Have You Been Throwing Out the Bathwater?
It’s actually useful!
No, I’m not referring to actual bathwater. I’m talking about that liquid that comes in your can of beans. You know what I mean? That liquid that usually gets put down the drain? That’s the one.
Up until 2 years ago, that liquid did not even have a name…
This is the word for that viscous liquid in which legumes or pulses, such as chickpeas, have been cooked or stored for an extended period of time.
Chia seed, flaxseed, banana, applesauce, prunes, beans, and pumpkin have long been used to replace whole eggs in recipes for those wishing to avoid eggs for religious, ethical, or health reasons. While these tend to work fairly well in place of whole eggs, egg white recipes need a more delicate touch. Some commercially available egg white replacers have been around for some time, such as Ener-G and Bob’s Red Mill, among other more futuristic products that look more at home in a science lab than in the kitchen.
Major problems with many of these are that they tend to be more expensive and they are usually made from processed starches, gluten, soy protein, or other foods that many people choose to avoid. Taste and texture also seems to be not quite reminiscent of the food they were meant to emulate.
Which brings us to the more recent past…
According to the official Aquafaba website:
In December 2014, French chef Joël Roessel, discovered that water from canned beans and hearts of palm can be used to form foams and posted his results on his blog. He also experimented with recipes for chocolate mousse, meringue, and “floating islands”. However, his foams still needed starch and gum to be able to stand on their own.
A few months later, in February 2015, another pair of French foodists showed in a video how to whip the liquid from a can of chickpeas into a foam and combine with chocolate ganache to make a dessert. In the US, this caught the attention of software engineer Goose Wohlt. A vegan food enthusiast, Wohlt discovered that the liquid could be used to replace egg whites on its own without the need for stabilizers. He shared an egg-free meringue recipe using only the liquid and sugar in a vegan Facebook group in March 2015 and it took off from there.
By the end of the month, the online vegan community had shared tips, tricks, videos, and recipes for macarons, nougat, cakes, icing, mayonnaise, ice cream, cheese, marshmallows, and cookies using this “bean juice”. Realizing this magic juice needed a real name, the community settled on aquafaba – a combination of the Latin words for “water” and “bean”.
The Science Behind It
Aquafaba is unique in that it has some of the same characteristics as both egg whites and egg yolks. It can be used as a thickener, binder, foaming agent, and emulsifier. Due to the high starch content found in aquafaba, there are some conditions where it can be made to form gels.
Funded by private donations, aquafaba samples were submitted for nutritional analysis. Because aquafaba is so new to the scene, nutrition information is not currently readily available. Aquafaba is not a significant source of any nutrients. 1 Tablespoon contains about 3-5 calories.
|Analytic||Result (per 100g)|
|Total Calories||18 kcal|
|Total Fat||0.2 g|
|Saturated Fat||0 g|
|Trans Fat||0 g|
|Total Carbohydrates||2.9 g|
|Dietary Fiber||0 g|
These results suggest that the foaming action for which aquafaba is known may be the result of the small amounts of starches and protein present. Due to its low protein content, aquafaba would be of use to those who need to follow a low-protein diet, such as someone who has the genetic disorder PKU. However, for the same reason, aquafaba would not be ideal for use in making angel food cake, because that is a baked good that relies on the high protein content of egg whites.
Content will vary depending on the source of the aquafaba, including consistency, sodium, and preservative content (such as vitamin C). Also, if you make your own from soaking and cooking dried pulses you will not know the exact concentrations. During the cooking process, starches in the legume are gelatinized. A longer cooking time at a higher temperature will ensure more material is transferred out of the legume seed and into the solution that will later become aquafaba. Overall, there really is not much to it, at least nutritionally speaking.
Aquafaba can form stable foams when whipped which makes it ideal for desserts like meringues. Unlike egg whites, the foam will not dry out or collapse with time. Aquafaba can also be frozen, thawed, heated, or cooled without greatly changing its properties. This is also in contrast to egg whites which will commonly “weep” when frozen. Also, cooking egg whites causes them to coagulate irreversibly, whereas aquafaba can be used at any temperature.
Aquafaba has been successfully used to make meringues, macarons, nougat, icing, ice cream, fudge, marshmallows, batter, cocktails, baked goods, dairy substitutes, mayonnaise, cheese substitutes, and meat substitutes. It will take on whatever flavor is added to it.
In general, to replace 1 medium egg white you would use 2 Tablespoons of aquafaba, or 3 Tablespoons if replacing 1 medium whole egg.
From NYT Cooking
Yields 40 meringue cookies
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, room temperature
⅔ cup (135 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
- Heat oven to 250deg F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Drain chickpeas, reserving the liquid. Pour liquid into bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed with balloon whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, about 15 minutes. You may also use a hand mixer, but it will take longer and you probably will not get the same consistency. Do NOT use a blender.
- Add sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and whisk until mixture is glossy. Then, add almond extract.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop mixture into mounds on the baking sheets. Bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until meringues are dry and firm to the touch.
- Remove and allow to cool before serving. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Think you’ll give this new food trend a try?