It’s 3:29pm and my stomach’s grumbling. I’m losing my focus on the shop floor and not feeling entirely right. I’m noticing myself drop the charm with customers, which I’m so full of early in the day, when it hits me:
Suddenly it’s 3:30 and I race off to the lunch room to have a break, opening the fridge as I try to remember what I brought as a snack. Crackers and hummus, I think, how exciting. Tomorrow I swear I’ll bring something better. The next day, it’s much the same. And the next, and the one after that. Guess what? Not tomorrow, because I’ve got a lil’ somethin’ up my sleeve.
Tomorrow as I sit down with my cup of tea, I’ll grin from ear to ear remembering that something beautiful awaits me. That beautiful thing, my friends, is made of beans, and it holds the power to single-handedly tackle my mid-afternoon slump. Let me introduce you, or most likely reintroduce you, to my black bean cookies.
Let’s get one thing out of the way before the cookie talk starts. Yes, these cookies are made from beans. Beans?! I hear you say? You got it, girl. I want you to cast away an pre-conceived notions of what these might taste like, as well as any foul experiences with the legume kind. This recipe will be to you what group counselling is to members of Alcoholics Anonymous, because we’re about to make breakthrough. Why? Let’s hit it.
Beans are your friends
Black beans, and legumes of all kinds, are pretty groovy if you ask me. These little babies are packed full of dietary fibre, helping keep your digestion moving smoothly. The fibre also has the bonus of swelling and absorbing water, keeping you full for longer (hence why they work so well as a snack at work!). They have so much going for them, in fact, that one cup of cooked beans contains 60% of your dietary fibre recommendations, 15 grams of protein and a heap of both folate and thiamin.
They’re also home to a group of powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, the same ones that give blueberries, beetroot and other brightly hued vegetables their colour. These compounds protect against, and may even help repair, damage in our cardiovascular system as well as preventing against cell damage in our eyes. Free radicals are angry little atoms that roam around our body stealing from healthy molecules. When they steal from a healthy molecule, that victimized little molecule becomes a free radical itself, running around wreaking havoc on other healthy molecules. It’s a chain reaction that can keep on going until something stops it. If that reaction isn’t stopped, it can cascade to the point of actually damaging the living cell, potentially causing disease. Luckily our incredible bodies naturally deal with our own free radicals, but the problem is we’re exposed to more than our bodies can ideally handle. In comes an antioxidant to the rescue, grabbing that rogue free radical and neutralising it, stopping the endless cycle damage. If eating black beans can help your body fight illness before it even starts, then who else is down for a cookie?!
It has to be acknowledged that beans also have a reputation for increasing gassiness, too. This actually doesn’t have so much to do with how we digest them, but rather how what lives inside of us digests them. Because beans contain these fun things called oligosaccharides, a group of sugars that our digestive system can’t quite break down, we have to call in the reinforcements. For the bacteria that call our lower gut home, these sugars are an easy task and they soon get to work. The by-products of their sugar feast, however, is gas, which obviously has to go somewhere and we end up getting the blame. So the next time someone tells you that beans make them gassy, let them know it’s not their fault, it’s actually the bacteria inside of them eating their leftovers. Who wouldn’t be comforted by that?
Now, onto the cookies. I want you to imagine the fudgiest, chocolatiest (I swear it’s a word) cookies you could possibly get your hands on. Now, imagine that they were good for you. Welcome to reality because that’s what we’ve got on hands here! These cookies are rich and moist, with a perfect bitter note from the cocoa peeking through. They keep well, not that you’ll ever see them last in my house, and they travel well too. They’re sweet, but not too sweet, from the caramel-y dates that lend their fruit sugars to the mix. Oh, and did I mention there are dried figs, too? What a wonderful world this is.
It’s worth noting that I can’t take credit for this whole recipe, as countless others have posted versions of a black bean cookie and I’ve read and tried elements from several of them (if you’re in the mood for something with a little chili bite, try Sarah Britton’s cookies on My New Roots). What I struggled to find, though, was one that a) didn’t use eggs or butter – I wanted a vegan version if at all possible – and b) used dates as a sweetener. This recipe is an amalgamation of other tried and true versions and my own playing around.
Let’s have a look how easy it is, too. You bung most of the ingredients in a food processor and blend.
Scrape it out, and fold in whatever you want. I chose dried goji berries and figs because I LOVE the crunch of fig seeds in baking and gojis were cheap at my local bulk bin. This is totally the point where you can feel free to add in
heaps of chocolate whatever tickles your fancy. Okay, let’s be honest, you’d be crazy not to add in some chocolate too. For the antioxidants, of course…
Mix, mix and mix until it’s all reasonably uniform. Roll into balls, squish, and bake. Easy as pi- uh, cookies.
These cookies are so easy to make it’s a little alarming at first. There’s no gluten to worry about, so you can squish and squash it to your heart’s content without toughening your end result. No eggs to crack, no separate dry and wet mixes, and the food processor does all the hard work for you. All you have to do is stick on some music, make up your dough, roll a few balls and pop ’em in the oven. Meanwhile, you can turn up the volume and dance around in the intoxicating chocolate aromas and the sweet sounds of your favourite tunes. If you’re anything like me it’ll be this or this that gets the cookie party going.
Be wary of any invaders – i.e. small children, siblings, cats – that may want to “just taste” the dough. I always tell Mum that I’m “just tasting” the apple crumble topping, but I don’t really think a tablespoon-full passes as just tasting…
CHOCOLATE BLACK BEAN COOKIES
You could certainly use canned beans if that’s what you have on hand. I tend to soak and cook up a large batch to keep in the freezer, but both would work equally well. If using canned though, you might not need to add as much water. Also, you could definitely use chia seeds to replace the flaxseed.
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed + 2 1/2 tablespoons water
Scant 2 cups cooked black beans
2 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee or other cooking fat
1/3 – 1/2 cup cocoa powder
one good pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup date puree (see bottom of post)
2/3 cup dried gojis, figs, chocolate, nuts or your favourite add-ins
Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a baking sheet with greased paper.
To begin, mix the ground flaxseed with the water and set aside.
Into the food processor, add the beans, coconut oil, cocoa and sea salt. Whizz for ten or so seconds until the beans start breaking up. Add in your date puree and the flaxseed mixture and process until you reach a thick paste. There should be no whole (read: obviously identifiable) pieces of bean remaining. You may need to add water one tablespoon at a time to achieve the consistency, depending on how dry your beans and date puree are.
Scrape out your dough, or remove the chopping attachment from the processor jug, and fold in you add-ins. We’re now ready to roll!
Place a small bow of water by you, and with wet hands form the dough into golfball-sized blobs on your baking sheet. Don’t worry too much about spacing them evenly as they barely spread at all when baking. Keeping your hands wet, flatten your balls into lil’ discs about 1/2″ thick and place into the oven. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until you can’t stand the smell any longer.
// MAKES ABOUT 18 COOKIES
Because they don’t contain any animal products, they keep fine in a closed container at room temperature for 3-4 days or up to a week in the fridge.
To all New Zealanders and Australians, happy Anzac Day. I was up at quarter to 5 this morning for the dawn parade, but considering what so many lived and died through I think it’s the least we can do. I’m going to have myself a cookie and appreciate how fortunate I am to call such a lovely country home.