Who remembers the Pepsi Challenge? Years ago, I remember going to a mall while with my family in the Poconos and seeing the stand. I thought it was so cool that we ran into the real, live challenge, just like they did on the Pepsi commercials. My mom never kept sodas in the house, so I wasn’t a regular consumer of Coke or Pepsi. For the record, they told me the cup I chose was Pepsi.
Fast forward many years, I love holding impromptu taste tests in our kitchen. The latest was inspired by a bottle of blood orange olive oil. When I picked up the bottle at a local store called Seasons, the owner of the store mentioned using this oil for brownies. I loved the idea of using a fruity olive oil in brownies. The essence of orange had the potential to really enhance the chocolatey flavor, and incorporating a healthy fat in lieu of my usual butter was certainly good. (And I was already feeling great about the anti-oxidants in the cocoa powder!) What I wasn’t sure about was how the essence of orange in our beloved brownie recipe would delight my three boys (I’m including my husband in this count!).
So, I made two batches: one using my classic recipe, the other incorporating the olive oil and a bit of tangerine balsamic vinegar I had in my pantry. I have worked both options into the recipe so you can make these brownies even if you don’t have this unique flavor oil on hand. The classic recipe has long been a favorite here. But, would you believe, in a side-by-side comparison, everyone chose the batch using the olive oil? Even my younger son who I was certain would choose the old standard. In fact, when I served him a single piece the following evening, he asked if he got the “special” batch. (He did.) After several days, I also noticed that the brownies with the olive oil stayed moister than the butter option.
Boxed brownies are certainly easy and do taste great. But these brownies are quite easy to prepare, too, and make a basic recipe extra special. For anyone tempted to try the orange-infused version, click here for a link to the source I used. (For those who live near me, you may visit Season’s West King Street location where you can taste any and all of the varieties. It really is a fun place to visit!) You could certainly play around with the recipe a little, using your own fruity olive oil and some orange zest. I added the tangerine vinegar on a whim, and you may certainly omit that. I will say, however, that a drizzle of the tangerine balsamic over broiled or pan-seared salmon is absolutely divine, so the bottle will not likely go to waste. It is equally delicious on my Spinach Salad with Citrus and Avocado if you would rather not make your own reduction.
If anyone else takes the challenge, please let me know!
- 1/2 cup blood orange olive oil (may substitute melted butter and zest of one orange)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tablespoon tangerine balsamic vinegar (may substitute 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or a slightly-rounded 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup chocolate chunks or chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate. (An 8×8-inch square pan may also be used. If the pan is dark-coated metal, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.)
In a medium bowl, mix together the oil (or melted butter) and sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs and balsamic (or vanilla).
In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gradually stir into the egg mixture until well blended. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, and evenly distribute the chocolate chunks over the top.
Bake for about 18 minutes, or until the brownie begins to pull away from edges of pan. This is how long it takes in my oven to reach the point where the brownies are just cooked through yet still very moist. The brownies will still appear the slightest bit jiggly in the middle. All ovens vary, so check a few minutes early and know that it might take a few minutes longer than this.
Allow to cool, then cut and enjoy! I like to store the cooled brownies in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. You may store at room temperature, if preferred.
We are trying to avoid white sugar. I have raw Stevia, organic coconut palm sugar, raw honey and maple syrup as sweetener. Any suggestions?
Coincidently, I have organic coconut palm sugar in my pantry waiting to be tried, Kathy! I have a friend who bakes with it and likes it a lot. I often experiment with honey and maple syrup instead of sugar, but have not done so with this particular recipe. I thought about doing it this time, but since I was testing the difference with the olive oil, I wanted to keep the other variables the same. If you try any of these options, please report back. And I will make a point to try one of them soon!