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My diet contains all sorts of tasty foods based on vegetables, grains, and beans but, sometimes, all I want is dessert.  In an attempt to stick to my way of eating, I’m always looking for healthier forms of desserts: ones based on whole fruits, high fiber grains, and beans.  Yes, that’s right, beans.  I didn’t believe it either but having tried desserts based with beans, I’m becoming a convert.

My first bean based dessert was black bean brownies.  I was skeptical but the result is a dense, fudge-like brownie that’s well worth blowing a diet on.  True, they do have to be eaten within a few days or they get really dry but a pan of brownies doesn’t last all that long around my house anyway.

My second bean based dessert was chocolate chip cookies that had tofu as the secret ingredient.  I’d had some bad luck with tofu-based desserts, was again skeptical, and was again proven wrong.  I prefer chewy cookies and these were perfect.

With both experiments going so well, I was ready to try something new.  I found a recipe for a Great Northern Apple Cake in my Vegan on the Cheap cookbook and the secret ingredient is in the title: Great Northern Beans.

Great Northern Beans are not my favorite.  I find them rather tasteless which I suppose is desirable trait when they’re being used in dessert.  Beans don’t contain a great deal of liquid so I couldn’t help wondering if any cake made with them was be too dry.  There was no way to know but to make it so I gathered the ingredients, hauled out my food processor, and got started.

This cake might be cheap but it’s definitely not quick.  Walnuts must be toasted and chopped; apples cored, peeled, and sauteed in vegan butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice; oats ground to flour, the pan to be lined with apples…there’s a lot of steps, setting bowls aside, reserving liquid…it’s not a recipe I would recommend unless you have a great deal of time and energy.

So…I made this cake twice.  The first time I made it, I got the baking powder out of the cupboard and completely forgot to add it.  I thought the cake looked a little flat when I got it out of the oven but, what did I know?  Maybe a cake made with beans doesn’t rise.  Well, one without baking powder doesn’t and is certainly dense.  I don’t want to say the cake was inedible but it certainly isn’t a dessert I’d crave.  I knew I wanted to try it again but, with the amount of prep time, I put it off.

Then there was a snow storm here and and the weather was perfect for baking.  I dug a can of Great Northern Beans out of the cupboard, collected everything else, and mixed the cake making sure to include the baking powder.

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The cake already looks better than my first attempt

The cake rose!  Who knew!  This one looked much better than the first.  The real test was taste and it isn’t bad.  The apples, brown sugar, and walnuts make a nice caramel-apple topping and the cake is nice and moist.  However, it is missing something.  I don’t know what it is but the cake itself is missing a layer of taste: it’s subtle but it’s missing.  If I’m going to continue to make this cake, some experimenting is necessary.  Maybe cardamom, or chili pepper, or ginger…

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An upside-down apple/white bean cake

On a health note: I ate a piece of this cake with a scoop of cashew milk salted caramel ice cream and woke up with a weird headache the next morning.  I’ve been reading about sugar sensitivity and, while there are a myriad of reasons why I could have a headache; I wondered it was because I’ve been cutting way back on my sugar intake and cake and ice cream were a bit much.  Perhaps, indulging in dessert isn’t such a great idea after all.

Cake and Ice Cream

Is “healthy dessert” an oxymoron?