Among the good things about Instagram there is the fact that it helps me to discover new amazing foods and food photographers/bloggers. Besides my daily supply of pictures of French Bulldogs (I have an obsession here, yes). One thing I learned on Instagram was what aquafaba is. I had stumbled upon beautiful pictures of buttercream cakes that I just couldn’t believe they were vegan. How did the bakers achieve such a texture in their buttercream? The answer was aquafaba.
Some googling after I learned that aquafaba is the water one usually drains when using canned chickpeas – the water the chickpeas have been cooked and preserved in. Aquafaba is extremely rich in protein, from the chickpeas, and can substitute eggs in making meringue. Those cakes had a vegan meringue buttercream and the concept of vegan meringue became my own personal challenge.The first time I decided to give aquafaba a try was not a great success. I had saved the chickpea water after making hummus for the sake of experimenting and followed a blog that instructed to reduce the chickpea water without giving enough directions really, just hinting that it would thicken. After simmering and simmering that liquid was never really thickening and in the end it almost evaporated all and I had nothing left to whip. I just gave up. Months after I stumbled upon another aquafaba recipe, and read that the chickpea water is actually ready to whip and can be used without any prior reducing. Now, I’m no expert and I just wanted to follow easy directions so I saved some chickpea water again and tried again.
Guess what? After an initial moment of doubt the chickpea water mixed at high speed actually started to froth and whipped! It was really behaving like egg whites! I was so positively surprised that I decided that I would make meringues this time!Vegan meringue:
- 30 g whipped aquafaba
- 170 g powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Since I had no idea that the chickpea water trick would actually work, I whipped it all before deciding to try making meringues. This is why I’m referring to the weight of the whipped aquafaba. I figured I’d start with a small portion – all the water from a can of chickpeas yields a lot more! So I basically transfered a part of the whipped aquafaba into another container and kept whisking it at medium-high speed adding the powdered sugar little by little. I kept adding sugar as I wanted it to stiffen, but kept tasting it in the process because I was curious to see how hard it was to get rid of the chickpea taste. The taste of sugar becomes quite overwhelming at some point, but I think that adding 1 tbsp of vanilla extract was also a good idea. Tasting the end product one can hardly guess they’re not made with egg whites.The uncooked meringue has the same looks and feel of egg-based traditional meringue. Fill a pastry bag with it and pipe it through a star-shaped tip. Bake the meringues at 100°C keeping a wooden spoon in the door of the oven so that it doesn’t close completely. Depending on the size of your meringues the cooking time varies – if you go with small stars like I did it will take around 2 hours. More than actual baking, it is a slow drying process, really.
So… success! Chickpea water-based meringue worked! Now vegan Swiss meringue buttercream will be the next challenge.