I have been kind of obsessed with Pinto Bean Brownies for the last month or so and no doubt if you try them you will be too.
It all started while researching an article about pressure cooking. Like most yachties I own a PC, they are very handy pots, especially while on passage. Just the design of a pressure cooker, with its positive locking lid, makes it a whole lot safer to cook with while the boat is bouncing around in a seaway. That cooking times are reduced up to 70% is an added bonus as it means a whole lot less time standing in front of that much safer but still heaving pot. But, I had to admit while preparing to write the article that I really hadn’t explored pressure cooking much beyond the standards; beans, stews, soups, grains, one-pot meals. I figured if I was going to put 2000 words on paper I should try a few new recipes and see how versatile my PC could be.
Last year while Steve was away working I spent a week experimenting with steaming bread in the pressure cooker. I ended up with some good results. The funny round loaves, the result of using the only stainless bowl that would fit in my PC, was slightly more dense than traditionally baked bread but had a nice crumb and, with a little extra browning, a good crust. I didn’t hear any complaints from the people in the anchorage who got a loaf that week but it didn’t really seem like it showcased the pressure cooker. The process still took 30mins, no quicker than my usual stove top bread baking method.
I was thinking a dessert recipe would be a fun experiment but the majority of the recipes I found were for cheesecake – delicious unless you have a dairy allergy like me. I found a nice Wine Poached Pear recipe and although they happen to be one of my favourite desserts (AND I can actually buy pears in Palau) I have poached enough pears while cooking on super yachts. Besides, I kind of drank the bottle of “good cooking wine” that I bought for the experiment.
Enter the Bean Brownie.
Then I stumbled upon a gluten free, lower fat, not too sweet brownie recipe that not only called for cooked beans but that was actually “baked” in a pressure cooker. It sounded too good to be true. I had to try it.
I followed the recipe I found on hippressurecooking.com to the letter but I since I could not find any borlotti beans I used what I had on board; white beans. I was very excited about the prospect of “baking” in my pressure cooker and I was happy with the results, mostly. The texture wasn’t quite right; I suspected that my beans were a little old and that was the problem. It also lacked any background flavour, any spice. The batch gotten eaten but there was room for improvement.
Apparently GF Bean Brownies are so three years ago. What can I say, living on a voyaging sailboat without dedicated WIFI means that I am out of touch with World News half the time, the latest food trends don’t really make it onto my radar. But this did mean that I found several recipes and variations online. Now with a general know-how of the PC baking method and idea of what the finished result should turn out like I could make modifications to the recipe. I could make it my own.
The next batch I used black beans. The brownies were tasty but I didn’t really like the flavour the black bean imparted and the beans didn’t completely break down when mashed. No matter how I cook them, my black beans are always a little al dente – great for meals but not great for silky smooth brownies. I wanted a bean that had a nice subtle flavour and would mash into a creamy, even texture. With the recent return of all things Mexican in the grocery stores shelves in Palau I decided to try pinto beans. I also decided to add a little spice throwing in a healthy dose of cinnamon and, just for fun, a spoon full of chili powder. I was inspired by the amazing mole sauces that I ate in Oaxaca, Mexico, way back when we first started sailing south on Kate. And, because I had a half a bar of not great chocolate in the fridge, I chunked it up and mixed it in too.
The results were pretty amazing. The cinnamon made the brownies seem extra chocolatey, or maybe it was the occasional melted chocolate chunk. The chili powder added a nice, subtle kick to wake up your tongue at the end but had a slightly powdery feel to it. That night as even Steve was enjoying an after dinner sweet he suggested I use a spoonful of his homemade chili oil instead. As always, his taste buds were right. The next batch of brownies was the winner.
Because this recipe uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate and only has ½ cup of sugar in it I don’t find it as sickly sweet as many brownies can be. High in protein and lower in fat I love to have a brownie with a cup of coffee for a mid-morning snack, not to mention as a decadent after dinner treat.
I haven’t tried this recipe with whole canned beans but with a thorough draining I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. The other day I wondered if refried beans would work, save the hassle and mess of using my wee little food processor. I guess I’ll just have to make another batch and find out! Keep ya posted.
Gluten Free Pressure Cooker “Baked” Pinto Bean Brownies
Because these are baked in a pressure cooker they have a lovely creamy texture but they are wetter than a traditional oven baked dessert. If you think that these will last more than a day on board (good luck!) then I suggest you keep them in the fridge to prevent mold. Refrigeration also firms them up a bit. If you wanted to use this recipe at home in you could certainly throw them in the oven and bake at 350◦ F/180◦C until a toothpick comes out clean, try 15 minutes to start and cook in 5 minute intervals from there so prevent burning.
1 Cup Dried Pinto Beans (This ends up being about 2 ½ Cups Cooked Beans)
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup Cocoa
2 tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Chili Oil*
Optional: ½ Cup Chocolate chunks or nuts
*Steve makes his own chili oil by filling a small jar 1/3 with clean and blemish free birds-eye chilis and topping up with good quality oil, this time it was olive oil but light veg oil would work as well. Make sure the chilies are submersed, or at least coated if they want to float to the top, they will eventually sink. Leave in a cool dark cupboard for 4-8 weeks. Check heat before use.
Soak dried beans in plenty of water for 4-6 hours, or until full rehydrated. Change the water 2-3 times during soaking and after beans are hydrated; this helps reduce the sugars that give beans their “magical fruit” reputation. Cook beans in PC with water and a splash of oil to prevent foaming for 15 minutes at 15PSI. Release pressure naturally, open pressure cooker and drain beans. While the beans are still warm place in a food processor and puree until smooth, adding the oil if mixture is sticking. If you wait until the beans are cool the puree will be lumpy. Open food processor and cool until just warm to touch, this ensures the eggs will not scramble. Add the eggs and sugar and blend well. Sift cocoa, cinnamon, chili and baking powder into batter and blend until smooth and uniform.
Oil a cake pan that will fit into your pressure cooker. Cut a round of wax paper and place in bottom of pan to prevent sticking. Pour half the batter into the pan, sprinkle with chocolate chunks or nuts and pour in the remaining batter.
Place a trivet or steaming basket in the bottom of the pressure cooker and add at least 1 cup water, or just enough to touch trivet. Lower cake pan into the pressure cooker, if it is a tight fit try using a length of folded tin foil as a lifting sling.
Lock lid into place and bring to 15 psi, turn down burner to maintain pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let naturally release for 6 minutes then use a quick release method. Remove pan from PC and cool on baking rack for 10-15 before turning out of pan and removing wax paper liner.
Let cool completely before serving…if you can!