Black Bean Brownies

I promised one of my friends that I would make her some black bean brownies. She wanted to try them but was struggling to find black beans that were a reasonable price (country living for you lol). Now, I’d managed to source a tin of black beans and had found a recipe for the brownies online. I’d also planned a visit with my sister to meet our friend at Lincoln Christmas Markets so I decided to make some on Friday night to take with us. 

I ended up halving the recipe I’d found as I wasn’t sure how they would turn out and didn’t want to be eating them for the next week. So, with these brownies, the black beans are a substitute for the flour, maple syrup is used as a natural sweetener and cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. You can tell from these changes that the brownie is not going to like the decadent brownies that I’m normally used to. But, I’m all for trying new recipes and healthier alternatives.

The recipe was fairly easy to follow, with everything being thrown into a food processor. You can then add any extra additions like nuts before pouring into the tin. I’ll be honest, I can’t actually remember where my recipe came from. It’s been sat in my pile of ‘recipes to try’ for a while. I adapted it slightly so that I could make eight brownies (it was meant to be six but it would have been more of a cake and not a brownie with the tin size I was going to use).

So…what were they like? The texture was a little drier than a standard brownie. You also don’t get the same rich chocolate flavour. Mine could have done with a little more maple syrup as some thought they weren’t sweet enough (Mr W refused to finish his). I was worried that you would be able to detect the skin of the black beans in the texture but I think having the walnuts in masks any that remain. Your never going to get away with telling people they are a ‘real’ brownie but they are a good alternative for anyone who wants a treat but wants to minimise the amount of refined sugars or needs it to be gluten free. I might try tweaking the recipe a bit to try and get the balance of sweetness right. 

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Black bean brownies (8)

1 tin black beans

115g coconut oil

43g cocoa powder

2 eggs

80 ml maple syrup (may need more)

1tbsp vanilla extract

sea salt

65g walnuts, roughly chopped

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C and line a 6in x 5in tin with greaseproof paper. Rinse black beans and leave to drain whilst you melt the coconut oil.
  2. Place the black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blitz until smooth.
  3. Whilst the processor is still running, slowly add the melted coconut oil. At this stage, if you want to, try the mixture to see if it needs more maple syrup adding. Stir through the walnuts.
  4. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the brownie is firm but springy and the top is slightly cracked.
  5. Leave to cool before cutting into pieces.
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Salted Caramel Brownies

Now, when asked to make a birthday bake that was chocolate related, this recipe was the first that popped in my head. I made it earlier this year when going to visit some friends. There were 6 of us. I went with 16 pieces and returned with none. If that’s not a sign of a good brownie, I don’t know what is. Maybe that Mr W had more than one means it’s a winner seen as he tells me he doesn’t like brownies!!

I found the recipe in an old copy of a Good Food magazine (it has since made an appearance on their Instagram). It’s a fairly easy recipe. The only step I struggle with is the placing of the salted caramel. It asks for 5 thick strips (I can only manage 4) and the strips are never even (I’m a bit of a perfectionist). The first set of strips are placed in between two layers of brownie batter. This time round I had a thinner base layer so the caramel oozed out the bottom a little (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just meant I had more bits stuck to the greaseproof paper to eat 😛 ). The last set of salted caramel strips are placed on top and feathered. I struggled to make the feathering look anywhere as good as Mary Berry’s iced Bakewell tart (remember GBBO pastry week?).

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If you want to make these yummy brownies, see the recipe below. I adapted the original slightly as I feel that the higher end chocolate does not melt as well as the cheaper chocolate. It’s down to preference.

Makes 16 large pieces

Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 397g can Carnation caramel
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • pinch flaky sea salt

Method

  1. Heat oven to 160C fan. Grease then line a 23cm square traybake tin with baking parchment. Melt the butter in a medium pan, break in all the chocolate, then remove the pan from the heat and wait for the chocolate to melt.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 175g of the caramel with 1 tsp salt to loosen. Put the rest of the caramel in a large bowl with the sugar and eggs, and beat with a whisk until evenly combined.
  3. Whisk in the melted chocolate and butter. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa and a good pinch of salt, then sift this on top of the chocolate mix. Beat briefly until smooth.
  4. Pour half the brownie batter into the tin and level it with a spatula. Using a teaspoon, spoon half of the salted caramel on top of the batter layer in 4 evenly spaced strips. Spoon the rest of the brownie batter on top and smooth it out. Try not to disturb the caramel. Top with the rest of the caramel in the same stripy fashion. Drag a skewer or tip of a knife through the caramel to make a feathered pattern on the top.
  5. Scatter with the sea salt flakes, then bake for 25-30 mins or until risen all the way to the middle with a firm crust on top. Let it cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

Prague (and maybe some baking)

The other week, Mr W and I were lucky enough to have a week off work and spent a few days in Prague. It was nice to have a break from work (we hadn’t had more than a few days off since our wedding in May) and it had been on my list for cities to visit for a while. We spent our days walking round the city and taking in the sights. On our first full day we spent the morning walking along the river and taking a stroll through some of the parks before heading to Prague Castle and tackling Petrin hill. We were lucky we chose a clear day to do this as the views were amazing (the weather turned after this).

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The view from Petrin Hill

The next day, as it was raining, we decided to tackle some of the museums. We had three in mind, a couple were mentioned in our guide and the other Mr W had found on the internet. Our first museum was Muzeum Karla Zemana, a film special effects museum. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of this when Mr W told me he wanted to go but I actually quite enjoyed it when I started wandering round the building. It was interesting seeing how he was able to achieve what he did before computers. Next on our list was a Gastronomy museum that Mr W had seen mentioned on Trip Advisor. Turned out, this no longer exists and is currently a building full of rubble. I was slightly disappointed by this as a museum about food sounded like my idea of heaven (well, to an extent). The final museum on our list was a beer museum. Considering beer is so cheap and plentiful in Prague, we felt like it was a tourist thing we needed to do. We went to the address and stepped into the pub (we had read there was a pub as well). We decided to sample some beers before we ventured into the museum. I chose two fruit beers and Mr W chose some more ‘traditional’ beers. It transpired that Mr W preferred my fruit beers, which is a first.

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After drinking up, we ventured next door to what we thought was the museum. Turned out there was no museum, just the pub. Let’s just say, we weren’t feeling inspired to try and find any other museums with our current success rate. But that didn’t put a dampener on our city break. We visited a number of cafes/restaurants and pubs where we tried food , beer and home-made lemonade. I have come back with dishes that I want to try and re-create (potato soup and carlsbad dumplings). We got the chance to visit one of our friends from University who took us to his favourite cafe and suggested a brewery near his work that made the ‘best beer in Prague’. Now, I’m not a big beer drinker but even I managed to have two glasses. One thing we didn’t manage was learning any of the language (no matter how hard we tried).

Over the last couple of days, I have managed to fit in a little baking. On Wednesday I made some Peanut Butter Oreo Brownies to take into work. I’ve been wanting to make these for a while after buying some oreos that had a peanut butter filling but wanted a reason to make them. One of our managers was leaving on Thursday so that seemed a good reason to get them made. If I was to make them again, I would consider making actual peanut butter brownies and adding the oreos to that. In this instance, I followed a Cookies and Cream Brownie recipe from one of my Lorraine Pascale cookbooks. Here’s a link to the recipe online.

I also made another batch of the stem ginger flapjacks as I still had some stem ginger in the fridge (I also gave the pearl barley recipe another go. I love the heat and flavours. It’s becoming a go to recipe when Mr W is out and it’s tea for one). I omitted the dark chocolate topping as I wanted to give some to my mum and dad to try. I cut the flapjack into 12 pieces this time which meant the size was a lot more manageable. I was also able to get a picture of them before Mr W got his hands on them (considering he doesn’t really like them….)

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