I have never liked the idea of anyone not being able to have cake when they want it. Food intolerance issues and lifestyle can put many restrains on diet and as a result a lot of people find themselves in a situation where it isn’t so easy to have access to delicious cake. And that is a travesty!
Catering for those with food intolerance and those who exclude food types for diet and lifestyle reasons are why I experiment often in the kitchen, to ensure that no one has to miss out, working hard to create cakes and desserts that have all the flavour and texture of the regular versions of recipes.
My youngest was born with a dairy intolerance which found me living in a world without dairy for 18 months and that forced me to get creative. I have always cooked from scratch so at least I had a head start on removing dairy from my diet and it lead me into a period of experimentation with milk replacements. There were some epic fails but there were also some awesome finds; for example, I will always make American pancakes using almond milk – cows milk just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.
This food adventure was just the beginning for me though as it lead me to being braver with my food decisions and experimented with replacing my usual ingredients with different flours, chia seeds, oils and eventually I found my way to aquafaba.
‘Aquafaba?’ some of you will ask, just as I did when my lovely neighbour popped round with a cute as a button meringue nestled in her hand. ‘That’s a meringue’ was my response, a little perplexed by her new name for it. And yes, it was a meringue but one free of egg products and accessible to vegans and egg-avoiders. ‘Witchcraft’ was my next comment and now, even though I have made many aquafaba meringues and kisses, I am still a little unsure of the forces at work…
Moving on from my suspicious mind, aquafaba is in fact the liquid left after cooking chickpeas or the brine they swim in when tinned. Chilling this liquid and then whipping it up, just as you would egg whites for meringue, eventually gives you soft white peaks and with the careful addition of caster sugar you get the familiar glossy stiff peaks of regular meringue. It bakes in just the same way too.
I have tasted aquafaba meringue uncooked and cooked and there is barely any difference between aquafaba meringue and regular meringue – I still couldn’t stop myself! If anything the meringue tastes a tiny little bit nutty but not enough that would make you think that you weren’t eating meringue.
The resulting meringue can be piped just as regular meringue and you can colour it in the same way too. I rarely colour a meringue unless I am getting all ‘rainbow’ but you can colour to your hearts delight; after all, it is your meringue!
If you would like to join me on this adventure into aquafaba-land, here is my vegan meringue recipe – the method I use which is an amalgamation of the many aquafaba recipes I have experimented with and my regular meringue recipe. I have also heard that aquafaba makes a great base for an awesome mousse which I will be trying out before I share.
Aquafaba Meringue Recipe
1 tin of chickpeas (approx. 150ml aquafaba) drained
150g caster sugar (golden or white – your shout)
- Drain your chick peas from their liquid (either cooking liquid or the tin ‘brine’) and ensure that no ‘bits’ remain. I passed the liquid through a very fine sieve to ensure there were no chickpea surprises in store for anyone. You now have aquafaba!
- Chill the aquafaba.
- Add the aquafaba to a large bowl. Just as you would with regular meringues ensure the bowl and whisk are completely free of grease. I used my stand mixer and set the whisk at medium to start with and once there were lots of lovely tiny bubbles, I whacked it up full and left it to do its thing. You could use a hand electric mixer but be prepared to be standing there for some time!
- You will know when the mix is ready for sugar as it will be firm and unmoving in the bowl. As you would a regular meringue you can test it by holding the bowl upside down over your head; if you are not covered in whipped aquafaba, its ready!
- Start adding the sugar, a spoonful at a time, allowing the sugar to dissolve and the meringue to return to being stiff and glossy before adding the next spoonful. Be patient!
- Once all the sugar has been added whisk a little more for good luck and test that you have beautiful glossy stiff peaks.
- Preheat your oven to 100C and line baking trays with baking parchment making sure there is no grease – a good tip here is to add a little smudge of meringue in each corner of the baking tray; this will help stick the baking parchment down and stop the parchment curling in the oven.
- To make meringue kisses spoon into an icing bag (or dollop on to the parchment if you are making yourself a lovely big pavlova). Snip the end off the bag to create an opening about the size of a 20p. Hold the bag over the parchment and squeeze out a dollop, quickly pulling upwards after each dollop to create beautiful kisses. Space them out so they don’t get the urge to all join together.
- Bake for about an hour and a half (this is based on kisses – the bigger your meringue, the more time it will take) and then turn the oven off. Allow the oven to cool completely with the meringues still inside – this will dry them nicely. I often make meringues in the evening and leave them cooling in the oven overnight and deal with them in the morning.
- Once ready, store in an airtight container until you want to use them.
Next time: Adventures with lemon