Darcy Lenz Darcy Lenz
September 05, 2013

I am a dessert purist. When I indulge in a hunk of cake, Splenda and cholesterol-free egg product have no place anywhere near it. And in my book, a number of the popular low-fat baking swap-outs, such as exchanging oil for applesauce and mashed bananas for butter, don’t cut it. Too often, such switches come at the cost of consistency and sweet satisfaction. I’m sorry, but when did dessert turn into a demonstration of sacrifice and frustration? Oh yeah--it didn’t.

Anyone attempting to incorporate more healthful baked goods into their recipe boxes should be able to focus on what they’re gaining in the process, not what a recipe is lacking. And this brings us to my preferred health-conscious substitution, the fat-reducing force that is baking with beans. Compromising neither texture nor flavor, incorporating a bean puree in lieu of a portion of the fat found in traditional baked treats adds a major nutritive boost to favorite sweet indulgences...

Fiber:

A diet rich in fiber has been shown to lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, and is linked to maintaining a healthy body weight. Though fiber is a component of plant foods that your body cannot digest and absorb, it may help to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff), and control blood sugar.

Protein:

Yes, protein builds muscle, but it is also essential to building and maintaining strong bones, cartilage, blood cells, hair, nails and skin tissue. Protein is likewise a source for long-lasting energy the helps keep hunger at bay. Like fiber, protein rich diets--especially from lean options such as beans--can provide notable cardiovascular health benefits.

Potassium:

Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential to healthy heart, kidney, muscle, and nerve functions. Being that the main sources of dietary potassium include fruits, vegetables, and legumes, making potassium a priority is a reliable means of maintaining a nutrient-rich diet.

With the recipes that follow, the only sacrifice you need make to gain the nutritive advantages above is taking a few minutes to enjoy dessert. That being said, let us eat cake... and brownies, too.

Cannellini and Coconut Bundt CakeSERVES 16

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted1 tablespoon baking powder1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained1/4 cup softened butter2 cups granulated sugar2 large eggs2 large egg whites1 cup lite coconut milk1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Add the cannellini beans to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, along with 1 tablespoon of the butter.  Whip until beans are almost to a completely smooth puree.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the remaining butter, sugar, and bean puree.  Beat on medium speed until oil and beans are well incorporated (3-5 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

Slow the mixer to low speed and add half of the dry ingredients.  Beat until almost completely incorporated.  Add all of the coconut milk.  Beat until incorporated.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Stop the mixer and remove the bowl.  Use a spatula to fold together and make sure all of the wet and dry ingredients are completely incorporated.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake come out clean.  Try not to over-bake the cake, as it’s dense and can quickly suffer from dryness.

Remove the cake from the oven.  Allow to rest in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Frost with our Creamy Orange Glaze and top with ¼ cup fresh toasted coconut flakes

Black Bean BrowniesSERVES 20

One 15-ounce can unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed4 tablespoon butter, melted3 large eggs½ cup granulated sugar1/4 cup brown sugar1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 teaspoon instant coffee granules1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/16 teaspoon salt1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips6 ounces lightly salted pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place the black beans and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Scrape the processed beans into a mixing bowl.  Beat in the eggs, sugars, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, coffee powder, baking powder, and salt, until smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared pan and distribute pistachios evenly over top. Press the nuts lightly into the batter with the back of a rubber spatula.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares.

Give these bean baked goods a try and let us know what you think? A good swap -- or have we lost our minds?!

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