These brownies are gooey, rich, messy delights... which is how I love them. I don't know that I've ever been truly satisfied by a perfectly rectangular, photogenic brownie; fudginess, true fudginess, is key to brownie greatness. Somewhere between a classic brownie and a hunk of creamy chocolate, these are about as great as it gets in my book. I elected not to overly style them, so as to capture and communicate their unabashed brownie glory. Warmed with a scoop of almond butter ice cream... pure heaven.
Adding to the primal sensory experience is the deeper, body-soul-satisfaction that comes from the addition of richly nourishing, wellness-boosting ingredients. These brownies contain antioxidant-rich cacao, of course, but serving as a sensual flavor undercurrent is the addition of coffee infused with adaptogenic mushrooms. Coffee is a fairly standard ingredient to enhance the chocolatey flavor of brownies and other such desserts, but companies like the Finnish brand Four Sigmatic have begun to infuse instant coffees with medicinal mushroom extracts to make their benefits more palatable and accessible (note that VLGL is a free-wheeling, completely unsponsored blog; products are only mentioned when they produce sincere satisfaction).
As someone constantly seeking ways to functionally "upgrade" pleasures in which I would partake anyway, the idea of enhancing coffee's already-present benefits (coffee drinkers have lower incidences of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and dementia) had me intrigued. In addition to their folk uses spanning centuries, the benefits of certain "medicinal" mushrooms may be indeed demonstrable under the critical eye of modern science. This batch of brownies incorporated a packet of Four Sigmatic "Think" coffee, which contains extracts of chaga mushroom and lion's mane mushroom, both of which may have wellness-boosting properties. Compounds present in chaga mushrooms have been demonstrated to be anti-inflammatory and strengthen the immune system, and as the title may suggest, research has demonstrated that chaga mushrooms may possess adaptogenic properties. (Adaptogens are substances thought to "help the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress.") In a Japan-based study, the consumption of lion's mane mushrooms alleviated mild cognitive impairment in the test subjects. The Think coffee additionally contains rhodiola root, which has a lengthy list of folk benefits in the regions in which it grows (including my family's home country of Iceland), though these benefits have not yet been sufficiently researched so as to be conclusive.
If you are interested in trying mushroom coffee in brownies or simply in your coffee cup, it can be purchased on Amazon, as well as in health food stores and other retailers. Important point: it tastes virtually identical to any other instant coffee, so there is no need to be off-put by the "shroominess."
In the coming weeks I will share my ingredients and techniques for creating these decadent vegan treats with you (spoiler!), but for now, I hope this post has inspired you to have fun with wellness-enhancing ingredients... or simply to eat more chocolate.