I doubt that anyone outside the plant-based world has heard of aquafaba until recently, but the vegan blogosphere was completely abuzz when Goose Wholt discovered that the water that’s leftover from a can of beans can be used as an egg replacement a year or so ago. It can’t be used to make scrambled “eggs” or an omelet, but it can be whipped into a frothy foam, and it can be used as a binder in baking.
While I followed along with my fellow bloggers’ aquafaba hits and misses, I quietly sat the frenzy out, sure that I would make a giant bean-flavored mess if I tried to cook with it. But now Zsu Dever has written an entire cookbook devoted to aquafaba, making it easy to cook with the magical liquid, and I no longer have any excuses.
Zsu starts her book, aptly titled Aquafaba, with an aquabafa primer, explaining exactly what it is and how to use it. Aquafaba can be tricky to work with, but Zsu’s tips will help. The recipes in Aquafaba range from basics such as vegan butter and mayonnaise to eggy classics like crepes and quiches. You’ll find recipes for baked goods that usually rely on eggs to give them a little fluff, such as muffins, sugar cookies, pancakes, and waffles. Items that have been difficult for vegans to make until now are included, such as marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, macarons, and meringues are also included. Aquafaba contains both sweet and savory recipes, so if you have a hankering for vegan meatballs or kebabs, Zsu’s got you covered. She’s even included recipes for chickpeas, so that you’re freezer isn’t overflowing with beans after draining off the liquid.
I decided to start my foray into aquafaba cooking with Meringue Cookies, not because Zsu says it’s a good recipe to start with, but because I have such fond memories of Meringue Cookies from my childhood. My mom was never much of a cook. Everything came from a box, bag, or can, including baked goods, but for some reason, she had a yellow plastic file box full of recipe cards. I think it was from Betty Crocker, and I’m guessing it was a gift. Every month, more cards came, and they were filed in the box. I would spend hours looking through the cards, picking out dishes that I wanted to try in the future. I don’t think any of there recipes were ever made, with the exception of the Meringue Cookies. I had so much fun making them, and I remember how they had a soft crunch on the outside but were light and fluffy on the inside. It’s possible we only made them once, but they left a big impression on me. I don’t think I’ve had a Meringue Cookie since I was very small. Until now. Thanks to the magic of aquafaba, vegan meringue isn’t too difficult to achieve.
I wasn’t sure what would happen when I started making Meringue Cookies. I’ve heard people say that aquafaba can be fickle, and that they had difficulties making meringue – it never formed peaks, it melted, etc. I added the aquafaba and cream of tartar, which acts as a stabilizer, to the bowl of my stand mixer and followed Zsu’s directions. I was amazed to see that it started forming peaks exactly when she said it would. Within minutes, bean liquid had turned to a white pillowy fluff. I had visions of perfectly piping Meringue Cookies into pretty shapes, but I had difficulty with the piping bag, simply because the meringue was so fluffy. So I spooned blobs of it onto the baking sheet instead.
My first attempt at Meringue Cookies didn’t turn out to well. They were flat, brown, and hollow. My oven tends to bake just about everything faster than the recipe says it will, despite the thermometer I placed inside that says it’s always the correct temperature. I decided to give it another try, whipping the aquafaba longer and baking for a shorter period of time. The resulting cookies were a little more beige in color than I was expecting, but they were light, pillowy, and delicious. Success! Since they say that the third time is a charm, I decided to try again. This time I was able to get it the merge into a pipping bag, and the cookies baked up into little cloud-like puffs of perfection. These are the cookies I remember from my childhood.
My second foray into cooking with aqufaba wasn’t as tricky as the first. After baking Vegan Meringues, I made Lemon Poppy Seed muffins, which were light and fluffy, and oh-so-tasty. I made mini muffins thinking they’d last longer than their full-sized counterpart, but that only works if you don’t eat three at a time!
Since I was starting to get the hang of this aqufaba thing, I decided to make the Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Quiche. This was slightly tricky, because the aquafaba needs to be whipped into stiff peaks, and then folded in to the quiche mixture until it deflates. By this point I felt like an aquafaba pro, and I didn’t have any problems with it. It baked up light, fluffy and delicious.
Because I’m a sucker for homemade cheese recipes, I also made the Country-Style Aged Sharp Cheese. This recipe is a breeze to make, but it takes some time to “age” in a dehydrator. Rather than making Zsu’s aquafaba yogurt, I used store-bought, which I think slowed the aging process even further. Once it was finally firm and ready to eat, it was indeed sharp and cheesy – and pretty tasty, too!
If you want to enjoy some of the eggy dishes from your pre-vegan days or if you just want to experiment with a new ingredient, Aquafaba is the book for you!
- ⅓ cup granulated organic sugar
- ½ cup aquafaba (see Note)
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- If your sugar is not fine granules, grind it for 1 minute in a food processor. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat (the meringue will deflate if baked directly on a baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 195°F.
- Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Use a whisk or the balloon whip attachment to hand-whip the aquafaba for 10 seconds. Add the balloon whip to the machine or use a hand mixer to whip the aquafaba for 4 minutes at medium-low speed. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip for 5 to 6 minutes or until the meringue forms firm peaks.
- Continue to whip on medium-high speed and add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the course of 1 minute. Continue to beat for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meringue forms stiff peaks. Alternatively, you can use a large bowl and a hand mixer.
- Spoon or pipe the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 1½ hours, turn off the oven, leave the cookies inside the oven, and allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, immediately transfer them to an airtight container. If left out long enough, the cookies will absorb the moisture in the air and become tacky and then dissolve. If your cookies become tacky or begin to absorb moisture, dehydrate again in the oven at 195°F until crisp. You can adjust how crisp you like the cookies by leaving them exposed to the air until they are the texture you like.
Swirl-Colored Cookies: To add a swirl to these cookies, prepare the empty piping bag by drawing three or four vertical food-coloring lines inside the bag, using a toothpick or the tip of a
butter knife. Draw your lines from down near the tip upward toward the middle of the bag. Use any color of natural food coloring. Once you have prepared the bag, proceed with Step 4.
Note: Although aquafaba is best if homemade using the recipe provided in the book, you can use aquafaba from canned chickpeas. Use the organic, low-sodium, canned chickpeas and strain off the liquid into a measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Note the amount of liquid you acquired, then add it to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces by ⅓. Cool the aquafaba completely before using.
Recipe from Aquafaba, copyright © 2016 by Zsu Dever. Used by permission.
I have a copy of Aquafaba for one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight on October 18th. Good luck!