A gift from the gods that’s good for you-and just plain good!By Jody Stump
Special to The Malibu Times
Mars, makers of gooey Snickers bars and a bright red, pillow-reclining “M,” just patented chocolate, claiming therapeutic benefits for a bar or brownie consumed once a day for 60 days. This wonder drug fights cancer, gingivitis, hypertension and even boosts the autoimmune system. Since I am committed to optimizing life in the ‘Bu, I sacrificed a little time and waistline to dig deeper into Patent 6,312,753.
Five hundred years of pharmacology attest to the miracle of a bean the Greeks called Theobroma -food of the gods. Dangling in thick, droopy leathery pods on spindly trees deep in tropical forests, each pouch contains 20-40 beans so bitter one has to wonder why anyone ate them. But, hailing from the what-doesn’t-kill you-makes you-stronger school-of-life lessons, the acidity hints that it contains potent flavonoids that stretch arterial walls and unstick the plaque in platelets, minimizing heart disease. Even better are pleasure-triggers buried deep in the bean’s genes. Just a small bite stimulates the release of PEA, or phenylethylamine, the cloud-nine chemical that floods your senses when you fall in love. Chocolate tricks the brain’s serotonin transmitter into mimicking a marijuana high and contains tryptophan, the relaxant in turkey.
What’s the best way to take your medicine? Choose the best, darkest chocolate that tastes good to you. Godiva, Valrhona and Teuscher are excellent choices and their flavors are so intense it takes very little to satisfy a craving.
This time of year, strawberries are abundant and sweet. Dip them using a candy-making bar and you’ll have a healthy, 100-calorie dessert in 5 minutes. Another option is America’s all-time favorite chocolate dessert-brownies. With only a few more calories per serving, they’re a delicious and easy way to get your flavonoids. We assembled a tasting panel to find the best, comparing commercial mixes against the real thing-homemade. The results were surprising-the cheapest and very quick option was best. I also have a gift for romantics or adventurers dabbling in ancient history: Serendipity’s Frozen Hot Chocolate!
BROWNIE TEST: Eight neighbors blind-tasted eight different brownies-four mix, four scratch. None took more than 10 minutes to assemble and 20 to 30 minutes to bake.
Ghirardelli Homemade (9.0): The never-fail recipe on the orange cocoa box is superb- chewy yet crumbly; slightly crunchy on the surface and fudge-y in the center; with a sweet fruity scent and almost liquid smooth chocolate melting on the tongue. Get the box with the recipe on the back.
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Mix (7.8): This packaged version suffers by substituting soybean oil and “natural” flavorings for butter. It did win a bonus for including chocolate chips. That single ingredient caused one judge to swoon, “Mmmm, that’s chocolate!”
Pillsbury Double Chocolate (7.0): “Unpretentious,” “nicely chewy,” “what you expect from a package.” Dark and fudge-y. The favorite out of the pan, but it was boring by the next morning.
Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Supreme (6.0): Fudge-y, very sweet and not very chocolate-y. With higher calorie and sodium counts and a “boxy” aftertaste, it added up to a “Don’t bother.”
Duncan Hines Chocolate Lovers (4.5): The “worst brownies ever,” although the texture was almost perfect for a cake-styled dessert. The problem was a strange fishy mouth feel.
We tested three different scratch recipes and found the easiest was the best. If you prefer a frosted one with a silky, melt-in-your-mouth icing, watch Malibutimes.com. We’ll post the winning recipe.
Chocolate: Classic brownies are made with solid chocolate or cocoa. Both are good; success depends on the chocolate. Substitute 1/3 bittersweet chocolate.
Flour: Recipes specify all-purpose flour, but replacing up to 1/3 with cake flour yields a tender dessert.
Testing for Doneness: Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted 2 inches in from the edge comes out just slightly sticky. Don’t overcook!
Pan: Use butter to grease the bottom and sides, and if you used melted chocolate, line the pan with parchment. Let the brownies sit in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.
FROZEN HOT CHOCOLATE
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch-process chocolate
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 1/2 c. 1 percent milk
1. Over low heat, mix chocolate, sugar, salt and about 1/3 cup of milk to create a smooth paste.
2. Gradually stir in remaining milk, until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Pour into ice trays and freeze overnight.
4. Blend cocoa cubes until frothy.
5. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.