It’s the new chickpea sensation that’s sweeping the vegan nation; just drain the liquid from a tin of chickpeas and you’ve got aquafaba, ready to be used wherever eggs would normally go. I was dubious when I first heard about this, and as you’re staring at the translucent gloop that you’re about to cook with it’s very hard to believe that it could ever whip up into something as light as a meringue. But it does – I have no idea how or why, but somehow this weird looking brine becomes thick and pearly white after just a bit mixing and a helping of sugar. What makes aquafaba even better is that, despite the fancy name, it’s cheap – in fact, it’s basically free if you’re buying the can of chickpeas already! It’s so nice to find a vegan “wonder” product that isn’t both expensive and difficult to source.
My first experiment with aquafaba was an attempt to make macarons. As I’ve never made these even when using the regular ingredients this was probably quite an ambitious recipe; in fact my experience with macarons consists solely of salivating over them whenever contestants make them on Bake Off, and the one time I ate some in Paris. They’re definitely more of a challenge than the kind of baking that I usually do, but I was actually pretty pleased with my results. Opting for a vanilla macaron with a chocolate filling, I ended up with reasonably dainty creations that tasted great, even if they didn’t quite have the chew that macarons are supposed to have and never developed the ‘pied’ that the recipes all talk about so much. What was undeniable though was that the chickpea brine did whip as egg whites would, and I’m fairly sure that if I’d just been attempting a meringue the result would have been very successful. In terms of taste, you couldn’t tell that chickpeas had been anywhere near the macarons and even my cautious parents happily ate their share of the bounty. If you want to attempt your own macarons I’d recommend reading what Floral Frosting and Morsels and Moonshine have to say about it all.
Having been so impressed by the macarons I set about finding other ways to use aquafaba in my baking. Originally I intended to make some kind of cake, with an aim to getting a lighter texture than egg replacers like apple sauce allow. I set about making my own version of Ruby Tandoh’s Chocolate Lime Mud Cake, though the cake I ended up with resembled this very little. The texture couldn’t be described as light, but it certainly didn’t have the dense gooeyness that a lot of vegan cakes have. Instead it was smooth, almost mousse-like, far more of a dessert than an everyday cake. It was intensely chocolatey and rich, and though it was nothing like what I expected, and really didn’t look very pretty, it couldn’t be faulted for pure indulgence.
My future plans with aquafaba are to master some simple flavoured meringues and perhaps see how it can be used in savoury food. However strange, slimy and just plain bizarre this new ingredient may be, it really has opened the doors for vegan cooking and being able to mimic the many desserts to which egg is an intrinsic element.