Brownies for those who live to lick the bowl

Olive oil and a touch of sea salt make a brownie recipe both gooey and slightly savoury.
Olive oil and a touch of sea salt make a brownie recipe both gooey and slightly savoury. PHOTO: ANDREW SCRIVANI / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Ingredients are mixed to prepare the batter for delicious, gooey brownies.
Ingredients are mixed to prepare the batter for delicious, gooey brownies.PHOTO: ANDREW SCRIVANI / THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - A latke fried in bubbling fat may be a classic way to celebrate Hanukkah, but it is not the only nosh that can commemorate the oil-centric holiday. Olive oil brownies are another, albeit less traditional, option.

This recipe is particularly suited to the task because, unlike others of its ilk, it skips the butter, relying instead on olive oil and the natural cocoa butter in chocolate to enrich the batter.

The result is moist in the centre, crisp at the edges and perfectly smooth but for the occasional crunch of a chocolate chip.

Closer to ganache than to cake, these dense, dark treats are not for anyone who prefers a lighter, feathery type of brownie. They are for people who live to lick the icing bowl.

Because there's no butter to soften its intensity, the flavour of the olive oil here matters a lot. Don't use the grassy, sharp, highly aromatic stuff you would drizzle on lettuce leaves. Choose something milder and more neutral. I use the same extra-virgin oil I cook with - a good-quality, midpriced workhorse.

The olive oil gives these brownies a slightly savoury quality, highlighted by a sprinkle of flaky sea salt that's added right after baking. Make sure to sprinkle the salt while the brownies are still warm, which helps it stick.

  • Olive Oil Brownies With Sea Salt

  • Ingredients

    Yield: 16 brownies Total time: 40 minutes
    6 Tbs mild extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    ¾ tsp kosher salt
    ¼ tsp baking powder
    ¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    ¼ cup boiling water
    85g melted unsweetened chocolate
    1 large egg, at room temperature
    1 Tbs vanilla extract
    ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
    ⅓ cup sugar
    ½ cup mini or regular chocolate chips
    Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, as needed

  • Method

    1. Heat oven to 175 deg C, and grease an 20cm-square baking dish with some of the olive oil. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 5cm overhang on 2 sides so you can pull the brownies out easily.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder.
    3. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Whisk in 6Tbs oil, melted chocolate, egg and vanilla.
    4. Whisk in brown and granulated sugars, then fold in flour mixture, then chocolate chips. Scrape into prepared pan, and bake until set and firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes.
    5. Immediately sprinkle brownies with flaky salt while still warm, and let cool. Cut into 16 squares and serve.

While showering them with salt before baking works with other, frothier brownie batters, it fails here, with the flakes sinking in and disappearing without a trace. Adding it at the end gives each bite a salty snap and a gentle crunch.

For an even more pronounced crunch, add chopped, toasted nuts to the batter along with - or instead of - the chocolate chips. Or for an ultra-satiny batch of brownies that are just on the solid side of pudding, skip both nuts and chips, and let the salt provide the only textural contrast.

Because these brownies are so deeply fudgy, a tester won't come out clean even when they're done. Instead, bake them until the batter looks and feels solid when gently pressed in the centre.

The brownies firm up enough to cut as they cool, but without losing their essential olive-oil gooeyness, which is a fitting tribute on Hanukkah - and utterly compelling during the rest of the year.