What kind of brownie lets you indulge in dense, rich chocolatey goodness, while at the same time cut back on white flour, is lower on the glycemic index, and increases your intake of beneficial fiber in the form of black beans? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Black Bean Brownie.
And it's good. Indulgent and decadent the way a brownie ought to be, with much less of the I-really-shouldn't-eat-this reservations.
I first ran across a version of this recipe on 101 Cookbooks web site. Since then I learned that there are quite a few variations of desserts made with beans on the internet. The moment I read the article, I knew that black beans would work as a flour substitute for a brownie recipe. And since I often cook for someone who doesn't eat sugar, I was excited to try it.
My first attempt, while successful in terms of flavor, was not a very attractive dessert. I followed the original recipe suggestion to cook the brownies on a 11 x 18 inch rimmed baking pan (also known as a jellyroll pan). The wet dough has a slurry consistency and it spread out much too thin, cooking up more like a giant soft cookie than a brownie. The recipe also called for a decorative technique that made things complicated and didn't work well for me. What follows is my second attempt and much happier result.
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups soft-cooked black beans, rinsed and drained (I used canned)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup instant espresso coffee
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups agave nectar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with vegetable oil.
On the stovetop, melt the chocolate and butter and blend it together thoroughly with a spoon. In a food processor, blend together the beans, half the walnuts, vanilla and a few spoonfuls of the melted butter-chocolate. The mixture should be smooth and thick.
In another large bowl, mix together the remaining half of the walnuts, the rest of the chocolate-butter, espresso and salt. Mix thoroughly with a spoon.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until light and creamy. Add the agave nectar and beat together with the eggs thoroughly. Set aside.
Add the bean mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture and blend well. Then add the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until brownies are set and a toothpick can be inserted and removed clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Refrigerate to enhance firmness and prolong freshness.
Serving suggestion: Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (unless you want to keep the lower glycemic value of this dessert!)
How does this dessert compare, nutritionally, to a standard brownie? I did a little research and found this analysis: Adding up all the calories of the ingredients, and figuring 45 brownies per pan, (using the original suggestion of an 11 x 18 inch baking sheet pan yielding 45 2-inch brownies), the brownies are about 108 calories per serving. By comparison, the same brownies made with two cups of sugar and 1.5 cups flour, each brownie would be about 173 calories. NOTE: This is based on the math and guess work of an anonymous person who sounded reasonable to me.
Calories aside, I think the real benefit to this recipe is the fact that beans take a lot longer to digest than white flour and are thus lower on the glycemic index, which measures the rise in blood sugar after a certain food is consumed. The substitution of agave nectar for sugar is going to make this a lower glycemic index dessert.
Just remember: it is still dessert! So eat in moderation and enjoy.