taste and texture of your brownies. So for the best results, stick with regular unsweetened cocoa powder!
However, it’s extremely important that you measure both the flour and cocoa powder correctly, using either this method or a kitchen scale. Too much of either will dry out the brownies, and too much cocoa powder will make the brownies taste very bitter. So I highly recommend a kitchen scale! This is the inexpensive one that I own, and I use it every day. It ensures that all of my recipes turn out with the perfect taste and texture—and it’s the best $20 that I ever spent!
Instead of ample amounts of butter, melted chocolate, or heavy cream to make these brownies extra fudgy, you’ll only use 2 tablespoons of butter. Yes, that’s right! The rest of their amazing texture comes from my favorite ingredient in healthier baking… Greek yogurt! Greek yogurt provides the same moisture as extra butter or heavy cream for a fraction of the calories, and it gives these brownies a protein boost, too!
Then instead of granulated sugar, you’ll use pure maple syrup to sweeten these brownies and keep them clean eating friendly. Be sure to use the good stuff! Avoid pancake syrup or artificial syrup; those often behave differently in baking recipes and can affect the texture of your baked treats. The only ingredient on the bottle should be “pure maple syrup!” You can find it in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs near the oats at the grocery store, and I’ve also bought it online.
The cheesecake layer is secretly packed with protein! That’s all thanks to a combination of Greek yogurt and Greek yogurt cream cheese. I found my Greek yogurt cream cheese at Safeway (their own Lucerne brand), and many Walmart stores sell this brand. Greek yogurt cream cheese is softer and creamier than traditional cream cheese, and I love the smooth texture it creates in cheesecakes!
You’ll sweeten that cheesecake mixture with one of my favorite ingredients, liquid stevia. Stevia is a plant-based, no-calorie sweetener that’s clean eating friendly, and it’s very concentrated. A little goes a long way—you’ll only need ⅜ teaspoon! This is the kind that I buy, and I love its sweet flavor with no noticeable aftertaste. You can find it at many health-oriented grocery stores, but I’ve found the best price online here. (And you’ll use it in all of these recipes of mine, too!)
To bake these brownies, you’ll spread the brownie batter into the pan first. Dollop spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture on top, and spread it out into a thin layer with a spatula. Then, using a butter knife, dip the tip through both layers, and gently lift while turning the knife over (a full 180°) to reveal some of the brownie batter from below. Let both mixtures fall off of the knife; then dip a teensy tiny bit of the tip back into the revealed brownie batter, and swirl it around to spread it out.
It’s more fun the messier it looks! 😉
Now… Who’s ready for dessert?? And when you make these, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy cheesecake swirled brownies!
Healthy Fudgy Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
FOR THE CHEESECAKE LAYER
FOR THE BROWNIE LAYER
- ¾ cup (90g) white whole wheat flour or gluten free* flour (measured like this)
- ¾ cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder (measured like this)
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (80g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ½ cup (120mL) pure maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 300°F, and coat an 8”-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- To prepare the cheesecake mixture, beat the Greek yogurt cream cheese and Greek yogurt in a small bowl until smooth. Mix in the stevia and vanilla until fully incorporated.
- To prepare the brownies, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg whites, and vanilla. Stir in the Greek yogurt, mixing until no large lumps remain. Stir in the maple syrup. Mix in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.
- Spread the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Dollop spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture on top, and spread it out into a thin layer with a spatula. Then, using a butter knife, dip the tip through both layers, and gently lift while turning the knife over (a full 180°) to reveal some of the brownie batter from below. Let both mixtures fall off of the knife; then dip a teensy tiny bit of the tip back into the revealed brownie batter, and swirl it around to spread it out. (The messier, the better!)
- Bake at 300°F for 17-21 minutes (17 minutes yields the fudgiest brownies; 21 minutes yields slightly cakier brownies). Cool completely to room temperature in the pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top, ensuring that the plastic wrap fully touches the entire top, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before slicing and serving.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Fudgy Dark Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
♡ Fudg Peppermint Mocha Brownies
♡ Healthy Slow Cooker Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies
♡ Healthy Fudgy Dark Chocolate Strawberry Brownies
♡ Healthy Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars
♡ Healthy Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy brownie recipes!