Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Great Beanie Brownie Experiment!

Brownies and donuts are like Kryptonite to my will power. I'm always testing or creating a new recipe and a few years ago, black bean brownies became one of the many unusual-ingredient recipes that I challenge myself to try once in a while. They were good, but at the time, altering or creating new recipes with black beans just wasn't a priority for me. However, I've been experimenting with gluten-free baking for a couple of years now and my interest was piqued again by the beanie brownie when I realized that many black bean brownie recipes don't call for flour; therefore, by default they're gluten-free. I've been calling recent weeks in my life, "The Great Beanie Brownie Experiment".

The real benefit of using black bean puree in brownies was replacing the fat in the recipe, making the brownies lower in fat... and dare I say, healthy! All kinds of beans contain dietary fiber, protein and no fat or cholesterol. So what better way to get your kids to eat a very healthy food, than hide it in their snacks? It's a win-win situation. In my case, my toddler who is learning to assert her independence wants to only eat two bites of dinner and then move on to dessert. I want her to eat six bites of dinner before dessert. Well, now I can accept two bites of dinner, knowing that she's getting 13 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein in that deliciously moist, chocolatey brownie! Sure, she leaves the table thinking she's pulled one over on mom. But as a parent, we have to pick our battles, right?

We don't have to limit ourselves to brownies though. Pureed beans can be substituted for all or part of the fat (shortening or oil) called for in a recipe, and make other goodies low-fat or even fat-free. Cannellini, great Northern and small white navy beans are great choices for homemade or boxed brownies, quick breads or muffins. Either canned or dried beans can be used. Dried have zero salt and are cheaper to purchase, but will require a little extra planning. When using canned beans, simply drain and rinse the beans well, then proceed with the recipe. To use dried beans, follow these three steps the day before you want to make the dessert:

1. Put 1 cup of dried beans in a bowl. Sort through the beans and remove any rocks or discolored beans. Add two cups of water and soak the beans overnight.
2. In the morning, drain the soaking water and gently rinse beans. Put the beans into a medium saucepan and cover with two cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and cook until beans are soft. Or, put them in a crock pot and cook on low for six to eight hours.
3. When soft, drain the cooking water, place the beans in a bowl and store in the refrigerator until cool.

To use the bean puree in a recipe that doesn't call for beans, put the cold, cooked beans (or your rinsed and drained canned beans) into the bowl of a food processor, or a blender, and puree until smooth. Add water, a Tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the consistency of shortening.
Although you can replace all of the fat called for, some recipes do have better results when some of the fat is left in. In 2005, a study was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reporting that taste testers gave the highest ratings for flavor and texture to brownies with only 25% to 50% of the fat replaced with bean puree. And in Pocotello, Idaho, researchers from Idaho State University made a successful cookie with 75% of the butter replaced with beans. The beans helped these cookies go from 150 calories down to 105 and from 7 grams of fat to 3. At these percentages, the beanie brownies and cannellini cookies weren't much different than the full-fat options, except that they were considerably more nutritious.

Sometimes good recipes start with an accident and this is one of those times. I was simply trying to create a white bean brownie with flavors other than just chocolate. The recipe was great the first time out, but since I prefer fudgy brownies, the texture was too cakey for me to actually call a brownie. You can double this recipe to make a 13x9 pan and take it to your next bake sale. No one will ever know they're eating something healthy!

Gluten-Free Cranberry-Orange Beanie Cake


  1. WOW! I'm so impressed that you even soaked the beans and make from scratch; I was sure you would be using canned black beans. Sure looks good and healthy.

  2. Sounds wild, I will have to give this a try! Lord knows I love black beans every other way.

  3. Great post! I shall, in the name of science, try this out :)! Healthier brownies... who would have known that was possible!

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments! I too love black beans in everything and bonus if you can hide them from the rest of the family, huh? :)


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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License