We can all use a mood booster this time of year. The cold temperatures, the short days, the winter blues — however you slice it, we’re in kind of a bummer period.
My solution, not surprisingly, is to cook, and I am focusing on chocolate in particular.
Chocolate contains substances that make us feel good — details below — but I can’t indulge uncontrollably or my pants won’t fit. In keeping with my previously suggested New Year’s resolution to eat less, but better, chocolate, I offer this brownie recipe.
I know, I know. Everyone has a favorite brownie recipe, ho-hum, old news. But hear me out. The technique for whipping the eggs first gives a glossy flake to the top crust which is both attractive and tasty, and the richness of these brownies enables us to adhere to the concept of less is more.
Let’s start with the science: Chocolate contains small amounts of three substances in caffeine, theobromine and phenyethylamine that, together, quite simply, make us feel good.
We all know the delights of the morning caffeine burst — but chocolate contains much less caffeine than coffee or tea, so the effect is more of a gentle caress than a hearty jolt.
Theobromine is also a stimulant, but much milder than caffeine. Phenyethylamine is reputed to be a mood elevator and an antidepressant.
The combination of these three substances gives you a short burst of extra energy, causes your heart to beat a little faster, makes you a bit jumpy and slightly giddy … well, you can see how chocolate makes us feel better.
1½ sticks unsalted butter
1 11-ounce bag dark chocolate chips (Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao recommended )
1 tablespoon finely ground dark roast coffee beans
1½ cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch by 8-inch square baking pan or an 8-inch by 12-inch oblong pan (for higher volume and a thinner brownie).
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, or melt in the microwave on 50 percent power for two to three minutes. Stir to blend and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until glossy and add the sugar; beat until smooth and light in color.
Add the chocolate/butter mixture to the mixing bowl, then add the remaining ingredients. Fold the ingredients together until just blended.
Pour the batter into a pan and bake for 30 minutes on the oven’s lower shelf. Note: If you use a rectangular pan, reduce the cooking time to 22 to 25 minutes.
Cool and cut these into miniature squares; they are delicious and satisfying and you only need a bite or two.