Reading has always been a fundamental part of my life; becoming the character as I read, figuring out clues, taking fantastical journeys through time and space. I have been drawn to historical, fictional, non-fictional, true stories as well as what-ifs; I admit, I enjoy reading Ernest Hemingway. I own a Kindle, so can download from any genre at the swipe of a finger. My true enjoyment comes from a real book, paperback, hard cover, does not matter. It is the feel of the book itself, the weight of it within my hands, the turning of each page as words are devoured within the mind. While the Kindle is convenient, it does not have the same comforting feel.
Recently I finished a novella called The Recipe by Candace Calvert and her specialty genre is “Inspirational”. This genre tends to focus upon religious and/or spiritual aspects, but the amount of focus is dependent on the author. It can be soothing, relaxing, a good mood uplift, and a way to look outside the box, or get your mental act together. I chose to read this novella based upon two aspects; first the cover featured a female wearing an apron with a bowl full of luscious strawberries in front of her. Second was the lead in description, “In this heartwarming romance novella by Candace Calvert, hospital dietary assistant Aimee Curran is determined to win the Vegan Valentine Bake-Off to prove she's finally found her calling. But while caring for one of her patients - the elderly grandmother of a handsome CSI photographer - Aimee begins to question where she belongs.” A little romance, some soul searching, a bake off, and if the reader is lucky, a recipe at the end.
The character, Aimee Curran, creates a vegan brownie recipe featuring a choice of a “mystery” ingredient of her choosing; she chooses black beans. Alright, spoiler, the brownies are a huge hit with the judges and she gets into the finals. The brownies are mentioned several times within the novella, the recipe has to be featured by the author, right? Read the novella for yourself; it can sometimes be frustrating due to what is happening with a particular character, but has a sweet ending in more ways than food.
To answer the question above, no, the black bean brownie recipe was not at the end, but another just as delicious dessert. Now my quest began to find a recipe to play with; five baking books later, no recipe. Online I found plenty, printed a few, baked, and changed ingredients, amounts used until I was happy with my own original version. The batter is thicker than a traditional brownie recipe, after baking thickness only doubles from ¼ inch to ½ inch, color is almost black, and taste is equivalent to eating Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao Chocolate.
By the way, my traditional brownies usually have walnuts or pecans added in; I chose walnuts for this recipe. Also, there is a mention of apple cider vinegar in the recipe; it gives a kick-start to the baking soda to give the batter that lifting ability.
|Traditional Chocolate Walnut Brownie|
Black Bean Brownies
1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup Truvia Baking Blend
1 Tbsp. 2% milk
½ cup unsweetened baking cocoa + 1 Tbsp.
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup walnut pieces and halves, divided in half
Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 9” x 9” baking pan with non-stick baking spray (or what I prefer for brownies, non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle that + 1 Tbsp. of baking cocoa over the bottom and sides of the pan). Sprinkle half of walnuts onto bottom of the pan.
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the beans until a smooth paste; move to a medium size bowl. Add the eggs, Truvia, milk, ½ cup baking cocoa, oil, baking soda, baking powder, and vinegar. On medium speed, mix until smooth; use a spatula to occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl and clean out the mixer blades.
Place batter into pan and carefully spread out to sides (remember, it is thicken than a traditional batter); sprinkle remaining half of walnuts over top.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean; let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into squares (9 or 12).
Now for that Paleo brownie recipe; I found the original recipe (page 21) in the book Paleo Sweets by Kelsey Ale. However, it does call for coconut oil and coconut sugar which I have found not to our liking with baked goods. I will write out the original recipe, in parentheses will be the changes I made. These brownies are almost the same as a traditional brownie in taste, texture and color except not as sweet and the flavor of the walnuts is enhanced.
Paleo Chocolate Walnut Brownies
¾ cup walnut halves and pieces, divided (1 cup divided in half)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (1/3 cup vegetable oil)
4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate (4 oz. bar Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chocolate)
1 cup almond flour (I shifted the almond flour)
1 cup coconut sugar (1/2 cup Truvia Baking Blend)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F; chop and toast ½ cup walnuts on 350F until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Line an 8x8x2-inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside. (I did not toast the walnuts, plus I prepped the baking pan the same as in the Black Bean Brownies recipe).
In a small saucepan, heat the oil and chocolate over low heat until melted, remove from heat and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour and sugar, mix to incorporate. Add the melted chocolate/oil mixture; add the eggs and vanilla, mix to completely combine. Fold in the toasted walnuts.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread to edges. Top with remaining walnut pieces and halves. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool completely before cutting (12-16)
Note: I used a 9” x 9” baking pan and the brownies baked up cake-like; very much like baking traditional brownies 10 minutes longer for the extra rise)
Truthfully, anyone who is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or low carb dependent; either brownie will satisfy. If you have a sweet tooth, and Truvia Baking Blend or coconut sugar will just not do it for you, than use granulated sugar: 1 cup either for the Black Bean or Paleo Brownies.
Read a good book, get some inspiration into your life, and eat a brownie!