There’s nothing like a good challenge to ‘veganise’ a classic dessert. If you love meringue and don’t eat eggs you’re exactly in the right place.
Most of you will know that I put together the recipe pages for Viva!Life magazine. There’ll be an exposé of the egg industry in the spring issue. Surely it’s fitting to include really ‘eggy’ and very egg-citing vegan recipes… Yes, there will be an amazing cheese and onion quiche, omelette and the holy grail of vegan desserts: Lemon meringue pie. Phew, sounds easy when you write it down like that 😉 Well, we had talked through the ideas, my mission was set and I was prepared to accept it!
As soon as Tony (Wardle from Viva!) mentioned Lemon Meringue I knew my feature was going to be all about Aquafaba! Essentially, Aquafaba (or liquid gold as I like to call it) is the liquid you drain from a can of chickpeas. It’s the strange stuff we’ve always poured down the sink in the past because… well, why wouldn’t you?! Somewhere, someone very experimental came up with a completely random idea though: ‘Hey dude, why not whip up that stuff? Never tried that one before!’ And the rest, as they say, is history! The process has already changed vegan cooking, baking and dessert making…
Today’s post is all about my hits and misses with using Aquafaba on my path to meringue success! Hopefully it can be your guide and will give you all the info you need to get started.
For vegan meringue you will need:
100ml aquafaba (unsalted chickpea water)
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
A good food processor or electric whisk
Put the chickpea liquid in your mixing bowl and whisk, whisk and whisk some more.
Some brands whip up faster than others but basically you just keep going until you end up with fluffy white clouds (like the picture below). It really is quite magical!
My steps looked like this:
after five minutes
after 10 minutes
after 15 minutes – add the lemon juice
after 20 minutes
after 23 minutes – time to add the sugar. Slowly, one teaspoon at a time.
And voila, a big bowl of fluff.
Transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag and get piping.
Line a baking tray with non-stick paper and pipe small circles. Bake at 100˚C (200˚F) for two hours! I know it seems like forever but basically it dehydrates the meringue slowly. You’ll be left with amazing crispy, pavolova-type meringues that melt on your tongue.
My Top Ten Meringue Tips (for perfect Lemon Meringue Pie):
1. Don’t stop whisking the Aquafaba too early. When you’re finished you should be able to turn your mixing bowl upside down and nothing will slide out. Patience really is one of the key ingredients in this recipe.
2. There are different ways to help ‘stabilise’ your meringue. I’ve tried cream of tartar. Apart from the fact that you probably have to buy it especially, I also found that it adds a slightly tangy flavour to the meringue. Lemon juice seems to do the trick for me.
3. The sugar is really needed! (I think we can all agree that meringue is not health food.) There are websites that explore the chemical explanations and how the sugar and proteins build the structure in meringue.
4. Moisture and humidity are your enemy when you’re making meringue! I left a batch of meringues on the kitchen worktop while I was cooking pasta. They started to absorb moisture from the air and got sticky and chewy.
5. Heaped mountains of meringue in a large diameter don’t seem to work as well. Anything over 10cm in diameter and I’d rather not risk it. The middle can get soggy and collapses… a real disappointment after 1.5 hours in the oven.
6. After a couple of hours in the oven, switch it off, open the door and let the meringues cool down fully. Place them in an airtight container until you want to use them.
7. The meringues are ready when they come off the baking paper easily. If you try to take one off and it still feels gooey they need more time in the oven.
8. For my Lemon Meringue Pie recipe, I prepared the meringue topping separately by piping small dollops in a large circle shape. (The bottom of the tart tin makes the perfect size guide.) Once baked I placed the meringue on top of the chilled pie just before serving. That way, if your first meringue attempt doesn’t turn out perfectly, you’ll still end up with a delicious Tarte Citron. Also, make sure that any tart filling is completely chilled first. If it’s still a tiny bit warm the ‘steam’ will melt away the lovely, crispy topping. (Yep, I’ve tried that!)
9. Individual tarts with smaller diameter work really well too. Maybe I’m just biased. I love mini desserts and anything that’s an individual serving. They’re just so photogenic! Because you need to eat a meringue-topped dessert on the same day, individual servings are useful too.
10. And finally, there are two different types of meringue toppings. The crispy, melt-in-your-mouth variety and also the fluffy topping that’s not dehydrated but instead soft and creamy. Take your pre-prepared lemon pies. Scoop some of the meringue straight from your mixing bowl and top the pies. Place them under a hot grill and watch like a hawk! You definitely don’t want the tops to burn so don’t answer the phone, don’t try to take a photo, don’t even turn your head for a second… 😉 When the tops are a lovely golden brown quickly grab the pies and let them chill in the fridge for half an hour. Don’t be tempted to dig straight in as the freshly caramelised top will stick to your fork. If you wait until they’re chilled it will be so much better, promise!
These days, you will find whole Facebook groups and websites dedicated to the joys of Aquafaba… A special thank you to Justine Butler from Viva! who got me started. She has done lots of experimenting and written about it on her blog too.
Enjoy experimenting and good luck!
Lots of love,