Bean There, Done That: Gluten-Free Brownies
Years ago, when I taught a course called “Feeding Body and Soul,” students were asked to contribute a recipe that had been handed down in their family as a way to illustrate the power of food through the generations. One young woman (who, in her words, had been “raised by hippies”) gave me a recipe for Navy Bean Muffins, made from the usual ingredients but using pureed navy beans instead of flour. I thought this twist was just groovy, man, and resolved to some day make them myself.
Well, that day hasn’t yet arrived, but I did think of beans as the perfect addition to my GF brownies, about which I posted last Monday. This recipe for Gluten-Free Brownies is one of three for chocolate treats with hidden healthy ingredients, just up today on VegFamily magazine. To see the other two as well, check out the entire article.
The hidden gem in these rich, chocolately squares is pureed beans. Now, before you go running to the hills, consider that many gluten-free recipes contain bean flours (such as chickpea, gram, soybean, etc.), so this recipe just takes the concept a step back, to the unprocessed, whole beans before they’re dried and pulverized. And beans add a great boost of protein to any recipe, along with both soluble and insoluble fiber, and a host of minerals.
Initially, I thought that pureeing the beans in a food processor would be sufficient, but found the final product a bit grainy that way. But cooking the beans really well, then pureeing in a blender, did seem to do the trick.
Oh, and Sally, this one’s for you!
Gluten-Free Chocolate-Walnut Brownies
These brownies are everything they should be: fudgy, moist, and very chocolatey. The beans are not detectable in the final product, but their health-enhancing qualities will be!
NOTES: I used chia rather than flax in this recipe. In general, chia tends to retain moisture a bit more than flax, so the recipe may be a tad dryer if you use flax. I also wouldn’t substitute other beans for the white beans, as they may cause the brownie to taste gritty. [Edited, September 20: Since posting this recipe, I've heard from a few people who had different results when they changed some of the ingredients in the recipe. I've found with other baking that subtituting flax for chia requires a 3-to-1 ratio (3 times as much flax as chia), and the results are a bit different. I also can't vouch for using different flours--I think the sorghum is fairly essential here, as it's a soft flour that absorbs quite a bit of moisture.]
2 cups well cooked, drained white beans or navy beans
1/2 cup chocolate or vanilla soymilk (you could probably use almond milk as well)
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup sunflower or other light-tasting oil
1 Tbsp. finely ground chia seeds or 3 Tbsp. finely ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. tamari soy sauce (this brings out the chocolate flavor–trust me)
1 cup Sucanat or UNrefined evaporated cane juice
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, if desired (or use chocolate chips if you leave the brownie unfrosted)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly spray a 9 x 9 square pan with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.
In a blender (a food processor is not suitable for this recipe), blend the beans and soymilk until you have a perfectly smooth puree. Add the tahini, oil, chia, vanilla, tamari, and Sucanat, and blend again. Set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Blend the liquid mixture again and check to see that the Sucanat has all dissolved (if it hasn’t, continue to blend until it dissolves).
Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir to combine. Gently stir in the walnuts, if using. Turn the mixture into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 45-55 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center comes out barely clean (a few moist crumbs may stick to it). Cool in pan and frost if desired. Cut into squares. Makes 9 large or 16 smaller squares.
Variation: You can also bake the batter in well-oiled mini muffin pans for “two-bite” brownies. The minis bake about 20 or 25 minutes.