Ready or Not #172: Substitute Beans for Oil

I’ve been doing some experimenting with beans.  It was actually Connie that got me intrigued.  I’ve taken some bean classes in the past, but unless I wasn’t concentrating the whole time (I can be easily distracted), I didn’t realize that you could substitute beans for oil and shortening.

Yeeeears ago I made brownies with beans.  I made them for a class I was teaching and I wanted to share this tasty, healthy, unconventional treat with the women.  Of course I didn’t tell them what I had done until after they had tasted them.  After that nobody trusted my baking, they always ate it, but they always kidded me when I would bring treats asking me if I had snuck beans into it.  What I found funny was that they had to ask me if I had used the beans; they couldn’t taste them without knowing about them beforehand.

It wasn’t until recently that Connie enlightened me and it finally clicked that the beans were being used to substitute the oil or shortening.  She made some homemade banana nut bread that was delicious!  She baked one batch of bread with beans and another batch with oil.  The only difference that was noticeable was that the bread made with beans didn’t have the telltale oil sign on the napkin.  The breads tasted identical – and they were both delicious.  No bean taste.

She also made whole wheat bread with beans that was incredibly tasty and so I got to thinking how many other foods could have the beans successfully substituted for oil or shortening?  The rule that she followed was simple: if you are substituting oil, smash up the beans and add enough bean juice to make it more liquidy (liquidy is a made up word, but I think that it is very descriptive), not as runny as the oil, but just a little more than mashed beans.  If you are substituting for shortening then you just mash the beans up without the bean juice.  When measuring, the ratio is 1:1 (1 teaspoon of oil to 1 teaspoon of liquidy beans / 1 cup shortening to 1 cup mashed beans).

Another rule that she followed was concerning what bean to use for which recipe.  She said that was the easy part; if you are baking brownies, use black beans, if you are making banana bread or zucchini bread, use pinto beans.  The basic rule is to use whatever colored bean would match your end product.

I started experimenting.  One of my favorite recipes is my Mile High Biscuit recipe and so I thought if that passed the bean test, then I would be happy.  Guess what, they did!  I used Navy beans and I mashed them up and used them instead of the shortening.  The end product was really tasty.  The only difference that I could see was that they weren’t as over-the-top, fall-apart flaky, but they were still somewhat fall-apart flaky; it was more than acceptable.  One thing that I did like better about the bean biscuits is that they stayed moister longer than the shortening biscuits.  My family was very happy with the results – even after I told them.

The next thing that I tried was pie dough.  If I could make a flaky pie dough crust with beans, then nothing could stop me.   Mistake.  Don’t do it – I didn’t work.  That is the one recipe that I didn’t like when using the bean substitution.  My usually flaky and tasty pie crust ended up like flour jerky – and that isn’t an exaggeration.  I made a beef pie and my family ate it; my son even had two pieces.  My husband said that in a real pinch it was acceptable and even edible, but I promised myself that I would never do that again.  I use shortening in my pie recipe, but if you use oil in your recipe it might just work, but for me the flour and beans would be better used to make wonderful biscuits to go along with a tasty beef stew.

A sweet woman from our adult education classes, Shirlene, did a bit of experimenting as well.  She baked cookies with beans and called me with her results.  She couldn’t taste the difference, but her adult daughter thought that she could taste a hint of bean flavor.  What we decided is that if you have very sensitive taste buds that you would want to use the bean substitution with items that involve a lot of flavor like cinnamon and nutmeg.

The good thing about using the beans vs. the oil or shortening is that beans are cheaper and healthier and you don’t have to worry about them going rancid.  As far as I am concerned, substituting beans is a very tasty, viable alternative.  This week I would like to challenge you to use one of your favorite recipes to bake cookies or brownies, or maybe even make a cake for your family, using the beans.  I don’t think that it is important that they know about the substitution, you decide, but I do think that we need to get past the bad reputation that beans have and start using them more often for health reasons and to save money; just use a pre-emptive precaution and buy some Beano – just in case.

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