I was once given the award of “Best Brownie Baker” in my orchestra because I would often bake brownies and bring them in. They say the way to a man’s (or band’s, in this case) heart is through their stomach(s), right?
Around this time I liked to experiment with different brownie recipes; one of these was made with kidney beans, and I liked to call them “secret ingredient brownies”. My favourite game was to get my family to guess the secret ingredient – it was a lot of fun and surprisingly difficult to guess! The great thing about brownies is that you can put basically anything in there and it’s easy to cover up if you add enough chocolate.
Thinking back on this, I wondered what difference the beans make in terms of adding fibre to a dessert-type food, so I decided to conduct an experiment to find out which brownie recipe my friends prefer if they didn’t know the difference. Would they unknowingly like the healthier one? The options I made were:
- Standard brownie recipe – originally from an advertising brochure, it’s super simple and basically foolproof, as you will see later
- Standard recipe with wholemeal flour instead of white
- Black bean brownies – originally found on the internet a couple of years ago, I made a few tweaks. When I first made these, I couldn’t find black beans in the shops so I used red kidney beans, which also work well. Now that I’ve been able to find some black beans, I decided to give that a go.
Types of fibre
Legumes, such as black beans and red kidney beans, contain soluble fibre, similar to oats. Meanwhile, the bran in wholemeal flour is insoluble. Both of these types of fibre work differently in the body, as shown below:
What differences did it make?
As I expected, swapping half a cup of flour over 24 brownies doesn’t make the hugest difference per brownie – Brownies 1 and 2 differed by 0.2g fibre. I ended up with a slightly larger serve size for Brownie 3 (I cut 20 rather than 24 because of the tin I used), which resulted in a solid 1.8g fibre per brownie (1.1g higher than brownie 2). If I had cut the same number, each brownie would still have 1.5g fibre, which is about double Brownie 2.
Per 100g, the energy and sugar content decreases with each batch, and dietary fibre increases, as you can see below.
Fun fact: 6.25 x Brownie 3 = 1 serve of vegetables! Also about 3 tablespoons of added sugars, so unfortunately still not a health food. 😦 Everything in moderation!
Brownies 1 & 2 – Standard recipe
- 1/2 cup self-raising flour – white (Brownie 1) or wholemeal (Brownie 2)
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup sugar (preferably caster*)
- 125g butter or margarine (melted) or 1/2 cup oil**
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 160oC and grease/line a brownie pan/square cake tin.
- Sift together the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and mix everything together thoroughly.
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until baked to the gooey-ness of your liking. Cool in tin.
*I have used plain white sugar in the past, which worked fine, but this time I used raw sugar because it was there. Since it was coarser, it didn’t mix in as easily, so you could see grains of sugar on top of/in the mixture. Because of this, I reckon caster sugar would make life easier and produce a nicer finished product.
**I used oil, and it was super oily. For some reason it’s taken me a really long time to realise that maybe a melted unsaturated marg would be a better substitute for melted butter than straight oil.
I was convinced these were going to fail because of the visible grains of sugar in, and oil seeping out of, the raw mix, but somehow they came out of the oven still tasting good and you could barely tell. Conclusion: this recipe really must be foolproof!
Brownie 3 – Bean brownies
- 400g can black beans (or red kidney beans), drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup quick oats (traditional is also fine)
- Pinch salt
- 1/3 cup golden syrup
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 – 2/3 cup chocolate bits/chopped chocolate
- Preheat oven to 175oC and grease/line a 20cm square tin.
- Combine all ingredients except chocolate bits in a food processor; process until smooth. Stir in chocolate bits.
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked. Cool in tin.
Which one won the battle?
I took my three types of brownies to band and labelled them 1, 2 and 3 so that people didn’t know what they were. Ultimately, my friends preferred Brownies 1 (standard) and 3 (bean) – 3 came out just on top.
They thought all of them were moist, and liked that Brownie 3 had the chocolate chips too, thereby confirming that you can put anything in a brownie so long as you cover it up with enough chocolate. 😉 The extra chocolate made them pretty rich – as one person said, Brownie 3 was “like eating just the icing from a cake”. It would be interesting to know whether the outcome would have been different if I hadn’t half-messed-up and had put chocolate chips in brownies 1 and 2.
My Best Brownie Baker reputation lives on…