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Wednesday, August 17

Gapers Block

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If you've been reading this column long, then you know I'm not a baker. I prefer to dabble in the world where it's OK to measure a tablespoon of something in the palm of my hand. With baking, one must be precise, consistent and exact. Three things that I'm good at, but only outside of the kitchen.

Inside the kitchen I'm likely to open a cabinet and browse until I find something that I think will add what I'm looking for to a dish. It's OK to substitute ingredients when cooking a dish, but when baking its not as easy to make substitutions.

However, I've recently had two friends begin a wheat-free diet. And it occurred to me that wheat free = no brownies. I was devastated for them. I don't often get a sweet tooth, but I do love a good brownie, and I know they both do as well.

So I began doing some internet research and came across a recipe for black bean brownies. I intended to try it, but a friend beat me to it. When I found out that the entire tray of brownies ended up in the trash can, I was glad that I hadn't been forced to make that decision. The problem was they were too bean-flavored, and too gooey.

While making dinner one evening, I pulled a can of garbanzo beans out of the cupboard and had a thought: "Garbanzo beans have much less of a bean flavor than black beans do. I wonder if I could substitute the beans?" So I gathered the few ingredients I needed and gave it a whirl, quite literally, in my blender.

I baked them. The flavor wasn't bad, the texture was a bit too gooey and a bit gritty, but overall I was pleased enough with them to share them friends. And since the daughter of these friends didn't realize she'd been slipped a healthier (I did not say healthy, just healthier) version of one of her favorite treats, I decided to keep experimenting with the recipe I'd found to figure out what I had to do to make it better.

And I believe I've done just that. Now, I won't say that this recipe is perfect. However, I will say that the protein and fiber present in the beans makes it a healthier option for even for people who aren't allergic to wheat. And the texture of the beans doesn't mar the brownie recipe since it is a brownie, and not a light-crumb cake.

And, best of all, it's very easy. And did I mention it is made in a blender (or food processor)? No need to cut butter into flour or use a hand-mixer or anything else like that. Simply add the ingredients in a specified order and puree, pour and bake. It's easy enough that I'm slowly getting over my fear of baking, and tasty enough that I think I'll be bringing these to future gatherings where a sweet treat is expected.

Garbanzo Bean Brownies
2 cups of canned garbanzo beans
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (be sure to look for brands suitable for celiacs if that is a concern)
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of chickpea flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch cake pan and set aside. Add the eggs to a blender or food-processor. Drain the liquid from the beans and rinse. Drain off as much liquid as possible and add the beans to your blender. Run on the puree setting until the mixture seems very smooth. This will take several minutes. You'll have some air bubbles in the mix, but if it looks like it is starting to become a meringue, stop.

Melt your chocolate chips in a double boiler or in your microwave. Turn the blender to a low setting and add a few tablespoons of the chocolate to the mix. Let it blend for several seconds and then slowly add the rest of the chocolate. This is called tempering, and will keep you from scrambling the eggs like you would if you added the mixture all at once. You'll likely have to scrape the sides of the blender down with a spatula every so often, just make sure to do this while the blender is off.

Once the mixture is all the same color, add the sugar and vanilla. Puree for another minute or two, until it seems like the sugar is fully incorporated. Now add in the flour and the baking powder and puree until the flour is also throughly incorporated. Pour the contents of the blender into your baking dish (a metal pan will work better than a glass one) and place in the middle rack of your oven for 60 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the brownies and once it comes out clean, or mostly clean, you're ready to remove it from the oven. Your baking time will vary. It took me 70 minutes before the brownies seemed done enough. Once you remove the pan from the oven, let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before turning the brownies out onto a decorative plate or cutting from the pan and serving.

If I knew more a about baking, I may know how to make these brownies seem even more like a regular brownie. The top has tended to get very crumbly and the center of the dish tends to be much softer than I would like. I added the chickpea flour, which helps the gooey center to a huge degree, but it's still harder to cut cleanly than I would like. And the top tends to crack and crumble away from the rest of the brownie. My internet skills did not help me find a solution. If you have a suggestion on how to make the recipe better, or have a recipe for another gluten-free dish, feel free to add it in the comments.

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ESY / April 14, 2008 10:12 AM

I just made these last night without the nuts. They turned out pretty good, gooey. I have not tested them on anyone else yet, so I may be biased on the 'good' part.

Shylo / April 14, 2008 11:00 AM

This isn't gluten-free, but I do a fun brownie recipe with shredded beets. Super moist and low fat. Also vegan.

Thanks for the options, Cinnamon.

Kate / April 14, 2008 11:45 AM

Interesting! Do you think you could use regular flour if gluten weren't a concern?

rachel / April 14, 2008 12:17 PM

Maybe add some cornstarch or arrowroot powder to help dry it out? Also, maybe refrigerating it overnight before eating might help with the texture and cutting.

annie / April 15, 2008 11:35 PM

I just made ravioli stuffed with garbanzo beans and the recipe actually called for garbanzo bean flour. not sure if that is still gluten free, but if you can find it, maybe that will help. I also suspect that if you buy dried garbanzo beans and run them in the food processor until they are fine enough that might work.

Cinnamon / April 23, 2008 10:15 AM

Chickpea flour, gram flour, or garbanzo bean flour are all the same thing and they're all delightfully gluten free.

And I ruined my food processor bowl so I had to use the blender which should have had the same effect.

And I'm looking up recipes for garbanzo bean raviolis now. Thanks for the idea, Annie.

Kirsti / April 26, 2008 3:10 PM

I have made espresso brownies that have black beans in them. I found the recipe in a cookbook called Stealth Health. The espresso powder helps cover up the bean flavor.

Making the brownies was fun, and each little brownie had as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread. However, making them reminded me that I hate the smell and the look of black beans as well as their taste. Wah, waaah.

Brandy / June 16, 2008 10:24 AM

Great recipe, Cinnamon! I tried these this weekend. I made two changes:
1. I didn't have chick pea flour, so I threw in about 1/3 c. all purpose gluten free baking mix
2. I used 2 pans, vs. 1.

Mine turned out GREAT! Not soft, nice and cake-y.

I look forward to trying this one again and again!

Brandy / October 20, 2008 4:21 PM

Just have to say again - Thank you for this genius recipe, Cinnamon. I've made these a few more time and they are great.

And since I bake mine in two pans, I discovered that it's VERY easy to halve the recipe. Now I can make these in one pan and the same time I'm making a pan of my favorite wheat free cornbread.

Happy (gluten free) baking!

Jenn/Yana / November 16, 2008 2:15 PM

I wonder what this would turn out if you used a white bean like canellini. I know I read about someone using white beans as both a fat substitute in baking and it working out really well.

Leaminda / July 2, 2009 10:53 PM

Thank you so much. Made them yesterday and used a 9 x 12 pan. I also put icing on them as it was a special birthday brownie. OMG. We loved them! Oh yes... I added 1/4 c of butter to be on the decadent side. Paid off.

joe greco / February 8, 2010 2:52 PM

Buckwheat flour(gluten free) goes well with cocoa and chocolate. People who ate the brownies thought they were normal wheat ones.


About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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