Aquafaba. Did you catch that term in our last blog post or have you heard it mentioned recently? It literally means bean water, or more accurately, it's the water in which legumes are cooked. Sexy, right? Really though, it works in magical ways and we are mildly obsessed. The discovery of aquafaba as an egg replacer just a few years ago has been a game changer for vegan cuisine. When whipped up with sugar in place of egg whites, it makes a vegan meringue indistinguishable from the omnivore's version. Enter the lovely Pavlova, recreated with aquafaba. We think it's aquafabulous. It's said that the airy meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit was created for the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova during her tour of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920's. Our version skips the eggs in the meringue and omits the heavy cream in the whipped topping, but lacks for neither.
If you're not a vegan, maybe you're thinking "why bother?" in a skinny-decaf-latte kind of way. The main reason we are introducing it to you is that this recipe works for a lot of people. You know how we encourage you to share the things you make with friends and family? This is the dessert to make when someone says: I'm allergic to eggs/I'm lactose intolerant/I can't eat nuts/I don't like chocolate. (Does that last person really exist?)
Creating this recipe was a lot of fun for us since we love a good science project. It is impressive to watch essentially a slimy liquid turn into billowy white fluff within minutes. Unlike egg whites that are ruined if you blink too long as they pass the stiff peak stage, you can whip this meringue mixture forever. Baking is often referred to as being more of a science than an art, so follow the recipe directions carefully. Considering baking time and size of the meringue, we had the best success with making individual portions versus one large meringue. You can certainly do that but plan on keeping it in the oven longer.
Our crisp and creamy Pavlova is topped with luscious and ripe tropical fruit and sprinkled with large flakes of toasted coconut. The flavors complement each other so beautifully, the last thing you will think about is beans. In fact, nothing in this dessert tastes like beans. Are you wondering if you must use canned aquafaba if you generally cook with dried beans? The consistency of canned aquafaba is just right but to make your own all you need to do is reduce the cooking water from your beans until it's the consistency of egg whites once it's cooled off. Can you store aquafaba in the fridge until you're ready to use it? Yes, 2-10 days or you can freeze it too. Intrigued yet? Trust us, your vegan friends probably know about this already, but they'll be glad you have an interest in it. If you want to geek out a bit more about how this all works, we encourage you to visit aquafaba.com. And if you want to do something with the beans that you strained your aquafaba from, try this quick and easy Roasted Chickpea recipe.
(Makes 8 individual pavlovas)
4 oz aquafaba* from unsalted or low sodium canned chickpeas, chilled
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional - gel food coloring
2 oz aquafaba
1 tsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp Cointreau (orange liquor) or 1 tsp orange blossom water
assorted tropical fruit such as mango, pineapple, passionfruit and kiwi, sliced or diced, or a mix of fresh berries
unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
*aquafaba is the reserved liquid from canned or cooked beans
Pour 4 ounces of aquafaba into bowl of electric mixer and place in freezer for several minutes while preparing the rest of your ingredients and equipment. Cover and refrigerate the remaining aquafaba to be used in the whipped topping.
Preheat oven to 225 degrees fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Trace four 4-inch circles on each sheet of parchment with a pencil.
Using an electric mixer’s whisk attachment, mix aquafaba and vinegar at high speed until very light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. The mixture will triple or quadruple in size. Turn mixer speed down to medium and slowly pour in 3/4 cup sugar. Increase speed back to high and continue whisking until mixture holds stiff, glossy peaks. When done, if you hold the bowl upside down the meringue should stay in place. To be safe, start by turning the bowl on its side. Whisk in arrowroot and vanilla at this point, along with food coloring if you are using it. (Meringue shown in photo has a trace of orange gel coloring.)
Using a pastry bag or metal spatula, pipe or scoop meringue onto circles drawn on parchment paper, making the outer part of circles higher to leave a slight well in the middle.Place in oven and immediately lower the heat to 200 degrees. Bake for two hours, or until the outside of meringue is dry to the touch. Do not open the oven for at least the first hour. Once the meringues are done, turn the oven off and allow them to cool completely in the oven.
Whip remaining 2 ounces of aquafaba with lemon juice using the same method as for the meringue. Mix in the remaining sugar and Cointreau. Just prior to serving, top the center of each meringue with this whipped “cream,” cut fruit, and toasted coconut.
TIPS AND THOUGHTS
Aquafaba from other white beans can be used as well. Black bean or red bean aquafaba is recommended for other recipes, like brownies, to add richness.
Chill the aquafaba before whipping it for best results.
Unlike egg whites, it’s impossible to over-beat aquafaba. But you can under-beat it. Keep whisking until you have very glossy, stiff peaks. We recommend using a stand mixer. A handheld mixer will work, but it might take longer. Using a whisk will take a lifetime but you will develop huge biceps.
Piping the meringue onto the parchment can be messy, but you’re wearing an apron, right?
Although you preheat the oven to 225 degrees, immediately lower the temperature to 200 degrees upon putting the meringue in the oven. This accommodates for the temperature drop when you open the oven door.
The meringue will be baked for around two hours, and cooled in the oven for at least 30 minutes. Allowing it to cool in the oven keeps it from cracking.
Do not even think of opening the oven door for the first hour of baking or until the meringue looks like it’s set. There’s a chance it will collapse due to the drop in temperature.
If you decide to make one large meringue instead of individual ones, plan to extend the baking time as needed until the meringue sounds hollow when you lightly tap it.
The meringue can be made a day in advance, however, we recommend assembling the Pavlova just before serving. The fruit juices make it soggy quickly.
Select fruit that is ripe and juicy for the topping. Underripe fruit will yield underwhelming results.
Large flakes of coconut create a slightly more impressive presentation than shredded coconut, but both will work.