There are certain flavor combinations that are amazing together – where the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts.  Tomatoes and basil.  Peas and mint.  Garlic and almost anything.

The one combination that I simply can’t abide with is chocolate and orange.  It seems to be a “Marmite” kind of thing.  For those of you who don’t live in the UK, Marmite is a spread for toast.  It’s not like jam, it’s not like peanut butter – it’s a gooey, sticky yeast extract.  Yes, you read that right – it’s a yeast extract that they developed from the crud left over after brewing beer.

I know, right?  Sounds oh-so-yummy.  Yet my husband loves it on his toast.  In fact, it’s so polarizing that they actually use that in their advertising campaign – “Love it or hate it.”  Now, that takes guts.

At any rate, that’s my experience with the chocolate and orange combo – the people who love it really love it – then, there’s the rest of us who think it’s vile.  There doesn’t seem to be many in-betweeners.

Unfortunately, I work with two of the former.  So, when I mentioned that I was in the mood to bake over the recent bank holiday weekend, a request was made.  Not so much a “request” as lots of begging, pleading and, when that didn’t work, wheedling.

I decided that, if I was going to make chocolate and orange brownies, I was going to go the extra mile and make them truly diabolical.  So, these take a little extra time and effort, but I hear they’re well worth it.  In this particular case, I’m happy to take their word for it.

Diabolical Orange-y Brownies

Candied orange peel*

  • 2 large oranges with thick peel
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Brownies

  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 lb dark chocolate (I like Green & Blacks)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare a 9×13 pan by buttering and lining with parchment paper.

First, make your candied peel.  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar and water.  While that’s doing it’s thing, trim the tops and bottoms of your oranges and score them into the pith but not into the flesh, along their longitude, about 1/4″ apart.  Use a very sharp paring knife to peel the zest strips, getting as little of the pith as possible.  I like to lay the zest flat, white side up and do a final trim, getting as close to the orange zest as possible, then drop them into the syrup as you go.  Once you’ve done both oranges and gotten as much of the zest with as little of the pith into the syrup, raise the heat until it’s just simmering and cook them at least 45 minutes until they’re nearly translucent.  Lay them out on a wire rack to cool and dry as much as possible.

While the zest is drying, you can get on with your brownies.

Using a fairly large double boiler over medium heat, melt your butter and chocolate together.  Then set aside to cool a bit.  Put your brown sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the grated zest and mix on a low setting until the orange zest is thoroughly rubbed into the brown sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time then the vanilla extract and salt, then and raise the speed to medium-high until the mixture has lightened in color.

Take your cooled and dried peel and chop it into a fine dice.  Toss the candied peel with the flour to coat well.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently mix in the chocolate mixture and zest/flour without losing too much of the air.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 25-30 minutes.  These are fudgy brownies, so a tester doesn’t have to come out completely dry, but it should be fairly clean.

*If you don’t want to make your own candied peel, see if you can find chocolate covered peel and just chop that finely – you’ll need around 1/2-1/3 of a cup.

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