Aquafaba – fast and vegan alternative to Italian meringue!
The history of Aquafaba is, despite its stunning simplicity, a recent one.
As the story goes, aquafaba was “discovered” in 2015 by a certain Goose Wohlt, experimenting to create a vegan, egg-less alternative to meringue. Put on the lead by earlier (French) attempts, he discovered that the liquid from a can of chickpeas could be whipped in the same way as egg whites. The ultimate result both looked like, and functioned as, “classic” meringue.
Using the latin names for water (aqua) and beans (faba), he named his discovery “Aquafaba”. It did not take long for the good news to spread on the internet. While the “best” aquafaba is considered to be made out of chickpeas or white beans, it would seem that other beans and legumes also could work, albeit possibly with some further tinkering.
The Science behind: Proteins, starch and plant solids unite
How – exactly – aquafaba works is still not thoroughly researched.
It seems clear, however, that the main keys to its astounding capacity to foam, emulsify, thicken and bind are the proteins and the starch (and probably some of the other plant solids) which dissolve into the water when the chickpeas/seeds are boiled.
Together, they manage to emulate the food-chemical functionality of egg whites, making aquafaba perfect for vegans and others who would like meringue without eggs.
Meringue? Could we perhaps even use aquafaba to make “faux-Italian” meringue, and put that into our sorbets to give them a boost?
Yes – Indeed!
Easy to prepare: Just open the can and do like this …
If you cook your chickpeas yourself, you should ideally be able to use the liquid you soaked and boiled them in (= the aquafaba). As for water amounts and such, your mileage may vary and I would recommend further studies of aquafaba cookers’ pages to seek more exact advise.
For a quick fix (which I used myself): Simply open a can of cooked chickpeas and use the bean liquid therein (= the aquafaba)!
Pour the aquafaba into your kitchen assistant/food processor (a good whisk may do, too, if you have the required stamina) and whisk the liquid for about five minutes or so. The aquafaba will turn frothy, and then begin to stiffen.
Once the aquafaba has begun to stiffen, it will look stunningly similar to whisked egg white. Continue to whisk and add the sugar, whisking in a generous tablespoon at a time.
After all this whisking, your aquafaba should be about as stiff as meringue batter.
Test your aquafaba meringue with the classic trick if you dare: if the meringue stays in place and does not fall down on your head, it is ready!
Testing it with real sorbet
The aquafaba meringue sure looked like “ordinary” meringue batter, but there was a mild but clear flavour of chickpeas to the sweet taste (remember to flavour the batter in case you want to bake “ordinary” meringues!).
In order to check if the aquafaba meringue really could match the classic Italian one, I prepared a batch of raspberry sorbet in much the same way as I did when testing Italian meringue: to save time, go to that recipe and mentally replace all references to “Italian meringue” with “Aquafaba meringue” for details on how to prepare the sorbet base.
Once the sorbet base has been prepared, get hold of some aquafaba meringue
In case you already forgot – just whisk the liquid from a can of chickpeas in a kitchen assistant/food processor until fairly stiff, add sugar and whisk until confirmed stiff.
Add some aquafaba meringue to your almost-churned sorbet base
Once the churning almost is finished and has started to firm up, add about 150-200 ml (about 0.6-0.8 cup) of the aquafaba meringue. Continue to churn until finished.
A word of caution: Just like when dealing with normal Italian meringue, keep in mind that too much meringue will turn the sorbet into so-called spoom. Spoom is a kind of lighter, more airy cousin to sorbet and certainly has its charm. Since you might want to end up with a sorbet, however, it is important to keep an eye on how much you add!
Aquafaba meringue – The easy way to give your sorbet a boost!
Heureka – The stiff-whipped aquafaba can be used in the exact same way as Italian meringue!
The typical positive characteristics of Italian meringue are all there, but making aquafaba meringue is not only vegan and egg-free – It is also much, much easier! No cooking is required, as the aquafaba meringue (unlike its egg-based relative) does not require any heating and/or pasteurisation: Just whisk and add sugar!
While the meringue foam inevitably comes with a (surprisingly light) flavour touch of chickpeas, nothing of this will remain in the final sorbet: the overall sorbet flavour effectively overshadowing it completely. And just like Italian meringue, any surplus aquafaba meringue can easily be stored for future use in the freezer: Whenever you make your next sorbet, the boost elevating it to the next level is only a trip to the freezer away.
A winner? Yes, I am clearly impressed! Aquafaba meringue has a lot going for it – No need to be vegan to take advantage of this great sorbet-improver!
PS. How did the final raspberry sorbet turn out? It was an instant hit – the discerning test panel loved it! Along glowing praise, the sorbet vanished in no time at all 🙂
Aquafaba - vegan meringue, Italian style
For the aquafaba meringue
- About 150 ml (2/3 cup) of aquafaba (the liquid typically found in 1 can [of about 15-ounce/425 gram] of chickpeas)
- About 130 gram (about 2/3 cup) of sugar
- [A kitchen assistant/food processor equipped with a whisk]
For the raspberry sorbet
- 500 ml (2 cups) raspberries (fresh or frozen)
- 500 ml (2 cups) simple sugar syrup (made up of about 2 parts water and 1 part sugar; the exact proportions will depend on the amount of aquafaba meringue used)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- About 150-200 ml (about 0.6-0.8 cup aquafaba meringue)
- Whisk the aquafaba in a household assistant for a few minutes until the liquid has stiffened somewhat and begun to turn white.
- Continue whisking and add the sugar, tablespoon for tablespoon.
- Whisk until the aquafaba has stiffened so much that it stays in the bowl if the bowl is turned upside down: Ready!