About 500g/1lb chickpeas (US: garbanzo beans)
Water to soak, and more water to cook
Soak chickpeas in a large pan overnight. Make sure there is plenty of water and room to expand.
In the morning, drain them well, rinse, and drain again.
Then cover the chickpeas with fresh cold water, adding sufficient that there is at least a couple of centimetres of water above the level of the soaked chickpeas. If it's very close to the top of the pan, you might want to transfer it all to a larger one, or else split between two pans.
Cover, and bring to the boil over the stove. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for around an hour, checking occasionally to make sure there's plenty of water. Top up with extra if necessary.
After an hour, turn the heat off but leave the chickpeas in the pan so that they continue cooking without using energy, and gradually cool down.
After a few more hours, drain the chickpeas over a large container. Do NOT discard this cooking water. This is aquafaba, a vegan substitute for egg white (or in some cases egg) which can be whipped and used for sorbets, meringues or mousses. It can also be used, as it is, to glaze pastries, or in a variety of other recipes.
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I wondered at first if it was some kind of hoax, but the more I read, the more intrigued I became. Here's the official aquafaba page. It's not marketed commercially, although no doubt someone will do so eventually... but it's very easy to make, as shown above. If you don't have the time to soak and cook chickpeas, then (I'm told) you can simply drain the brine from a can of chickpeas, and it should work just as well even though it may have a bit of salt or other additives in it.
I usually cook chickpeas in bulk - half a kilogram or so at a time - and freeze them in can-sized portions. So, despite feeling dubious, I decided I had nothing to lose if I kept the cooking liquid and tried to whip it.
I felt a little foolish as I drained and measured the fluid into a litre jug, as shown in the picture at the top. I put the cooled chickpeas into plastic containers, as shown here, with about 260-270g in each, and froze them.
So far, so good.
Then I put some of the aquafaba - about half a cup, I suppose - into another pyrex bowl, and used my electric hand mixer to beat it. I started slowly, as the group recommended (not wanting it to splatter) and gradually increased it.
I then had to decide what to do with it - I honestly hadn't believed it would work so well! With that first batch, I added some sugar to make meringues, then I added some melted dark chocolate to more of it to make chocolate mousse.
I whipped some more, after that, excited at the possibilities; I then folded in some thawed frozen raspberries cooked with a little sugar, and made raspberry sorbet. All were delicious, and didn't taste at all of chickpeas or anything unusual.
I'm delighted to have found a product that can be used in place of raw egg, and hope to use it in future in royal icing, and peppermint creams. Since my initial experiment I've also made chocolate sorbet, glazed pastry with it, and tried it in an ordinary cake.
Experts have discovered that one can produce twice as much aquafaba by covering the drained chickpeas with more fresh water, then refrigerating for 24 hours, and mixing the resultant liquid with the cooking water. However, I've found that I have plenty. We don't eat that many desserts or sweet foods, and I've already frozen several small amounts of aquafaba for future use. It keeps for about five or six days in the fridge; probably for several months in a freezer.
A few caveats:
1. Others have had success using the fluid from canned or home-cooked beans, such as pinto beans and black beans. I've tried, but could not get the liquid to whip. So I'm going to stick with the chickpea brine which, so far, has been very successful.
2. Aquafaba is very sensitive to fat of any kind. The bowl and beaters must be scrupulously clean and free of any trace of grease, or it won't work. I've found that plastic bowls don't make good containers for whipping; since I use my plastic bowls to make cakes, I can only assume that there's some ingrained grease despite my dishwasher. Those who have regular success with aquafaba use either pyrex or metal dishes, or very hard plastic such as that of a food processor bowl.
3. Although it starts to whip within a minute or two, it can take six or seven minutes or more to become stiff enough to use. If you're making meringues, it needs to be very thick with peaks that don't fall, and that takes longer still. So I would not recommend trying this with a non-electric mixer. It's hard enough on the arms to use a hand electric one. On the other hand, a stand mixer is harder to adjust, and it's important to 'feel' the right amount of power to use at each stage.