Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Artery boosting chocolate/Artery busting brownies. Chocolate for your heart. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ladies (and gentlemen), it is the week of love.  With Valentine’s Day coming soon, and (PS it’s still winter), there’s nothing better than a good chocolate brownie, or a whole pan of them.  Even if you don’t have someone to love, YOU are the most important person in your life.  So, love yourself and make some brownies, pour a glass of wine, and watch a pleasantly cheesy movie.

We ladies are genetically/culturally engineered to love chocolate.  Did you know that chocolate is the most craved food in North America, especially by women1? The proposed theory is both cultural and hormonal.  In a recent study, more pre-menopausal women craved chocolate compared to post-menopausal women, suggesting that menstruation can make us crave chocolate2.  Even so, in this study, hormones do not fully explain a woman’s love for chocolate.  Perhaps it is simply delicious.  Besides, guys love chocolate too!

Maybe our collective love of chocolate isn’t such a bad thing.  There is copious research that shows that certain compounds in cocoa powder called plant derived flavanols can improve cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure3.   A recent Journal of Food Science study shows that these compounds can be retained in baked goods as long as a low pH is maintained 4.  Baking soda, which alkalinizes the cocoa powder and raises the pH, should be avoided.  While making buttery, gooey brownies is probably not as beneficial as pure dark chocolate for your health, there’s a good side to everything with moderation.

Before, brownie recipes were the bane of my existence.  I tried so many.  I tried the fudgy, the cakey, the ones with whipped egg whites, the cocoa powder, the unsweetened, the cheesecake-topped, everything, but they all sucked.  I just want a delicious, moist, chocolaty brownie.  Like the box.  I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but until I whipped up this recipe, the boxed brownies were the best I ever made.  The combination of unsweetend chocolate, oil, butter, plenty of eggs, a bit of flour, and the secret ingredient, Nutella is a great combination.

Since this is a week of love, my dear fiancé tested this recipe which I composed a few months ago and recreated the brownies from my written directions.  In this exercise of not dominating the kitchen, I tried to relax, and together we found the flaws hidden in my instructions.  They turned out delicious. I have repaired these errors, and the recipe is reproducible, so the everyman and woman can enjoy these tasty treats as much as we do. 

Elizabeth’s Nutella Brownies

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 stick butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup nutella
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
4 eggs
¾ cut flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 9X13 inch baking pan.  Melt butter and chocolate over medium low heat on stove.  When melted, turn off heat, add Nutella and oil, and whisk until smooth.

Allow to cool.  In a large bowl, whisk sugar, cooled chocolate mixture, vanilla and salt until smooth.  One at a time, whisk eggs into mixture.  Whisk in flour until most large chunks are gone and pour into greased baking pan.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until sharp knife in center of brownies comes out almost clean.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

1) Weingarten, H., & Elston, D. (1990). The phenomenology of food cravings. Appetite, 15,

2) Hormes, JM. and P Rozin. 2009. Perimenstrual chocolate craving. What happens after menopause? Appetite (APPET) 53, no. 2:256-9.

3) Desch, S., et al. 2010. Effect of cocoa products on blood pressure: systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Hypertension 23, no. 1:97-103.

4) Stahl, L., et al. 2009. Preservation of cocoa antioxidant activity, total polyphenols, flavan-3-ols, and procyanidin content in foods prepared with cocoa powder. Journal of Food Science 74, no. 6:C456-61.


  1. You are a doll, Elizabeth. Jon and I are thinking of making your nutella brownie recipe this weekend.

    Love your blog description

  2. Oops, the post above was from me, Megan.

  3. p.s. You've inspired me to revisit my blog I started last year...

  4. Megan, I'm glad you are writing! i am sorry about the egg mistake but I hope they turned out ok! all my love