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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Best ultimate gluten free chocolate fudge bean brownies recipe - you won't believe how healthy they are!

It sounded like food sacrilege to add beans to brownies.  But there's plenty of awesome recipes out there that have zucchini added to cakes and muffins, squash or pureed yams/sweet potatoes to muffins and pies... so why not something we usually put into chilis or soups?  After lots of sweltering baking sessions this summer (lookit what I sacrifice for you wonderful readers!)... here's the most guilt free chocolate fudgey brownie you'll ever sink your teeth into with blissful disbelief.

I'll admit the first time I heard of someone putting beans into brownies - my reaction was scrunching up my face into a powerful grimace... similar to my fav comic book character by the vernable Bill Watterson here:

Then with encouragement and insistence from a coworker, I tried one.  It was crumbly and resembled more of a flat chocolate flourless cake, and the bean taste was almost masked.  It wasn't bad, and with the beans subbing out where flour usually steps in, not only was it easy to make the recipe completely gluten free, all them beans lends a LOT of fibre and packs a whallop of nutrition.  With the bonus of cutting out a lot of the calories, it inspired me to experiment to bake a bean brownie that was either just as good or better than the traditional fudgey brownies we grew up with... and noone would know it has beans in it unless I tell them otherwise muwahahaha!  So.. a brownie that tastes like a fudgey brownie, is high in fibre and is good for you?! Sounds impossible, but over the summer, I baked plenty of batches taking ingredients out and adding stuff in... and running the baked results past unsuspecting friends, coworkers and it even passed the ultimate taste test: pregnant girlfriend tastebuds test!! (I knew I had a winner then!). So here we have the most guilt free chocolate fudgey brownie you'll ever sink your teeth into with disbelief.
Food processor obliterates the beans and makes it a one bowl brownie recipe
- yah for laziness.. umm efficiency! :D
First, the process was research - I delved into lots of recipes found online and started to piece together my own recipe... after a few trial batches, I ended up with a cake-like brownie, but wasn't achieving the fudge-like consistency I wanted.  So I went back to the basics of a good brownie recipe:
-don't add too many eggs as you want brownies not cake
-leaveners like baking soda and baking powder if you want some lift in your brownie rather than a brick
-don't overmix (food processor is a must to purée the bean skins into oblivion)
-keep things simple.
v 1.01 popped into the oven...
With that in mind, I tweaked things a bit more and eventually came up with the ultimate guilt free bean chocolate fudgey brownie!  There were lots of things you could add into mask the beaniness of the beans, and I found a good high quality finely ground espresso to be the best.  Real vanilla extract helps, but espresso coffee was the clear winner in taste tests.  There's some recipes out there that add in balsamic vinegar - while it works, the variation between flavors, acidity and quality of balsamic vinegars vary so much, I didn't bother with it.  Balsamic vinegar is like wine - some are awesome, while some are only fit to dump down the sink.  If you really want to use it, get your hands on the best aged smooth and sweet balsamic vinegar you can get your hands on.
Still looks like ordinary brownies...
That said here's the experiments broken down by components.. all were baked in an 8x8 brownie pan.  Keeping the variables down like a scientific experiment ;D
-3 large eggs - most recipes ask for this, but found with the food processor puréeing the batter a necessity, it was adding in too much air and brownies always turned out a bit cake-like.  If you're into that texture for your brownies, by all means.
-2 large eggs - the perfect amount of eggs to hold things together and give it a fudgey texture.
-baking soda usually gives brownies a cracked top, while baking powder makes the brownie a bit more fluffy and less bricklike.  With the beans subbing out flour, I only used baking powder to give the brownie a proper brownie texture rather than.. well a chocolate beany brick.
-I cranked the amount of cocao in this recipe - it almost looks like I'm recplacing out flour with cocoa and for 2 reasons - one it gives it more structure, and two - the cocoa flavor helps mask the bean flavor.  Besides, what's wrong with more chocolate?
-I added chocolate chips into the batter/bottom of batter (mainly melted and disappeared after baking.. boo!), but on top gave the best result as you got to see and taste all the wonderful chocolate chunks on top of the brownie - we eat with our eyes too!
-I used black beans primarily for the recipe experiments... you can use red beans or any type of bean that is cooked until soft and mild in flavor
-canned beans were way more convenient than soaking and cooking beans from scratch - just make sure you skip the salt and rinse the beans like crazy to get rid of excess salt
-using liquid oils like vegetable or canola oil didn't result in a fudgey texture than using a solid fat like butter. That said, I had made a batch with no oil/butter at all and it still turned out well - just a bit more crumbly if you're really worried about fat, you can ditch it all together.  Still tastes best with a bit of butter though!!
-brown sugar produced the best result with the bonus of richer flavor
v 1.01 Cake like bean brownies made with 3 eggs, leaveners and chocolate on top and bottom of batter
v1.01 Flavor is good, but texture is quite cake like and very crumbly
v 2.03 made with 2 eggs, leavener and chocolate on top
- texture is of a store bought brownie, not quite fudgey enough
v3.01 - winner! made with 2 eggs, leavener, chocolate on top and pudding mix!
Cornstarch or instant pudding mix
After v2.03, I thought about what could I add to the recipe that would mimic the fudge-ness the gluten within flour that's missing obviously in the bean brownie version.  I could have added flour, but my friends on gluten free diets would hate me hahaha.. so the solution was instant pudding mix or cornstarch.  Once I added that in, I got super fudgey chocolate brownie awesomeness. Winner winner winner!

Okay, so you've either skimmed through all the experimentations above or read through it yaaaah! So here's v3.01.. the most guilt free chocolate fudgey brownie you'll ever sink your teeth into!

Chocolate fudge black bean brownie recipe Makes one 8x8 pan of brownies or 9 servings
You can double the recipe as it will fit in most large food processors - just use 2 baking pans. I've included substitutes that work for vegetarian and vegan versions too :)
-1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, rinsed very well and drained)
-1/2 cup cocoa powder
-1/2 cup brown sugar,  pure maple syrup or agave (Honey works too, but not for strict vegans)
-1/4 cup salted butter, coconut oil or vegan butter
-2 tsp pure vanilla extract
-1.5 tsp espresso powder (or instant coffee) I used some awesome ground espresso from the Italian market
-1tablespoon balsamic vinegar **optional
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate, but you can use semi sweet or milk chocolate if you like it sweeter)
-1/8 tsp of salt (omit if using canned beans)
-2 large eggs or 2 tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 9tablespoons water (for vegan version)
-1/3 cup cornstarch or 1/2 cup vanilla/chocolate flavored instant pudding (most pudding mixes are gluten free but check first before using!)
How to
1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Toss everything except chocolate chips in a food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Stop the food processor at least once to scrape down the sides. Really blend well for at least 5 minutes as you want to ensure all the beans get incorporated.
3) Pour into a 8inch×8inch pan lined with foil or parchment paper (it'll look like there's almost not enough batter). Top with chocolate chips. Bake for 22-25min.
4) Let cool completely before cutting or it will crumble - bean flavor disappears when cool.

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