Monday, 29 September 2014

The Perfect Brownie

...Uses oranges and has no butter!

So I've been on a bit of an orange kick lately and the last batch of candied chocolate oranges left one sad orange and half a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips staring dolefully at me from the kitchen counter. After sorting through all of the recipes I have stockpiled, I came across this one for chocolate orange brownies that I'd never got around to trying. The recipe calls for orange zest, orange juice, and chocolate so I took this as a sign.

Step one: take your makeshift double boiler (unless you're fancy enough to have the real thing - good for you!) and set the bitter or semi-sweet chocolate chips (your choice, I prefer the bitter, less sweet version to add to the depth of this brownie) in the bowl, setting the heat at medium-high and stirring the chips constantly until they are evenly melted. *If your chocolate is melting too quickly, turn the heat down a bit so you don't end up with a burnt or separated mass of cocoa and cocoa butter.

Once the chocolate chips have melted into a smooth, even mass of yummy chocolate, remove from heat and set aside to cool (it will need to be room temperature when mixed in). Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will be ready to go when the batter is done.

Turning your attention from the chocolate, mix the eggs and sugar until creamy. By hand, the recipe I used estimates this will take 5 minutes, so I opted for an electric mixer and worked the batter for 2, resulting in a frothy yellow mixture. Once you are happy with the consistency, stir in the orange juice and olive oil.

Next, add the cocoa powder - initially, you will want to stir this in with your spatula but it is much easier to finish up the incorporation process with an electric mixer if you have one. That said, try to mix in as much as you can by hand because once you use the mixer, the cocoa will puff up and coat the surrounding tabletop in a fine powder of chocolate. Stir in the flour a bit at a time, then, add in your baking powder and orange zest - don't worry about mixing this in thoroughly because you're next step is to add the melted down chocolate chips that have been cooling since you started this recipe!

This is what your cocoa powdered batter should look like as you are adding the melted chocolate in. Mix thoroughly and pour into a 13 x 9 baking pan (I prefer glass or pyrex but you can use metal - *be aware that batter in metal will cook faster) line with...baking paper! - Your best friend from this moment onward - line the baking pan with it (you don't even need butter for THAT) and when all is said and done, you will still have a clean pan.

Don't worry that the batter isn't completely smooth - that's the orange zest peeking through. If you have any of the zest left (I put all of mine in the batter) you can sprinkle it on top. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Even if the brownies are moist looking, take them out at the 30 minute mark. Let cool completely, cut into slices, and dust with cocoa powder before serving.

The resulting brownie is a perfect, moist bite of dark chocolate, shot through with just enough refreshing orange so as not to be overwhelming. That said, it is a dense, rather flat looking brownie, so for serving, you might artfully stack 2 or 3 and then dust. I've had people eat these straight out of the pan with no cocoa powder and still love them, so feel free to enjoy either way!


- 80 grams dark chocolate
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup orange juice (I only had one orange on hand, so I used the resulting juice and it turned out  fine)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp orange zest, finely minced or grated (again, I only had one orange, which rendered about 2 tbsp zest)
- more orange zest for topping if desired
- cocoa powder for dusting 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Candied Orange Slices

Autumn into winter is high citrus season, which meant nothing to me until I saw a delicious recipe for candied, chocolate covered orange slices this past Wednesday. When chilled, these slices provide the perfect blast of refreshment after braving the humid, sticky weather that often embodies a NYC September.

After drooling over it all day, I rushed to my favorite green grocer, the Gourmet Garage on 96th and Park, picked up 2 Valencia oranges (these work best as they have a thinner peel), 80 grams bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips (I know someone who swears by Valrhona but either does beautifully), and rushed home to begin my experiment.

The first part of the process hinges on having a good, sharp knife on hand, so you end up with consistent, beautifully thin slices of orange without destroying the soft bits of the fruit. Then cut each slice in half (this is a much easier to handle portion size but using whole slices helps keep the fruit on the peel if you are nervous). Once you are done slicing up the oranges, set aside and combine two cups water with one cup sugar in a deep pot (a copper bottomed pan will spread the heat most evenly throughout the process) and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil. Once the sugar water combination is boiling, turn the heat to its lowest setting, place the orange slices in the pot (the water should be just covering them) and place a piece of non-stick baking paper over the top (this helps the steam escape so your oranges won't turn into marmalade). Leave the oranges in the pot, on low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Once done, remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the slices to a pan lined with more non-stick baking paper. The next step? Leave the oranges along for a good 5 hours! NYC is especially humid right now, so I let mine stand for an extra day.

Once the 5-17 hour period is over, pour 1 cup of the granulated sugar into a bowl, using a fork to gently coat each orange slice in it, and put back on the pan (replace the baking paper if the used sheet is soggy). If the oranges are still kind of wet feeling, cover the pan with aluminium foil and freeze for an hour. When the slices are ready, place your chocolate chips in a double boiler (aka heatproof bowl seated on top of a pot of water) and heat the water on a medium-high heat, taking care to stir the chips as they melt to prevent them from burning. Hint* if the chocolate starts to melt too quickly, reduce the heat or you run the risk of the chocolate separating into cocoa nibs and cocoa butter. When the chocolate has melted evenly, use tongs to gently dip each orange slice into the chocolate and place on a fresh sheet of baking paper. To speed the process of the chocolate setting (becoming firm and smooth), I put my tray back into the freezer (uncovered) for an hour and they were ready to serve. These will keep in the freezer, in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Next step: enjoy and brag that you can candy something!


- 80 grams semi- or bitter-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 oranges
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water