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?

Baking Blackbox – A Guinness Chocolate Cake

I did it! I survived! What did I do? What did I survive? Well today was my baking “blackbox” at school. Basically it was a final practical exam in which we drew countries out of a hat and had to make a dessert or bread inspired by that country. I got “lucky” and chose Ireland. Get it? “Luck of the Irish”. So I decided to be a drunkard and make Guinness Chocolate Cake with Guinness Brownie, Guinness Reduction and to top it all off, Bailey’s Whipped Cream. Such an alcoholic I am…
I know it sounds like the Guinness would be unpleasantly over-powering but strangely enough, it wasn’t. It reminded me of the taste when you add coffee or instant espresso powder to chocolate cake. You can’t really tell that it is there but it brings out different qualities in the chocolate. Then to cut the richness of it all I paired it with a tart lime curd. No, you’re right, limes aren’t naturally that green. I may or may not have gone a bit crazy with the food coloring. It is inspired by Ireland after all! Just under 4 hours later and voila! Baking blackbox finito!!!

Guinness chocolate cake

GUINNESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
from Nigella (which explains why everything is in weight, I apologize, I am unsure of the conversion to cups)

– 250ml Guinness
– 250g unsalted butter
– 75g cocoa
– 400g granulated sugar
– 142ml  sour cream
– 2 eggs
– 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
– 275g all purpose flour
– 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a pan of your choice (an 8″ or 9″ springform, square cake pan, circular cake pan, whatever you have will work).
In a saucepan heat the Guinness and butter until the butter is fully melted. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar. I sifted the cocoa to ensure there was no lumpage and then whisked until the sugar was basically dissolved.
In a separate bowl whisk your sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Make sure that the Guinness/butter mixture isn’t so hot that it will scramble the eggs then pour it into the sour cream mixture in a thin stream whisking constantly.
Finally add your flour and baking soda. Pour into your prepared pan and bake at 350 F. You will know the cake is done when it passes these 3 tests:
1. The cake springs back when pressed lightly in the centre.
2. A toothpick or skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
3. As it is a high fat cake, the sides will begin to pull away from the pan.
Because I was baking using a professional convection oven this took between 30 to 40 minutes. But if you are using a standard home oven Nigella informs us that this could take between 45 minutes to 1 hour. Trust your instincts though. If it satisfies the 3 criteria mentioned above, take it out. If it doesn’t, leave it in. Please promise me one thing though. Don’t go opening and closing and opening and closing your oven to check on it. The light is there for a reason! Everytime you open the door you let the heat out. This is a pretty stable cake but the general rule of thumb is that you should wait until 75% of the estimated cook time has elapsed before opening the oven to check on it. This is especially crucial with finicky items like souffles, sponge cakes, meringues, etc.
Anyways once it is done, take it out and let it cool on a wire cake. Don’t try to remove it from the pan until it is at room temperature. Unless it is for some natural disaster themed party and you actually want it to look like an earthquake zone. Otherwise, please don’t.

GUINNESS BROWNIES
adapted from Godiva

– 4 large eggs
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 tsp. lime zest
– 213 grams dark chocolate (I used 75% ) pistoles (or just chop up a bar)
– 128 grams white chocolate pistoles (if you notice on their site, Godiva refers to this as “ivory” chocolate…Ooooo how fancy….and so confusing!) plus about 1/2 cup extra chopped to about the size of chocolate chips – optional
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
– 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 3/4 cup cocoa powder
– 1 cup Guinness stout

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a tin, same gig size-wise as the cake. Melt the chocolate(s) and butter over a double boiler. Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, sugar and lime zest until smooth. Cool the chocolate mixture slightly and whisk it into the eggs. Sift in your flour and cocoa, pour in the stout, add the additional chopped white chocolate if you are using it and mix everything until just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 F for about half an hour. This is how long it took using convection but the Godiva recipe also says 25 to 30 minutes, so just pay attention. Cool and THEN remove it from the pan.

GUINNESS REDUCTION

– 2 x 330ml bottles Guinness
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 tbsp. honey

Reduce the Guinness until there is only about 1/2 cup of liquid remaining. Add the sugar and honey, continuing to cook until thick and syrupy. Don’t worry if you over-reduce it, just add some water to thin everything out. Also it is probably a good idea to leave it at room temperature until you need to use it. Otherwise it could harden up like a rock in the fridge.

BAILEY’S WHIPPED CREAM

– 2 cups whipping cream
– about 2 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish Cream (I eyeballed it – throw in as many splashes as tickles your fancy!)
– 1/4 cup icing sugar (again this isn’t an exact science, taste it as some people like it sweeter than others)

Now you could whip this by hand but then you are going to complain that you have carpal tunnel so ya, scratch that idea. Using a MIXER beat the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the Bailey’s and sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

LIME CURD
from AllRecipes

– 2 eggs
– 1 cup sugar
– 3/4 cup lime juice
– zest from all those limes you used to get the 3/4 cup juice
– 1/4 cup butter

Whisk the eggs with half of the sugar until thick and smooth. Melt the butter with the lime juice, zest and remaining sugar. Pour into the eggs very slowly allowing them to temper (basically you don’t want lime scrambled eggs…not very appealing). Cook the mixture over a double boiler, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It is done when it thickens and coats the back of the spoon (also referred to as nappe). Chill over an icebath, strain through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate until needed. As you will see in the picture, I also added some blue and yellow food coloring to dye this cream to go with the Irish theme.
WHITE CHOCOLATE CLOVERS
– 1 cup white chocolate
– a few drops each blue and yellow food coloring (or just use green if you have it, you lucky duck you!)
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Add the food coloring and mix until you reach the color you desire. Then make one of these little babies. I would try to explain it but I think you have already read enough in this post and are probably starting to go into information overload. Fill your parchment piping bag with the chocolate and create little 4 leaf clovers or whatever shape your heart desires. I now realize that I totally forgot what a 4 leaf clover should look like. Thanks Google Images, where were you when I was actually piping the things at 8 this morning? Pop em’ in the fridge until they are set and ready to use for garnish.
Careful with the food coloring. Not sure how I plan on getting this off…
Ok so did you manage to get through all of that? Now for the fun part, assembly! Using a ring mold (a circular cookie cutter basically) that is an appropriate size for one portion (I will leave that to your discretion to decide what an “appropriate portion” is). If it helps I double the cake recipe and was able to get 6 good ones out of each cake plus some crappy looking extras that were edible but substandard compared to their little friends. So you are trying to obtain at least 6. Then using a tiny ring mold, cut out a chunk of the bottom of each cake. Use the same tiny mold to cut a piece of brownie. See where we are going here? Now stuff the brownie inside the cake. Pretty ingenious stuff going on here.
As for the whipped cream, use a piping bag to make a nice little rosette on top of the cake. I think it would actually have looked better if I opted to use a plain tip instead of a star one. You could also spread the cream rustically across the top and create random little peaks. Then I placed the clover on top of the cream.
With the reduction I painted it across the plate and made little dots with the lime curd. I love to get creative when I am plating so feel free to do whatever looks good to you. Honestly I probably dirtied 4 or 5 plates just figuring out what I wanted to do.
Finally you can enjoy all of your hard work!
Guinness chocolate cake

Chocolate Brownies

January 10, 2012. That is the date today people, I kid you not. And the day is drawing to a close so technically it’s closer to January 11th.

So what does this actually mean? Well Christmas is over, New Years is covered too and everyone has gone back to their normal, boring, everyday lives. You may have even made a resolution or two. But really, what’s the point? If you are not committed to something the other 11 months and 30 days of the year, what is going to make January 1st such a turning point? My theory is that if we all make resolutions every minute of every hour of every day, we may actually have a shot at accomplishing them. Life is a constant resolution to aim higher, do better and be happier.

With that said, now it is time for me to provide some extensive diet sabotage. Sorry to all of you guys out there munching on your carrot sticks and rice cakes, I can’t resist sharing the recipe for what are probably the best brownies I have ever made in my entire life. Yah I know, I haven’t been alive that long…but still!

I made them during the holidays for my chocoholic guests (not fully realizing just what chocoholics they were) and the entire batch was literally devoured in less than 10 minutes between only 2 people. Had I known this, I probably would have doubled the recipe. I even had someone get on their knees and bow down, thanking me for making these. I’m still not sure I know what to say. You’re welcome??? I can’t take all the credit though. I would still be living in mediocre brownie land if it weren’t for Joy the Baker.

BEST BROWNIES EVER.

Word.

Yes, I just said that. In fact I will say (type) it again.

Word.

Now go make some brownies my peeps!

Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Ingredients:

200 grams 70% chocolate, broken into pieces
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a baking dish by lining it with tin foil and greasing the foil with butter or oil.
Chocolate brownies
Melt the chocolate and butter. I was lazy and opted for the microwave over a double boiler. Just make sure you don’t forget about it and have your chocolate scorch.
Chocolate brownies
Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt in a separate bowl/
Chocolate brownies
Then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture (allow it to cool slightly first though to avoid chocolate scrambled eggs).
Chocolate brownies
Finally add the flour and baking powder until all the ingredients are incorporated.
Chocolate brownies
Pour into your prepared pan (all I had was a 9 inch pie dish so that’s what I used).
Chocolate brownies
Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out fairly clean. I say this because it will come out completely clean around the edges but the inner part will still be a bit gooey. Personally I prefer this because the brownie stays extraordinarily fudgy.
Chocolate brownies
Cool and slice. In my case I probably could have cut the thing in half, put it on 2 plates and let them go to town.
Chocolate brownies