Black Bean Brownies – Joy the Baker vs. 101 Cookbooks

Oh April Fools. There was some bad karma going on with me, food and April 1st today. Not good, not good at all.
The morning began with promise. I was going to go to hot yoga but then APRIL FOOLS, I decided to go for a run instead. Anyways I made muffins the other day and there was one left, so I decided to have it for breakfast.
Mistake #1. Always smell your food before you eat it. Sounds silly, I know, but smelling and eating simultaneously can have disastrous consequences. See Exhibit A). By the time Mallory realized the rancid stench permeating the bran muffin, it was too late. Which led to a little gag fest over the sink, while rapidly grasping for some other food to mask the putrid taste.
Cool, glad we got that little episode over with. So I went for my run (gorgeous day), made some bread and realized it was lunch time. Oooo leftover pretzel. Just kidding. One can only ingest so much mold in a single day. Ok let’s check the fridge. Slimy tofu!!! Something tells me that it probably shouldn’t smell like blue cheese.
There you go April Fools, joke’s on you. You got me, you got me good. Scrambled eggs with Sriracha for lunch…just what I was craving. Needless to say, today was a baking day. The freezer is stocked with cookies and bread. Lesson learned, when cooking for one, don’t think that you will be able to consume everything before it rots. And if it does rot, make sure you realize this prior to consumption.
So what do black bean brownies have to do with all of that? Nothing actually but everything I have cooked lately has had beans in it (I entered a product development competition run by the Pulse Board of Canada). We were testing out recipes and I thought I would share some of the results. No April Fools nonsense here, the results are all true. Believe me, I wouldn’t want to put anyone through what I experienced this morning. That muffin….I don’t even want to think about it….

Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownies
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Ingredients:

– 1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
– 5 ounces dark chocolate, (60% cocoa)
– 1/4 cup cooked black beans (the 2nd batch had 1/4 cup candied black beans instead) both pureed until smooth in a food processor or blender
– 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
– 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
– 1 cup gluten free flour blend (there are lots of recipes out there that substitute 1:1 for wheat flour, you can also purchase such blends)
– 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pans
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Meanwhile whisk together the sugar, eggs and egg white. Add the beans to the chocolate, then add the chocolate, butter and beans to the eggs/sugar. Really, the order in which you do this isn’t crucial.
Finally sift together your dry ingredients, then add this to the wet, stirring to combine.
Pour into a greased and cocoa-ed pan. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (could be 25, could be 35 depending on your oven – and if you prefer them under-baked or not).

black bean brownies
black bean brownies
black bean brownies
JB – Just beans.
black bean brownies
This one used the candied bean puree instead.
black bean brownies
black bean brownies
Amazing Black Bean Brownies
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Ingredients:

– 4 ounces dark chocolate (60% cocoa)
– 1 cup unsalted butter (this can easily be reduced to 1/2 cup, or if you want to make them super healthy, 1/4 cup each butter and applesauce or other fruit puree)
– 2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well (canned is fine)
– 1/2 cup walnuts
– ¼ teaspoon sea salt
– 4 large eggs
– 1/2 cup honey
– 1/2 cup white sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Melt your chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Although the original recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, I would greatly suggest reducing this to 1/2 cup. Otherwise the batter is much too liquidy. Not to mention, extremely rich. If you are on a health kick, reduce this even further to 1/4 cup and when pureeing the black beans, add 1/4 cup applesauce, pear sauce or other fruit puree.
Puree your beans, walnuts, fruit puree (if using), salt and about 1/2 of the chocolate butter mixture using the machinery of your choice (food processor, blender, etc.). Then stir in the remainder of the chocolate.
Meanwhile whisk the eggs until light and slightly frothy, either by hand or using a mixer if you want them extra fluffy. Add your sugar and honey. Continue to whip for another 1-2 minutes.
Combine the egg mixture with the bean puree. It is completely optional but if you wish you can reserve 1/2 cup of the egg/sugar mixture before doing so and swirl this into the batter after pouring in the pan. I tried it both ways and other than appearance, I am not sure I noticed much of a difference.
Bake at 325 F for 40-50 minutes or until the brownies are set. Cool before slicing (even pop them in the fridge if possible).

black bean brownies
black bean brownies
As for the winner, who was victorious in Battle Brownie? Well let’s look at this from a few different angles. In terms of taste, 101 Cookbooks actually show-cased the nutty flavour of black beans. Joy only used 1/4 cup (as opposed to 2 cups) and I’m not sure it really made a difference. My thoughts are that the whole point of utilizing black beans is to omit flour, making the brownies gluten-free. However, Joy’s original recipe did not do this (hence why we opted to use a gluten-free blend instead, which of course, left a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste). 1 point for 101 Cookbooks.
Now texture; neither recipe was reminiscent of your traditional dense, fudgy, chewy brownie. Each displayed some of these qualities but unfortunately not all of them. Because of the gluten-free flour blend, the first batch did become a bit gummy/pasty after you chewed it for a while. Meanwhile recipe #2 was a completely new textural experience for me; at least when it comes to brownies. I would liken it to pumpkin pie filling, except with a chocolate/honey/nutty flavor. Unique and strangely addictive. But when you are opting to eat something with a spoon, I’m not sure it can be classified as a brownie. “Chocolate bean custard” maybe? So in terms of texture, although the 101 Cookbooks recipe was much more pleasant, neither fit the brownie bill.
At this point you are probably wondering, “Did she actually enjoy either of them?” Fair enough, I have been (bean) quite critical. Here’s what I have learned from all of this; there are 2 ingredients that make a brownie a brownie. Eggs and flour. Get what I am saying? Without flour (and therefore gluten), structurally, any brownie recipe is limited. A true brownie shouldn’t have to be stored in the fridge in order to eat it. With that said, 101 Cookbooks was the winner, hands down. If you are going to put beans in “brownies”, you might as well put beans in “brownies”. I don’t care what fancy schmancy kitchen device you are using, do you know how hard it is to blend 1/4 cup of beans? Seriously, it’s not even worth the effort. Omit the beans from Joy’s recipe and I will challenge you to tell a difference. That’s my verdict and I am sticking to it!
PS. After testing these 2 recipes (plus multiple variations) I tried a different base for kicks. AllRecipes Black Bean Brownies. You heard me, hey with 4 stars and 443 reviews they had to be decent. Again, not necessarily a brownie but the recipe was fool proof. Through everything in the blender, whiz it up and you are ready to bake (preferably I would get a pan first though). Also, if you opt to try this recipe, I would recommend adding baking soda and/or baking powder like some of the comments advise. Add enough leaveners and you may even end up with Chocolate Black Bean Cupcakes. Who woulda thought?

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