It all started during my senior year of college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a nutrition major, I had learned the health risks of consuming excess sugar but observed that most people (myself included) weren’t going to give up dessert.
To balance my dream of opening a bakery with my desire to help people find improved health, I began adapting recipes in line with my mission: to provide baked goods that were a little lower in sugar and higher in nutrients, so that people could indulge and still feel good.
I had eaten black bean chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday and thought, “This is amazing — why aren’t there a whole line of bean treats?” Bean cakes, bean breads, bean cookies...
When it came time to choose an honors thesis, I proposed a unique idea to my advisor: What if I studied the health benefits of beans, and created a cookbook for baked goods made with beans? Thus, the Hidden Bean was born.
I spent a memorable senior year researching the nutritional science of beans and experimenting with favorite family recipes to incorporate beans, typically substituting for some combination of flour, eggs and oil. Many products ended up being gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan, though this was not the original intent.
I surveyed fellow students and community members to gather feedback and gauge the acceptability of the treats. I analyzed the nutritional profile of each recipe and compared it with that of traditional baked goods. Bean treats were indeed higher in protein, iron, potassium and fiber. In theory, they also had a lower glycemic index (meaning they would make your blood sugar rise more slowly) due to the increased fiber and protein content.
I printed four copies of the cookbook and said I would publish it “later” when I had more time to further improve the recipes. Someday, I said, I would live on a farm in the mountains and open a bean bakery.
Following college, I put baking on the back burner as I moved to Boston, became a registered dietitian, and began my career working at a Boston hospital. I loved so many things about this work, but I also missed the more hands-on, creative work of baking and cooking.
So, I moved to a farm in the mountains — to Earth Sky Time Community Farm and Bakery in Manchester, Vt. Here, I learned how to farm, shape loaves of sourdough bread and prepare delicious farm-to-table meals. I also had an eager panel of taste-testers as I continued to work on my own recipes.
From there, I launched Hidden Bean Bakeshop and began selling at farm concerts, farmers’ markets and craft fairs. Now in Brattleboro, I have found a strong community that has helped me continue to grow the business and fulfill my dream.
Hidden Bean Bakeshop can be found at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market and the Brattleboro Food Co-op. Looking for more recipes and treats? The Hidden Bean Cookbook and more information about the special-order bakeshop are available at
Coconut Black Bean Brownies
1½ cups (15-oz. can) black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup coconut oil, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ tsp. almond extract*
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup almond meal*
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square pan and set aside. In a food processor, blend the first seven ingredients until very smooth. Stir in the coconut flakes by hand or use “pulse” mode to combine without pureeing. Pour batter into pan. Optionally, sprinkle sliced almonds and/or shredded coconut on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
*For nut-free version, substitute 1½ tsp. vanilla extract and ¾ cup hemp or sunflower seeds. For thicker brownies, use an 8-inch square pan and increase bake time to 45 minutes.