Science was never my favorite subject in school. Ask anyone who sat near me in high school Biology; we spent more time playing desk football with folded notes or practicing our colorguard routines with pencils than listening to the lectures. It is the only class in my entire academic history in which I don’t even remember the teacher’s name.
So, I am not really THE person to figure out why Aquafaba, (chickpea starch) works as an egg white substitute. Except that I do like experimenting in the kitchen ~ maybe it wasn’t the subject science but the way in which it was taught that didn’t interest me. And I love a challenge. When I saw an abundance of articles and blog posts on Aquafaba, I was very curious.
AquaFaba is the made up name for the liquid that chickpeas (or other beans also) are packed in the can with. The viscous stuff you drain when you open a can of chickpeas. The stuff we have always been told to discard, partly because of the sodium content.
Doing some online research I came across some information from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council website. You can access it here: Dry Pea & Lentil Council
Resources provided on the site go in depth into the reasons chickpeas and lentils are so good for you. It also reveals the magic of chickpeas, the starch amylose. It is a nutritional polysaccharide and the major storage carbohydrate in plants. When chickpeas are cooked, amylose is released and becomes soluble in the water and binds with water to gelatinize (become viscous-y). This juice from chickpea processing is basically liquid starch.
The starch produced from the breakdown of amylose in chickpeas is apparently the reason it sometimes works as an egg substitute. I say sometimes, because in the experiments I have done in the kitchen with it, my success rate was low. A good vegan alternative? Yes, but keep in mind that when you use it, you will need other stabilizers in your recipes.
If you are interested in experimenting with chickpea juice, I suggest processing your own chickpeas. This way you don’t have to worry about salt content, or trace elements coming from the can (aluminum or bisphenol A).
I have seen many instructions online but have found that each batch of chickpeas is different in terms of cooking time and how much liquid is left at the end. It all depends on the variety of chickpea, how dried it is when it comes out of the package, and at what temperature it is cooked. Science!
My general instructions are to soak the chickpeas overnight in a crockpot. Place one pound of rinsed and sorted dried chickpeas in a crockpot and cover with water so that the water goes 4 inches over the peas. Don’t turn the crockpot on.
In the morning, turn the crockpot on low without draining any water and let the peas cook until done (4-6 hours). If the chickpeas have already absorbed much of the water overnight, add enough water that the chickpeas are covered by 4 inches of water.
Check the chickpeas midway through. If they seem to be absorbing most of the water, add 3-4 cups more. Begin testing the chickpeas for doneness at the 4 hour mark. Drain the chickpeas when done and reserve the liquid. Store the chickpeas in the refrigerator or freezer. You should have about 2 cups of liquid. Again, the amount left over will vary. The last time I did this, I had over 4 cups of liquid left.
Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth or coffee filter lined sieve and discard any solids. Use the liquid when cool, store in the refrigerator up to one week, or freeze in bags or containers right away.
Straining is important as you don’t want any solids in the bean juice that will burn if you are cooking it. More science; bean solids, like milk solids, sink to the bottom of the pan when cooking and will burn quickly at high heat.
I have found it to work ok as an egg substitute in baked goods as long as there was another fat to help with flavor and texture. You can sub in 3 tablespoons chickpea juice for each egg, keeping in mind the liquid content in relation to the dry ingredients in your recipe. Don’t add more flour if the mixture seems too loose, try adding a dry fat like ground flax seed.
Mayonnaise made with chickpea juice is passable for sandwiches and dressings, where most of the flavor is coming from the vinegar and mustard. It does not keep as well as regular egg based mayonnaise. If you try it, make it in small batches and use it quickly. Simply substitute 2 tablespoons chickpea juice for the egg yolk in homemade mayonnaise and whisk like crazy (or use a blender).
I tried the macarons:
They were tasty but not macarons and not something I really wanted to spend more time on.
However, I had reserved half of my chickpea water to try making marshmallows. When the marshmallow mixture failed to get the air it needed to be marshmallow, I decided to try something else and stumbled upon a method for making vegan Truffles.
I heated the aquafaba and sugar together, thinking if I got it all to soft ball stage I would get marshmallow when I mixed it. As I stood above my mixer, whirling endlessly in the hopes I would get stiff sweetened aquafaba, I realized I needed another stabilizer. Something with flavor. Cocoa powder. When added, it whipped up nicely and I ended up with a light airy vegan truffle mixture!
You can roll it in balls and dredge in chopped nuts, cocoa powder, coconut or powdered sugar. Or you can use it as a filling or icing for cookies, cakes and cupcakes.
I chose to roll mine in granulated sugar, then sprinkled the tops with lavender flavored salt. Divine.
This is a recipe I would make again and is a nice vegan option for holiday gifts!
1 cup aquafaba, liquid chickpea starch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 3/4 cup cocoa powder
Place the aquafaba in a 2 quart saucepan. Add the sugar into the middle of the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and stir slowly while simmering until mixture has almost reached the soft ball stage. Use a candy thermometer and get the mixture to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t let the mixture brown, reduce heat if necessary.
Remove from heat and let sit for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Place in mixer with whisk attachment and add the vanilla, coconut oil (melted) and salt. Whip on high speed until the mixture lightens in color and texture, about 10 minutes. Add cocoa powder, 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. You will need less for an icing consistency, more for a thicker truffle texture. Use immediately, or wrap well and store in the refrigerator or the freezer.
The lavender flavored salt really enhanced the chocolate flavor and just left a hint of lavender at the end of the bite.
I purchased my flavored salt online from Superior Salt, an awesome local business in Duluth, Minnesota.
Here’s a link so you can check them out: http://www.superiorsalt.com/