Why, you might ask, is there an olive sprig in this photo? Extra-virgin olive oil is the first of two unique ingredients in these intense, dark chocolate brownies. Not something normally associated with desserts, but the oil’s depth of flavor accentuates the chocolate, and the results are less cloying than treats made with butter. These brownies are worthy of serving to a Valentine (and the preparation is easy).
The second unusual ingredient that helps turn these brownies into unusually good ones is teff flour. A highly nutritious gluten-free grain with a mild malty flavor, it also emphasizes the chocolate in the recipe. Often used in gluten-free chocolate confections, teff improves this sweet, transforming it into one of the best brownies you will ever taste.
I experimented with olive oil here because I’ve been focusing on olives and their sublime oil in preparation for lectures I’ll be delivering on two cruises this spring (European Coastal Civilizations and Voyage From Cultural Spain to Classical Italy). The recipe was inspired by one created by Nancy Harmon Jenkins for her information packed Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil. From this and other sources, I’ve been reminded just how remarkable and healthful extra-virgin olive oil is (a monounsaturated fat packed with antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory influence), and I’ve started using it in my kitchen without restraint.
EVOO has been my main savory cooking oil for years, but now I’m enjoying it even more as I concentrate on higher quality products, which boast even better flavor and nutritional benefits (the more complex the flavor, the more recently it’s been bottled, the better the oil is for our health). I used a fruity California oil, pressed from Arbequina olives for the brownies. Arbequina’s I’ve recently enjoyed are California Olive Ranch Arbequina, Enzo Delicate, and Séka Hills Arbequina, but experiment with any quality extra-virgin oil you love. And, serve these remarkable brownies to your sweetheart this weekend.
Olive Oil Brownies (Gluten Free)
- 4 ounces dark chocolate, 70 to 72%, coarsely chopped
- ⅓ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup teff flour
- ⅛ teaspoon rounded coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, bringing the foil up the sides of the pan.
- Place the chocolate in a deep metal bowl. Set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from over the water and using a plastic spatula, mix in the oil. Let cool to lukewarm.
- With an electric mixer, beat the eggs in a medium bowl until thick and foamy. Beat in the sugar ¼ cup at a time. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour and salt and mix vigorously with the rubber spatula until the batter thickens, about 40 seconds. Mix in the vanilla and walnuts.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing to even. Bake until just firm to the touch and a tester inserted in the center comes out almost clean, about 25 minutes.
- Cool completely in the pan on a rack. Using the foil as an aid, remove the brownie from the pan. Cut into 12 or 16 pieces. (Can be made ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrap airtight and freeze.)