Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vegan Black Bean Brownies, Redux.

Lately, I have no idea what kitchen adventures are in store for me as I begin my day. Today ended up being warm enough to venture around town and do some errands in a t-shirt, certainly not the weather that conjures up the making of brownies...

But in my supermarket stupor, which does happen when I don't go shopping very often, I found myself wandering around just looking for things to spend money on. And, I did it. I spent money on something I said I would never spend money on again: canned beans.

But really, I did it for the greater good. Last December I made these Vegan Black Bean Brownies and they were alright, even tasty, but not perfection. I've been meaning to make them again ever since. Last time, I overcooked my beans in the pressure cooker, and used an amount that I had weighed and mentally noted to be an equivalent to a 15 oz. can. So when I paid hard earned cash on a can of Goya beans today, I deconstructed their weights and contents thoroughly, in relationship to the original recipe posted at No Meat Athlete, so I can slip this recipe into my uses for beanery in the future.

My Findings:

1 15.5 oz. (439 g.) can of Goya black beans contains:
  • 7 3/4 oz. or 220 g. of actual beans (a scant 2 cups)
  • a can of liquid equals 14 oz. or a scant 1 3/4 cups by liquid volume
  • 1610 mg. of sodium!
Enter the soapbox, please, since I did not realize that there is so much salt in a simple whole food like beans. I'm sure the amount varies by brand, and I know there is a canned bean market for "low sodium" audiences. When I checked out the U.S. Dry Bean Council website (yes, there is such a thing), dry beans are virtually nil in the sodium department. When I read Michael Rulman's book The Elements of Cooking a couple months back, I recall reading a passage about the usage of salt in home cooking. In essence, he advocates using salt to flavor food to your taste, and now I can see that if I add a pinch of salt (probably less than 500 mg.), it is an unbelievable low amount if compared to a processed food of the same type. If you are a home cook and rarely eat processed foods, sodium consumption truly is of no issue to you - unless of course you have a medical condition requiring you to eat extremely low amounts of sodium. Just think, if a can of supermarket black beans is that salty, think of what is in other more "processed" foods, and how as a nation, we are training our tongues to look for this substitute for flavor in everything. OK, I'm done.

I'm by no means the most virtuous of eaters, mind you, I am obsessively deconstructing a brownie recipe after all. And with the subplot of trying to sneak in some non-cereal nutrition for the Boy-O, I cut the sugar back more than I did before. I think these articles that I've been reading about sugar being more addictive than cocaine (thanks, Mike G.) are absolutely true, and the more I read about the questionable refining processes of supposedly healthy sugar alternatives like agave syrup, the more I feel like just eating plain old sugar (or honey), and just eating less of it.

So, without further delay, here is the Vegan Black Bean Brownie, served with non-vegan (but perfectly worth it) Cayenne-Cinnamon Whipped Cream!

Vegan Black Bean Brownies with Cayenne-Cinnamon Whipped Cream (adapted from Christine at No Meat Athlete)

Makes a 9x13 pan (notations in parenthesis for a half recipe: 9x9 pan)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (3/4 c.)
  • 1 t. salt if using unsalted beans (1/2 t.)
  • 1 t. baking powder (1/2 t.)
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar, raw or granulated (3/4 c.)
  • 1 1/4 c. cocoa powder (1/2 c. + 2 Tablespoons)
  • 4 t. espresso powder (2 t.)
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (3/4 c.)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well or substitution as listed above: scant 2 c. (scant 1 c. or half a can of beans)
  • 14 oz. or scant 1 3/4 c. water (7 oz. or scant 1/2 c. + 6 Tablespoons)
  • additional 1 c. water (1/2 c.)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract (1/2 t. )
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish (9x9 for the 1/2 amount). Mix dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Puree beans in water using a food pro or blender. Add to the dry ingredients along with the additional water and the vanilla extract, and mix until well combined. Fold in walnuts, and spread into a pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges pull away slightly, and middle is set. Tester should come out mostly clean, but this is a judgment call on how well done you like your brownies.

When they are cooling, make the whipped cream: Beat an amount of heavy cream, an amount suitable to your needs, for 1 minute. Add a Tablespoon or two of confectioner's sugar, and as much cayenne as you like. I like mine pretty spicy, so to about a 1/2 c. of cream, I added a 1/2 t. cayenne. Cinnamon to taste, as well, I used about 3/4 t. for my amount of cream. Continue beating on high until cream is whipped and fluffy.

Now, I'm betting you could add a whole host of chocolate complements to the whipping cream if spicy with chocolate isn't really your thing. And if it is, and you aren't trying to inundate your child with hidden beans, you could add the spice right into the batter. I'm going to get some chipotle powder during my next Spice House trip, and maybe try that in my next batch. If you find that you need even more chocolate, you can also add in a cup or so of bittersweet chips - I used mint chocolate chips in the one I made last year, and that wasn't a bad choice either.

This is exactly the kind of dessert I get excited about (even if I may be the only one around here...), since it is dessert, but it is healthy enough that I don't feel too guilty about eating it every day until it's gone. Fortunately, I'm going to see R1 tomorrow, and half of my 9x13 pan will make its way over to her hungry and non-picky brood. I wish I could give it to them straight out of the oven, which is how I would serve it at a party. The middle was like a fudgy, thick English Pudding, and the spicy whipped cream melted into the top. In fact, I thought I'd just take some pictures and save it for later, but that wasn't going to happen after I took a bite... I ate my dessert at 4 p.m. today.

If you prefer sweeter desserts, or more traditional tasting brownies, I'd urge you to use the full amount of sugar from the original recipe: 2 1/4 cups. With or without any of the variations, I hope that if you do try these, you will be as enamored as I am.


  1. That whipped cream rocks. And I have heard the furor about vegan black bean brownies. Fudgey brownies are the ONLY kind of brownies in my book. So, here I am drooling... and it's too late at night for me to do anything about it.

    As for canned beans... sodium is explicitly why I buy Eden brand beans (well, when I actually buy beans... been cooking/freezing them lately). Lowest sodium I've found. And good texture ... for a canned bean.

  2. I cannot believe that sodium content: thanks for the bean deconstruction and the awesome rant! loved it! the brownie recipe sounds great -
    i love deserts that a secretly healthy. i made a beet chocolate cake last year that was great and the recipe included a frosting made with dark chocolate, silken tofu, vanilla and maple syrup. i thought it was going to be gross, but it was actually really good!

  3. I've been wanting to make a beet chocolate cake for a long time! Got to add it to the list!

  4. I've wondered about these black bean brownies...they do look really good.

  5. Are you serious? These look fantastic!! And it would be great with my recent kitchen staple, raspberry-chipotle sauce:)

  6. Otehlia,
    I so wish I could eat a bowl of your chipotle-raspberry sauce...but I fear that raspberries have decided to make me allergic. I think I could have a taste if someone else served it, but last year I made a raspberry coulis for someone and I think even handling too many of them was a bit dangerous. I still can't believe it! I love raspberries! I could see mixing a bit of chipotle in with the brownie batter, though!


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