Thursday, 29 September 2016

Aquafaba!! Egg free meringue substitute

Well hello there my little hot cross buns,

Firstly a little apology....I know I haven't posted for a couple of days but I've been so busy trying to get all the technical gremlins associated with being online worked out and sorted that time has just ran away from me.  

I'm new to this caper and I want to make sure I do it properly for you my lovely readers.

Before I get started on today's topic, Aquafaba, I saw this little picture and thought that I would share it with you.  It appeals to me because it is funny and perfectly logical.

Anyway.. on with today's hot topic.... "Aquafaba".

What the heck is aquafaba I hear you say?

Well I am sure that there are plenty of you out there that are already aware of this amazingly simple ingredient but for those who haven't heard of it aquafaba is an amazing natural egg white substitute.  I realised that my vegan cream recipe (under Hints and Tips section, confusingly - sorry) is made using aquafaba but I hadn't explained what this awesome substitute actually is.  So let's rectify that right now.

Aquafaba is quite simply the cooled cooking liquid of chick peas (or other legumes - something that has grown within a shell or a pod including adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, anasazi beans, fava beans, canellini beans, kidney beans and lima beans).  Eh?

Chick peas are readily available in most supermarkets now and they are really cheap too.  You can buy them either in a packet dried (and you have to steep and cook them yourself) or you can just do what I always do and just buy a can of them.  One cup of dried chickpeas usually makes about 4 cups of soaked chickpeas because they expand so much when steeped.  Vegans and vegetarians may prefer to buy the dried chickpeas and soak and cook them themselves because it will definitely be more economical to do so if they are consumed regularly however if you just want to get a portion of the soaking liquid for baking purposes one can may be all you need.  I'll run through how to prepare dried chickpeas first though.

Step 1:  Put your cup of chickpeas into a sieve and rinse rinse rinse under cold water (just to get any dust/dirt etc off).  Place them in a large bowl and cover with fresh cold water. The chickpeas will expand to over double their size, so make sure you cover by several inches of water to allow for expansion. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let them soak overnight. Drain the water and rinse the beans before cooking.  Don't keep the soaking liquid, it's the cooking liquid you want!

Step 2:  Nice and slow is the tempo so slowly does it.  The slower they're cooked the better the beans and liquid will be.  It's best to actually use a slow cooker (crockpot) for this but on top of the stove/cooker will work well too as long as you keep the gas/electric right down.  So add the steeped beans to a pot.  Add a little salt but not too much (half a teaspoon is plenty) and cover the beans with about 2 inches (5cm) of cold, fresh, clean water.  If you're using the slow cooker it's the same amount of liquid.  Bring the pot to the boil and then turn it right down to the lowest setting possible.  Cover the pot and leave the chickpeas to slowly cook for at least an hour and a half until they are lovely soft and tender but not mooshy.  It can take up to 7 hours on low in the slow cooker.

Step 3:  Turn the heat off, keep the lid on  and cool those bad boys down.  Once they have cooled completely drain the liquid into a separate airtight container and store in fridge or freezer until needed (ice cube trays rock).  You can then use the chickpeas in any other recipe such as home made hummus or chickpea curry.  Alternatively you could freeze them too in an airtight container.

You know have your cooled Aquafaba liquid! Or you could just skip all that and go straight for the can!

So what do you do now?  Got cool liquid, what to do next?  

The liquid in the picture (above right) looks a little pale.  What you really want is a dark amber liquid rather a light apple juice liquid.  If your liquid is a little pale then simply put it in a pot and boil it until it has reduced down a little.  Again let this darker mixture cool.  I've found that the liquid in some brands of canned chickpeas are fine but others are a little pale and thin so I've had to boil them down a bit to get the right colour and consistency.  

Once you've got your amber nectar and it's totally chilled then we can get to the fun part.

I've found that I get the equivalent of about two small egg whites to one can of brine of brine (half a cup of homemade liquid).  If you need more just multiple the recipe.  How can you ever have too much meringue/vegan cream anyway?

So let's make meringue!

Take your cool amber liquid and put it into a large bowl.  You could use your magic mixer or just an electric hand mixer but it will have to be electric. Hand power will not work here because you need to whisk, whisk and whisk.  It takes a while to get to the stage you'll recognise as meringue but you will get there.  It can take up to ten minutes of solid whisking to get into the stiff peaks stage but it's definitely worth it.  You can add a bit of icing/caster sugar too to add sweetness just as you do with regular meringue.

Allaying any fears.  No, you can't taste or smell chickpeas.  This meringue looks, tastes and smells like normal meringue.  Seriously, don't panic.

Once you've got the mix to the consistency that you want/need you can add your fabby aquafaba to your favourite recipes to make vegan cream, mousses, meringues, ice cream, macaroons etc etc.  Any recipe that requires whipped egg whites then you've got the perfect and totally natural replacement.


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