Aquafaba Magic

aquafaba with sugar added, beaten to stiff peaks

Turning Bean Water into Egg Whites

While my strict vegan days are behind me (along with my flip phone and feather hair extensions) my preference towards a plant-based lifestyle remains. I enjoy finding ways to reduce my “food footprint” and I respect the inherent sustainability in following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. As an RD-to be, I’m always up for trying out an alternative recipe and reaping the nutritional benefits. Lately, aquafaba has been on my radar and the internet must know it. My inbox has been flooded with blogs talking about the magic “bean water” or “chickpea brine”, and numerous quick videos on my Facebook newsfeed highlighting all the uses. I’ve decided to try it out myself to see if this stuff is as magical as it claims. Before I experiment, a little bit of the “What”, “Who”, “Why” and “How” behind Aquafaba.

What:

Aquafaba is the starchy, viscous liquid that remains after one makes a pot of beans, most commonly chickpeas. This same liquid can also be drained from a can of store bought beans. The claim is that the liquid is a replacement for egg whites in baked goods, savory dishes, sauces, spreads and even cocktails like whiskey sours. A vegan bartender interviewed by Bon Appétit shared he preferred using aquafaba over egg whites due to the odorless nature of the liquid.  Compared to egg-whites, aquafaba is an easy alternative, especially for people who don’t eat eggs but like to use the whites for recipes. Aquafaba will keep refrigerated for a week or can be frozen and saved for a later. One blogger recommends freezing in ice cube trays and even provides the grams of aquafaba cube for future baking needs. Another attractant towards using aquafaba is that it is a way to reduce food waste. Sure, the liquid may not be a large environmental burden but using all parts of a food does bring a sense of prideful homesteading.

Who and Why:

The aquafaba authority website states that the discovery came out of efforts to find a simplified, more whole-foods approach for vegan egg-replacers. In 2007, a woman named “Susie” is said to be the first to have discovered aquafaba, through her blogging as a vegan food scientist. “It has been speculated that it may have been based on mucilage from flax, bran, psyllium, or the one of the protein isolates. Her posts encouraged more people to think about alternative forms of egg replacers in the kitchen”. While she may be the first to ponder the use of chickpea brine, more digging shows another side to the aquafaba story.

aquafaba liquid from can

Mainstream internet sources like Bon Appétit, NPR and Epicurous credit Joël Roessel and Goose Wohlt as aquafaba’s first pioneers. Roessel, a French chef, posted a video in 2014 of his attempts to use vegetable foams as egg substitutes. While he was able to foam the liquid from beans and hearts of palm, they were not stable without starches and gums. This video piqued the interest of a vegan foodie and U.S. software engineer, Wohlt, one year later. With his already established passion for vegan baking, Wohlt discovered that chickpea liquid alone can act as a direct egg white replacer. This meant there was finally a viable egg replacer, accessible to the masses, that eliminated the need for gums and starches to stabilize.

Wohlt coined the term “aquafaba” as a play on the latin words for water and bean. Wohlt is credited for sharing this discovery on the prominent Facebook group: What FAT (Fantastic Amazing Terrific) Vegans Eat. He then created the official website http://aquafaba.com/index.html. This website, as previously mentioned, is the authority on aquafaba as well as a hub for raising funds for a phytochemical analysis. The “About” section reads “to provide a common point for people inside and outside of facebook to go to keep tabs on aquafaba development, recipes, and other news”.

How:

You may be asking why a vegan egg replacer is such a big deal. Ask anyone who has either attempted vegan baking or tried a vegan baked good. Eggs have several important functions in baking that are unfortunately, difficult to replicate with everyday pantry items. Eggs provide anywhere from one to all of the following in baking; leavening, emulsifying, thickening, binding, coating, color and shine. Picture a fluffy soufflé, or perfectly caramelized crème brûlée. Or perhaps a thick, creamy pudding, breaded chicken or bronzed pretzels-all of these benefit from the properties of eggs. Aquafaba provides an alternative for many of these functions (some still requiring more experimentation). But what we know for sure is that when whipped, aquafaba can take on the same leaving, emulsifying, binding and thickening properties as eggs. Prior to this discovery, vegans had to rely on concoctions of flaxseed, silken tofu, xanthum gum, tapioca flour or potato starches. Such unconventional ingredients make it hard to satisfy any late night baking urges.

Part of the reason the official aquafaba website is attempting to crowd source enough funding for phytochemical analysis is that there is no clear reason as to how it mimics eggs. One speculation is that the proteins and starches in the bean residue are similar to the proteins in egg whites, but there is no definitive answer. Currently, the best way to “research” this peculiar liquid is to try it at home- a task I decided to tackle.

When it came time to decide what recipe to use my aquafaba, I decided to keep it simple. I didn’t want to risk sacrificing my aquafaba efforts due to my lack of baking prowess. The recipe I chose was vegan meringue cookies, found on CookingLight. The only change I made to the recipe was vanilla extract rather than peppermint.

Ingredients

  • baking spray
  • 3/4 cup aquafaba (drained from a 15-oz. can of chickpeas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Equipment:

  • electric mixer with whisk attachment: hand or standing
  • large baking sheets
  • cooling racks
  • airtight containers for storage

aquafaba beaten for 5 minutes

  1. Preheat oven to 250 °. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; spray lightly with baking spray.
  2. Combine the aquafaba and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on high until white and glossy, and soft peaks form, 2 to 5 minutes.
  3. With the mixer running, slowly add sugar to aquafaba mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue mixing until peaks are more defined and stiff, 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla extract to bowl; mix until incorporated.
  4. Transfer meringue mixture to a pastry bag, fitted with a ¼-inch round tip; squeeze 2-inch round mounds onto prepared pan, about 1 inch apart. Bake at 250 ° for 2 hours or until dry and firm to the touch.

aquafaba after 10 minutes of beating

Final Reflections:

I was in awe of how easy it was to beat the aquafaba to stiff peaks. My meringues were a hit among fellow interns, office coworkers and friends. I was disappointed that half the batch was a little overcooked but as one adventurous taste-tester said “It tastes like burnt marshmallows, and those are the best!” My success with this recipe inspires more baking experiments and perhaps some savory applications. My one piece of advice would be to make sure to have a deep bowl as the first few minutes of beating can be quite messy. I also would not recommend beating by whisk in hand- but a hand electric mixer worked just fine. Some recipes I’ve come across did not call for cream of tartar but it worked beautifully for me and may have helped the aquafaba stay formed as I spooned it onto the baking sheet.

aquafaba after 15 minutes of beating

finished meringues

Here are a couple recipes next on my list to try:

vegan omelet (also made with garbanzo bean flour):

creamy chocolate mousse

aquafaba mayonnaise (perfect for picnic salad season)

strawberry ice cream (no ice cream maker necessary)

If none of the above appeal to you, check out some of these lists of all things possible with aquafaba. Enjoy leaving your friends and loved ones in awe!

http://www.peta.org/living/food/vegan-aquafaba-recipes-egg-free/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/whitneyjefferson/aquafaba-the-magic-bean-liquid?utm_term=.niwQRLyovd#.fxNJx8kbe3

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/aquafaba-amazing-recipes-made-with-chickpea-brine/

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