Some unresolved thoughts about white bean paste

beanpaste.jpg

Usually when I put a recipe up here, it's something that's been fully resolved: that is, I've tried it out for myself (in most cases several times over), and I know that it works. This one is a bit different, but I thought I'd write about it in-progress, as it were, anyway.

For the past few weeks, I've been making batches of the same thing - white bean puree - at least once a week. This is just plain old white beans (sold around here as haricots blanc or Weissbohnen, known in the U.S. as navy beans I think) that are cooked until they are just about falling apart, drained and then whirled in a food processor until totally smooth. One reason I've been rather obsessed with this bean puree is because nutritionally it's quite interesting - a balance of protein and carbohydrates, and vegan to boot. But I'm also very taken by its starchy creaminess. Oh, and it's also really inexpensive.

I am still not sure what the best way to flavor the bean puree is. Here are some of the experiments I've done so far.

Sweet

White bean paste is the base of shiroan (白あん), which is used as a pale colored alternative to azuki an, azuki (adzuki) bean paste, in traditional Japanese sweets. But the recipes I've seen for making shiroan call for an astonishing amount of sugar - a minimum of 2 parts sugar to 3 parts dry beans in weight. I've experimented with much less sugar, but the minimum amount that seems to make a difference taste-wise is about 150 grams of sugar to 500 grams of pre-cooked weight dry beans. That's far less than the traditional recipes. Adding some salt with the sugar (about 1 1/2 tsp. for 500 grams dry weight in beans) makes it taste a lot sweeter, paradoxically.

If this is dried out enough to stiffen the puree into a paste, it can be formed into little balls. As a looser puree, it's interesting to eat with cut up fruit like mango and banana.

Maple syrup can be used instead of white sugar, but this makes for a looser puree because of the higher water content in the syrup. (And I go up to 200 g of maple syrup to 500g of dry-weight beans). This makes the puree taste very maple-y, of course.

I've also tried whirring it in a food processor with tofu, to make a thicker version of this tofu pudding. This was moderately successful - the texture improved, but the tofu flavor seemed to totally take over the white beans. Adding some cocoa powder made it into a thick and fairly tasty chocolate pudding though. Adding pureed bananas made it even better.

Savory

White bean paste makes a very nice hummus, following the recipe on this page - though the traditional chickpea base is just as good, if not better.

It does make an interesting thickener for a soup - just add blobs of puree to a vegetable soup base. This could make it interesting for people with gluten problems, and certainly would is a very filling main-meal vegan soup. (Pasta e Fagioli, white beans cooked in a broth with pasta added later, is a classic Italian bean soup.)

I'm still not entirely happy that I have hit on the right combinations though. The experiments continue.

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