Aquafaba: Fab or Fad?
Aquafaba (Latin for ‘bean water’), the viscous cooking liquid from canned or home-cooked chickpeas, has been steadily gaining traction within the vegan community since 2015. That’s when Goose Wohlt, a vegan entrepreneur, introduced a simple meringue recipe made with the bean water on a Facebook group page. When whipped, the liquid turns into something that looks remarkably like a stiffly beaten meringue, opening up a world of possibilities for vegan dessert devotees. Fluffy mousses, crisp Pavlovas and creamy ice cream were now fair game for long-deprived vegans. When Wohlt posted his eggless meringue recipe, it was an instant hit, and since then a variety of new products made with aquafaba has emerged, from faux mayonnaise to butter to buttercream frosting.
Fran Costigan, director of Vegan Baking and Pastry at Rouxbe online cooking school (rouxbe.com), uses aquafaba to make vegan meringue for desserts such as Baked Alaska, Eton Mess, Pavlova and chocolate mousse. She notes, “The whipped and/or torched meringue makes a great tasting whipped topping, too. I have not yet made macarons, but many are doing that. Italian meringue and royal icing are happening, too.” For vegans and those with egg allergies, aquafaba is also an excellent egg replacer in recipes. Costigan suggests using 3 tablespoons of aquafaba to replace a whole egg, and 2 tablespoons to replace an egg white.
Another aquafaba devotee is Zsu Dever, author of Zsu’s Vegan Pantry blog and the book Aquafaba: Sweet & Savory Vegan Recipes Made Egg-free with the Magic of Bean Water (Vegan Heritage Press, 2016). Dever suggests reducing the liquid from a can of chickpeas by one-third before making meringue. “This will concentrate the aquafaba and make for a more stable ingredient. Chill the aquafaba in the refrigerator until completely cold. Check the viscosity of the aquafaba once cooled; you should be able to pour it, but it should have gelled to some degree. If it is completely gelled, then your original aquafaba was strong as it was, and you do not need to reduce that brand of chickpeas in the future.”
To make a perfect meringue, Dever whips ½ cup of the reduced aquafaba with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar until it reaches stiff, firm peaks. “Once at stiff peaks, add 2 tablespoons of sugar and keep whipping. The sugar stabilizes the meringue even more.” But don’t look for any shortcuts here – Dever notes that it can take up to 25 minutes using a stand mixer and up to an hour using a hand mixer. “Whip it for the maximum time, using either appliance, to get very familiar with these peaks.”
Meanwhile, Faba Butter, a dairy-free butter alternative made with coconut oil and aquafaba, created a real buzz at the Fancy Food Show in New York this past July. Aidan Altman and Andrew McClure are the co-founders of Fora Foods, the manufacturer of Faba Butter. Their goal was to create a true butter replacement that was its equal in taste and mouthfeel – no easy task. Faba Butter hasn’t hit the shelves yet, so we’ll all have to wait before deciding if it’s up to the mark. If it is, a whole new world of possibilities will open up for creating dairy-free desserts and baked goods. And that’s a fabulous thing.