It has come to my attention that in my GF baking and cooking, I sadly have paid less attention to fat content, something MacLeod's midsection has been given grief for of late. Kiddo on the other hand is gaining weight by leaps and bounds, which is great for him because he has typically lived a life way below the curve on weight. I started to look at meal options, sides and desserts that included "secret" ingredients that would not only provide much needed nutrition to the kiddo's, but also be a little kinder to me, MacLeod and my ever shrinking wardrobe. Thus I started my trials for my first Secret Ingredient Dessert- Black Beans.
If you, with some morbid curiosity, troll the internet for Black Bean Brownies, you will inevitably come across hundreds of recipes strewn across many blogs and websites. I first came to see these little wonders via Pinterest, my latest obsession. (I know, I know... I was a little late coming to the Pinterest party..) The image of the chocolaty wonders intrigued me, the secret ingredient, black beans hypnotized me. With no flour in the ingredient list at all, pureed black beans as the binder and little sugar, I was surprised by the comments that followed the recipe stating how amazing it was and that you could not taste the beans at all. Could there really be a brownie that could be not only completely gluten-free, dairy-free, contain beans and be delicious?! Well, the answer came soon enough; yes and no.
This recipe I tried, which had rave reviews, was... less than inspiring. I was so drawn to it because it was a completely grainless brownie with little sugar, which in retrospect seems a little to good to be true. In the directions (as with many other black bean brownie recipes) it instructed you to put EVERYTHING except the chocolate chips in the food processor together. Now, having run a bakery for a while, I can tell you that eggs can be a fragile mistress to work with. When mixed with other ingredients, the molecules of the egg separate and attach themselves to other molecules of fat, water and sugar. When the molecules reattach, they create structure in the product. If eggs are over beaten, you are breaking down those molecules and their ability to create the structure causing a very dense result. In brownies, for a nice chewy brownie, there is no added leavening agent (ie baking soda or baking powder) because that would cause the brownies to be more cake-like so the egg is acting as the one and only leavening agent. If you beat the hell (or food process the hell) out of it, then wah wah wah, no leavening.
Undaunted by my knowledge, I followed the recipe as it was written. The brownies were dense and they.. tasted like beans. Don't get me wrong, I love black beans, however I do not want my chocolaty goodness tasting like beans. So, I sadly dumped them into the trash (after MacLeod ate a few pieces) and started over. It took me three tries to get a result that I was supremely happy with in texture and taste. Of course the test came now to kiddo. I knew that he would be very observant on the texture and the flavor of the brownie and if he thought it tasted off then I would try again. I gave him his piece and he munched and munched with that very contemplative look on his face (I was sure he knew there were beans!) and then he swallowed his last bite and said "they are SO good!" Then I told him that there were beans in the brownies and his face contorted in ways I didn't know it was capable of contorting. Alas, he ended up stealing a second brownie so I think they were good enough that he didn't care if the main ingredient was indeed black beans.
Black Bean Brownies
1 C gluten-free flour blend
1/3 C cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. instant espresso (or coffee)
3 Tbs. hot water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 C olive oil
3/4 C agave nectar
5 oz. dairy-free dark chocolate
1 egg white
1/2 C dairy-free chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped pecans (or other nut)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and dust a 9X9" pan.
In a food processor, pulse black beans until they appear smooth. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set over a sauce pan with 2-3 inches of water in it over medium-high heat. Stir chocolate until it is melted. Add melted chocolate and olive oil to the food processor and pulse the bean mixture until it looks like smooth melted chocolate. In a cup, combine the water and instant espresso and add to food processor and pulse to blend.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and cocoa powder and set aside. In a medium bowl, add agave nectar and eggs. Beat the mixture just until the egg whites are completely blended. Add the egg mixture and the chocolate mixture from the food processor to the flour and beat lightly just to combine all the ingredients, do not over beat.
Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts, if desired.
Pour batter into the pan and smooth out to all corners. Tap the pan on the surface of your work space to remove excess air bubbles and level out the batter in the pan.
Place pan in the over and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the brownies spring back when touched.
Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes, cut and enjoy!