Chocolate Recipe: No-Bake Strawberry Pie with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Pecan Crumble Crust

It’s the tail end of strawberry season here in New England, one of my absolute favorite times of the year. The season is fleeting. The first local strawberries appear in early June, with crops peaking mid-month, then gradually tapering off as the 4th of July holiday weekend approaches. Growing strawberries is hard work, and almost before you know it, they’re gone, and summer crops are in full swing.

During late spring and early summer visits to local farmers markets only recently reopened for the growing season, strawberries are one of the first bright spots of color in a sea of hardy leafy greens. They play a part in bringing the New England area fully back to life, with countless strawberry-related activities: strawberry plant sales at garden stores, pick your own days and festivals at local farms, and the always delicious Mass Farmers Markets Strawberry Dessert Festival.

This year, we are especially lucky to have enjoyed the large and tasty local crop. The weather has not cooperated by following any sort of pattern (although really, what else is new?); rather it has been a study in extremes – a mixture of chilly, rainy days with sweltering heat and sun. We’ve sort of stumbled into summer, but thankfully the fragile fruit made it along with us in all its sweet, juicy glory.

On Saturday, a group of friends and I made our way to the Verrill Farm Strawberry Festival in Concord, Massachusetts. It was another gray, drizzly day in a week of grayer, drizzlier days, and just warm enough to make everything feel sort of sticky. A number of rugged folks picked their own in raincoats and mud boots, sloshing through the mucky fields to find the best berries. We were landlubbers and enjoyed the festival on solid ground, partaking of the fantastic strawberry shortcake made on site (strawberries served with a buttery biscuit and real whipped cream, the classic New England way; biscuit recipe here [pdf]), fun music, and the excellent farm stand. The Boy and I couldn’t stop ourselves – we bought several quarts of perfectly ripe strawberries and proceeded to eat them for the rest of the weekend. Because while strawberry lovers can freeze, dry, and can the fruit to preserve as much of the early summer joy as possible, there is really nothing like eating a perfectly ripe, local strawberry, fresh from the vine. And what better to eat strawberries with than chocolate?

Here’s a simple, refreshing recipe that highlights the finest qualities of ripe, seasonal strawberries paired with dark chocolate. It’s a novel take on a classic combination.

No-Bake Strawberry Pie with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Pecan Crumble Crust

Adapted from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking (a must-own cookbook, in my humble opinion).



  • 2 C raw pecans (or almonds, if you prefer)
  • 3/4 C to 1 C pitted dates
  • 1/4 t salt
  • canola oil cooking spray (to coat pan)

Pie filling:

  • 5 C ripe strawberries
  • 5 pitted dates
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice
  • dark chocolate chunks in a quantity of your choosing/craving



  • Prepare an 8- or 9-inch circular tart or springform pan by very lightly coating with canola oil cooking spray.
  • Grind nuts in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse meal.
  • Add dates and salt into nut mixture, then process or blend until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour mixture into pan, then press into the shape of a crust. Set pan aside.

Pie filling:

  • Soak 5 pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain water and gently dry dates on towel.
  • Separate 1 C of whole strawberries and set aside.
  • Slice 4 C of strawberries, then arrange sliced strawberries on the crust, reserving a small number to adorn top of pie. Set pan aside.
  • Place the reserved 1 C of whole strawberries in a food processor or blender and process until pureed.
  • Add soaked pitted dates and 2 t lemon juice to strawberry puree and process until smooth.
  • Pour strawberry puree mixture over the sliced strawberries in the pan. Decorate the top of the pie with reserved sliced strawberries.
  • Prepare chocolate chunks (I chopped up leftover bits of several different dark chocolate bars) and sprinkle over top of pie.
  • Refrigerate entire pie for 1 hour before serving.

Yield: Approximately 8 servings.

Storage: This super fresh dessert is best when eaten right from the refrigerator after the 1 hour setting time. If you somehow manage to maniacally restrain yourself from finishing it, however, it can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated overnight.

Bon appétit!

Chocolate Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

Well before starting this blog, when it was still just an unrealized idea, I debated long and hard about whether I would include recipes and/or chocolate cooking tips. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a kitchen professional or a nutritionist (an extra big HA! to the latter). My formal training is limited to a series of baking classes taken at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and an introductory chocolatier class taken at the online institution Ecole Chocolat. My informal training, however, has been rich and full of fun.

I fell in love with cooking thanks to my grandmother, an exceptional former professional baker, who very early in my life taught me to use her flour sifter when we put together pancake or cookie batter. I can remember watching the flour float down into the bowl (and probably all over the counter, come to think of it…) with wonder, holding onto a wooden spoon and mixing with all my might, then watching excitedly as heat turned the batter into something else altogether, something magical.

The magic of baking continues to amaze me. Today, many of my favorite activities involve sharing food with friends and family. I am thrilled, for example, when someone invites me to an event and, remembering my love of sweets, charges me with bringing the dessert (I always bring dessert!). I spend days in advance reading through cookbooks, watching TV programs, internet surfing, and hands-on experimenting for inspiration and practice.

I’m actually a bit of a baking snob now, and I regularly do things like weigh my ingredients for accuracy and alter recipes when I think the suggested techniques are inadequate. I mean, if you’re going to do it, why not do it right and make the most fabulous and sweet treat that you can? Of course, this only goes so far. The girl might vociferously critique mass corporate baking, but if you offer her a Twinkie, she’s not about to turn it down.

So here we go, for better or worse, with a first recipe post. I can’t promise not to give bad instructions or provide incorrect information from time to time. Nor can I guarantee that my opinions on food politics and ethics are set in stone. They’re quite the opposite, in fact, and I expect that they will morph along with this blog as I learn and write more.

I can promise, however, to do my darnedest to find a special recipe each time and to write it up carefully and thoughtfully. The recipes that I choose will be either stellar examples of classic chocolate dishes or recipes that feature unique ingredients or techniques. I hope that they will prove of interest to you fellow chocolate lovers and contribute to our discussions here. Enjoy!

Black Bean Brownies

I happened upon this recipe completely by accident, while searching through a series of articles about chocolate. The recipe was printed in an article in the Columbia Daily Tribune, entitled “Black beans abound in these high-fiber, low-fat brownies.” I was drawn to these brownies because of the originality of one of the main ingredients – black beans. The use of black beans instead of flour seemed to promise a moist heaviness, something I typically feel is essential to a successful brownie. The result is really wonderful – the brownies are moist and not too sweet, with a light fudge-yness to them (to get heavy fudge-yness, I think one would simply have to add more fat). I used dark chocolate and it shined through. There was a slight flavor of black bean hiding in the background, but neither I nor my two helpful taste testers deemed it to be in any way a problem. These brownies are an interesting alternative, especially for folks looking for something without processed flour or with somewhat less fat and sugar and somewhat more fiber and protein than the average brownie.

The recipe’s authors are celebrity chef Amanda Freitag (known to many for her work as a judge on the Food Network’s Chopped) and dietitian (and fellow Massachusetts local) Julie Barto, MS, and it was designed for the Multiple Sclerosis Active Wellness Program.

The ingredients list below comes directly from Freitag and Barto’s recipe – I’ve only tweaked the chocolate quantity. I have also rewritten the instructions to clarify techniques and added some of my own suggestions about how to customize the chocolate content to your own tastes.


  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • 1/4 C water
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C unsweetened 100% cocoa powder*
  • 2/3 C packed brown sugar or 3/4 C white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 C semi sweet chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate, percentage of your choosing)*
  • cooking spray (to coat baking dish)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray an 8”x8” baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. (Alternatively, you could fully line the baking dish with parchment paper, both bottom and sides.)
  • Rinse and drain black beans well.
  • If using dark chocolate in place of chocolate chips, chop into small ¼”-½” chunks and set aside.
  • Place black beans and water in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  • Add eggs, oil, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and sugar to the food processor or blender, and again process until smooth, making sure that batter is mixed thoroughly.
  • Next, add approximately ½ of the chocolate and pulse quickly to mix into the batter.
  • Pour the batter and spread evenly into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the top.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes. Indicators of doneness: A toothpick inserted at the center of the baking dish will come out clean. The top of the brownies will appear somewhat dry and the edges will start to pull away from sides of the baking dish.
  • Let brownies cool thoroughly, preferably by placing the pan on a cooling rack.
  • Once brownies are thoroughly cooled, cut and carefully remove from pan. Depending on how you cut these, you can end up with anywhere from 9 large-ish brownies to 16-18 small-ish ones.
  • Serve and enjoy!
  • Storage: I tend toward caution when eggs are involved, so I recommend storing these brownies in an airtight container in the fridge. Before eating refrigerated brownies, just let them sit out until they return to room temperature.

* Chocolate content suggestions:

If you prefer a more toned down chocolate flavor (more for milk chocolate lovers, or folks who dislike the bitterness of dark chocolate), I recommend using a high quality Dutch-processed/alkalized unsweetened cocoa powder. Semi sweet chocolate chips will also keep the intensity of the chocolate flavor in check.

If you are a hardcore chocoholic (e.g. the type to scoff at chocolate with measly percentage numbers), then I recommend substituting a dark chocolate with a percentage of your choosing for the semi sweet chocolate chips. A high quality Dutch-processed/alkalized unsweetened cocoa powder will nicely complement the dark chocolate. Or, if you prefer the bitter notes of dark chocolate, using a high quality natural unsweetened cocoa powder could help to ensure a deep chocolate flavor.

Note: For an interesting comparison of Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder, see this article from Cook’s Illustrated.

Like these brownies? There are more Black Bean Brownie recipes to be tried!

While searching for more instances of black bean use in brownie recipes, I came across this lovely recipe by Ania Catalano, from her book Baking with Agave Nectar. Blogger and author Heidi Swanson posted the recipe on her site 101cookbooks. The recipe has some interesting ingredient differences (butter, agave nectar, coffee) from the one that I tested for this post – I can’t wait to try it.

Those looking for a vegan black bean brownie recipe can find one already out there in the blogosphere. Happy Herbivore has a recipe described as “dense, fudge-y, and ultra-healthy” that incorporates agave nectar, rolled oats, and cinnamon (a nice spice twist, for sure). It looks fantastic.

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    Bittersweet Notes is an open source research project on chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. I invite you to join me as I explore the story of chocolate and the life stories of those involved with chocolate at its many stages of production and consumption.

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