Every so often, I come across a recipe that makes me wonder, “Where have you been all my life?” If you ever fantasized about the perfect brownie — dark, rich, and not too sweet — this is it. And get this…it’s actually good for you.

Recently, my toddler was put on a gluten-free, sugar-free diet to get rid of a nasty case of eczema. One day, while surfing the Web for a treat that would satisfy his sweet tooth, I tripped onto a website called Pattycake. It turns out the writer, an adventurous Spanish-born, Canadian-raised cook named Patty who lives the bohemian life in Mexico, loves the challenge of cooking healthfully, without using common allergy triggers such as wheat, sugar, and dairy products. There are a number of wonderful recipes on her website, but this one was irresistible.

What genius cooked up the idea of putting black beans in brownies? Apparently, there have been similar recipes circulating for years. The beans replace the flour and some of the fat without adding any perceptible legume-y taste. But what I love about Patty’s version is the addition of coconut oil, which adds a fragrant, velvety richness to the brownies. Unlike the other recipes, this one uses no dairy products, and even the eggs can be substituted for Vegans. Refined sugar gets swapped with your choice of agave syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, or Patty’s recommendation, carob syrup(also called carob molasses), which you will be lucky to find either online or in a Middle Eastern market.

I have altered Patty’s recipe to fit my format and taste buds, eliminating her Mexican touch, cinnamon. If you prefer a sweeter brownie, don’t be afraid to let the measuring cup overflow. I also add walnuts (and occasionally shredded coconut) for flavor and crunch, which I feel the dense texture necessitates. But if you ask me, these brownies are downright miraculous.

So during those dark moments when the world is getting you down, remember this wondrous recipe. And be sure to thank Patty.

Makes approximately 3 dozen 1-inch brownies

1/3 cup coconut oil or unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing pan
Superfine sugar or rice flour for dusting baking dish
2 cups cooked black beans (about 1-1/2 cans), drained and rinsed
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or honey, or more, to taste
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey, or more, to taste
1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur (or brewed decaffeinated espresso)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons tapioca starch or corn starch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare an 8”x8” (or 10”x7”) glass or ceramic baking dish by greasing it with a little coconut oil and sprinkling it lightly with sugar or rice flour.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, blend together the black beans, eggs, brown rice syrup, agave, Kahlua, vanilla, and coconut oil.

3. In a large bowl, sift together the cocoa, starch, and salt. Whisk in the wet ingredients to blend well. Taste the batter; if you prefer it a little sweeter, add some more syrup or honey. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

4. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish and bake until the batter is set but still wobbly, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into 1-inch squares. Ideally, refrigerate for a few hours to allow the brownies to set. Dust lightly with powdered sugar just before serving. The brownies are even better the next day!

This recipe is from Dana Slatkin, The Beverly Hills Farm Girl. Her site is worth checking out for great recipes.