When I saw this recipe over at 101 Cookbooks, I knew I had to try it. Many Asian desserts use the red adzuki bean and I always like them a lot. I recently bought a loaf of red bean bread, which is similar to cinnamon swirl – except the swirls were a smooth and creamy red bean paste. It was delicious. I wanted to try this recipe with the adzuki beans, but alas, I was short on time and couldn’t find canned adzuki beans. I did buy a bag of dried adzukis for another time, but decided to settle for black beans, at least for now.
I also decided to try three permutations of the recipe. I love butter, but some people watch calories. I subbed out the butter in 2 variations and tried them with applesauce and then with mashed banana. I made three half batches and tested them on my coworkers, friends, and roommates. I think the banana won out in the end, but the applesauce was a close second and (surprisingly) butter was a definite last.
Another change I made had to do with the sweetening method used. I always cut down the sugar when I bake so this time I severely reduced the amount of agave nectar called for. If you like your desserts very sweet, up the amount of agave nectar to up to a 1/2 cup for the recipe listed below. You can also substitute honey for agave nectar at a ratio of 1:1. If you don’t know where to find agave nectar, try Trader Joe’s or any local health food store.
I made three half batches, so I’m going to list the recipe for a half-batch below.
- In the first version, I used creamy unsalted butter.
- In the second I used unsweetened applesauce.
- In the third I used mashed banana.
This is how (my version of) the recipe goes.
Adapted from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature’s Ultimate Sweetener by Ania Catalano.
Black Bean Brownies
- 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter OR 1/2 cup applesauce OR 1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
- 1 cup soft cooked black beans, drained
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 cup instant coffee
- dash of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9×9-inch pan with wax or parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray (optional – but makes for much easier removal, as I found out. I did not use the spray, and mine stuck to the paper.)
- Melt the chocolate and butter/applesauce/banana in the microwave (about 1 minute). Stir to melt completely. Place the beans, 1/4 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a few spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into a food processor. Mix on high until creamy, about 1.5-2 minutes. The beans should be smooth.* Set aside.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the rest of the walnuts, the remaining chocolate mix, the instant coffee, and the salt. Mix and set aside.
- In another bowl, beat the eggs until light and creamy (I did this by hand and didn’t get them as creamy as I would have liked; the brownies turned out fine anyway). Add the agave nectar and set aside.
- Add the bean mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring well. Then add in most of the egg mix, saving a few tablespoons to drizzle on top.
- Pour the batter into your baking pan. Beat the remaining egg mixture a big more, then drizzle overtop of the batter. Using a toothpick, mix around the batter and egg drizzle to create a marbled effect.
- Bake about 35-40 minutes, until brownies have set. You can use a clean toothpick to determine whether they are done. Let cool, then cut into squares. It’s best if you refrigerate them before cutting as they are quite soft.
These are the ones with applesauce (I mixed the beans a little bit longer than I did with the buttery batch, so they look very smooth):
The butter ones are pictured at the beginning of this post – as you can see, they are a little more chunky than either the applesauce or banana ones! As I kept on making batches, I learned the proper times for mixing the beans and the appropriate amount of egg mixture to reserve for drizzling. It all comes down to personal preference, so bake as you like!
*Note: In Asian desserts, sometimes the red beans are whole. If you want more of the bean flavor in these brownies, don’t blend them too long in the food processor. When I make these with red beans I’m only going to mix for about 30 seconds to keep some of the beans from being completely mashed.