I’ve read a few things here and there (nicely summarized in this article) questioning whether beans should be soaked before cooking from dried. This kind of article seems to gloss over the reduction in cooking time as unimportant whereas for those worried about fuel costs and/or without a sufficiently large oven and reliant on the stovetop method it is worth it to halve the cooking time even if you have to wait longer overall. In addition, longer cooking time using the stovetop means more steam, so more condensation which is annoying to deal with sometimes.
Despite my misgivings I decided to try the no soak route with some pinto beans. It could be that my beans were just old, or not a good variety, but the results did not impress me. I got some beans bursting while others were still very firm, and the skins are the toughest I’ve experienced in a long time. Maybe I’ll give no-soak another go down the line, but for now I’m happy to do what I’ve always done, which is why I put 1kg chick peas in my preserving pot this morning, covered in plenty of cold water and won’t boil them up until later on tonight. Then I’ll portion them up and freeze most of them.
Still, I have lots of tough-skinned pinto beans to get through right now, unsuitable for stew-like uses, so I thought I’d try making some rustic crackers where the texture would add to the pleasantly munchy effect instead of being a chore.
1 3/4 cups cooked, drained pinto beans
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup porridge oats
3 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional. I’m not sure this adds much but it was sitting around on the counter…)
1/2 tsp yeast extract (e.g. marmite), or miso paste would also probably be good.
1tsp mixed herbs (I used Italian mix which included dried peppers)
1-2 cloves of garlic or a pinch of garlic powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Line baking sheet and lightly grease with oil.
Put beans in a food processor (I used the mini chopper that came with my cheapo stick blender) and add 1/3 cup water. Pulse until a rough paste is formed, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add seeds and blend for a minute or so, stopping and scraping down again. Add oats and blend. Add rest of ingredients and blend. You should have a dough that is a bit sticky but that you can scoop up and roll into a ball-shape in your hands.
Taste a little pinch of the unbaked mix for seasoning. Obviously they’ll taste better once they’re baked and the flavours will concentrate a bit, but if they seem too bland for you then add more herbs or salt or maybe a dash of mustard or something.
Leave the dough to sit for about 20 minutes so the oats absorb excess moisture.
Take walnut-sized balls of dough (about a tablespoonful) and flatten them a bit with your hands, then place them on the baking sheet. Although they won’t spread, leave a gap because once they’re in place you can flatten them down further with the palm of your hand. I rubbed about 1/3 tsp olive oil across my palm before pressing down to get a nice smooth finish. You want them to be about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick.
Bake in a moderately hot oven (around 195c/380f/a bit above gas mark 5) for about 15 minutes (check they’re not burning after 10 mins. I don’t have fan assist and I haven’t checked my oven temp for a while!). Carefully flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes until they’re just starting to get a tinge of brown around the edges, so they’ll get nice and crunchy.
Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. They’d probably freeze pretty well too.
Makes around 15 crackers.