I would've found it very difficult to comprehend if you told me a couple years ago that I could make brownies with beans. In fact, I wasn't eating brownies a few years ago. I have been on one form of elimination diet or another for so long that my recently-liberated palate is a clean slate. So when I was introduced to the idea of flourless brownies made with black beans, I didn't bat an eye, even when the only black bean I know is found in a Chinese sauce, usually fermented.
The bean I'm most familiar with, however, is adzuki bean, or simply red bean. I count red bean soup as one of my favorite tong sui (literally "sugar water"), which is a Cantonese term for warm dessert soups. And it's not uncommon to find red bean in bread, cakes, pastries and even ice cream. Adzuki bean is naturally sweet and lends itself well to dessert recipes, so you can understand why it makes perfect sense for me to make bean brownies with adzuki instead.
Let's talk about goji berry next. When I was growing up, these little berries made frequent appearances in my chicken soup, and my parents encouraged their consumption for various health benefits. In recent years, they have been showing up in the Western pantry and promoted as a superfood with high antioxidants. While I still include gei-zhi (which is how it's said in Cantonese) in my tonic soups, the fruity berry also has a new place in my oatmeal, granola, yogurt, muffins, cookies, and now brownies...
I suppose incorporating these two ingredients in brownies makes them rather exotic, and it's always a joy watching people's eyes light up after the first bite, especially when they discover what's in them. We are conditioned to expect certain qualities from our favorite foods, but when they are made with healthier ingredients that deliver the same satisfaction without the associated guilt, we hopefully gain a new perspective and appreciation for eating better.
Adzuki Fudge Brownies with Goji Berries (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie. You wouldn't believe that these rich, fudgy brownies are vegan and flourless. The fiber-rich adzuki bean and superfood goji berry are two common ingredients for me growing up in Southeast Asia, and they come together with other nutritious ingredients such as oats and coconut oil for these delicious, guilt-free bites. For the sake of convenience, feel free to use canned adzuki beans. Makes 12 to 16 brownies on a 8”x8” pan.
1 1/2 cups (250g) cooked adzuki beans, drained
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (40g) quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (75g) agave syrup
1/4 cup (40g) coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon dried goji berries
1 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional)
To cook adzuki beans, soak 1 cup dry adzuki beans in a pot of water overnight. Beans will expand in size while soaking so make sure there’s enough water. Drain and replace with 4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for about 1 hour, or until the beans are tender. Drain and let cool. 1 cup dry adzuki beans yields about 3 cups cooked beans.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8”x8” pan with cooking spray. Soak dried goji berries in water and set aside.
Put all ingredients, except chocolate chips, goji berries and cacao nibs, in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick or pasty, add water or non-dairy milk of your choice 1 tablespoon at a time and blend until a smooth texture is achieved. Be careful not to add too much liquid. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
Pour mixture into the pan and spread out as evenly as possible with a spatula. Knock pan on worktop 2 to 3 times to help level the mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips and cacao nibs over the top. Drain the goji berries and sprinkle them over the top.
Bake for 18 minutes. Then let cool before slicing into desired size and serve. If necessary, refrigerate brownies for at least an hour to firm them up. Store leftovers covered in the fridge.