It’s that time of year again, when everywhere I go things are pink, red, heart-shaped, and covered in chocolate, and it seems once more I should gift my sweetheart with a present or a poem or something swoon-worthy. He definitely deserves it, but overall, I find Valentine’s Day to be somewhat silly. In fact, I almost didn’t post anything about it.
Then I realized that I could share a festive chocolate recipe and, being the chocoholic I am, I was instantly sold. These adorable, fudgy brownies make wonderful gifts for your Valentines, and they also make a great addition to any party favor, if that’s what you’re up to this year. I suppose I will share my little story about the significance these brownies have, while I’m at it…
One of the requirements to graduate from the college I went to was that I complete a senior thesis. Because I majored in Psychology, this meant I had to execute a full-blown experiment.
After a year of researching, writing, analyzing data, editing, editing, editing, and barely sleeping, I defended the finished product in front of a committee of my professors. To express my gratitude at the end of the semester (I suppose because they did not completely send me to some type of liberal arts guillotine-equivalent), I gave each professor a baggie of goodies, including the following recipe, and a thank you note. The day I defended my thesis was one of my prouder days, and it deserves some special commemoration.
Enter: lavender brownies. I think the best thing about lavender-aside from its bright flavor and perfect pastel color-is the fact that it is very light. I mean that literally. When you buy an ounce of lavender, you get a giant bag of it. What might you do with a bag full of lavender? Sprinkle some in your bathtub. Steam your face with it. Make soap! Add it to soup, yogurt, and smoothies…or better yet, combine it with chocolate. I promise you, the result can be nothing but beautiful. The cottony floral taste of lavender adds a refreshing touch to an otherwise rich treat. It is this precise balance of soft and bold flavors that so kindly begs for you to give in. Even the ingredients in their early stages produce an aesthetic reminiscent of the balancing yin and yang.
The denseness of the flour and sugar contrasts the light, chalky texture of the cocoa powder. Cocoa doesn’t just plop into the bowl—it splatters! And while the dark and light contrast of the ingredients resembles the well-known symbol for balance, I can’t pretend I have not noticed that the sugar-to-flour ratio is greatly skewed…
The good news is that there is scientific research that backs up the importance of glucose in our diets. Coincidentally, this was the topic of my thesis research: ingesting sugar (and therefore increasing blood glucose levels) counteracts the occurrence of ego depletion*. What does that statement mean, you ask? Well, there is 14 years’ worth of research that illustrates that self-control depletes whenever we use it.
This leads to an unfortunate result; using self-control temporarily impairs your ability to do so afterward, resulting in self-control failure (i.e., ego depletion) (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998). Depressing, I know. Recent studies have provided some hope, though! Psychologists have found that replenishing blood glucose levels (by ingesting sugar) prevents this self-control impairment from occurring (Gailliot et al., 2007). So eat, eat! And share these with your Valentines, all the while ignoring the fact that this recipe calls for twice as much sugar as it does flour.
Just remember that, thanks to these lavender brownies and their high sugar content, your self-control abilities will be almost supernaturally awesome for a while. Happy Hallmark Holiday!
Lavender Brownie Bites
Makes ~25 mini brownies
Adapted from How To Cook Like Your Grandmother
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp lavender, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line an 8x8x2-inch square pan with parchment paper. Melt butter. While butter is still hot, add lavender. Let lavender steep in butter while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and cocoa in a large bowl. Add eggs and melted lavender butter to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Top each brownie with a few sprigs of lavender for decoration. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, with moist crumbles. Let cool completely before slicing into 25 teeny tiny brownies.
*Not once did I say I was not an enormous nerd.
Baumeister, R. F., Bratlavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1252-1265.
Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R. F., Dewall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Plant, E. A., Tice, D.M., Brewer, L. M. & Schmeichel, B. J. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than an energy source. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(2), 325-336. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1685