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  1. Dean Pomerleau

    Chilled Vegan Sweet Bean Macarons

    As most of your know, I'm not much of a cook - my regular diet is whole-food, plant-based, vegan and almost all raw. But occasionally I get a hankering for something sweet and crunchy that isn't a fruit or vegetable. By leveraging an amazing recent culinary discovery, coupled with a lot of tinkering in my basement laboratory/kitchen, I think I've finally succeeded. This recipe has got it all, as far as I'm concerned. Here are the main features it's got going for it: It is vegan. It has virtually zero calories. In its simplest form, it has only one quite healthy ingredient - but is infinitely adaptable. The "preferred embodiment" described below has only three, commonly available & healthy ingredients. Paradoxically, despite being healthy, this main ingredient is almost always discarded, even by CR folks who hate to waste food. The taste of the final product is hard to describe, but I find it to be an intriguing combination of sweet & savory. But it can go either way depending on your personal preference. It has a satisfying crunch when you bite into it, but then literally melts in your mouth. I hope that list of features has piqued your interest. Without further ado, here is the background and recipe for what I'm tentatively calling Chilled Vegan Sweet Bean Macarons. I bet you're wondering what the mystery ingredient is. It's the cooking water left over after boiling beans, or alternatively, the liquid from canned beans! I kid you not. This stuff is a culinary miracle. It's basically a near perfect vegan substitute for egg whites, particularly in recipes that call for whipping egg whites into soft or hard peaks. The chickpea variant of this cooking liquid even has a fancy haute cuisine name. It is called "Aquafaba" and it has entire websites and cookbooks devoted to using it in huge range of recipes. According to this article on Aquafaba from the May 9th, 2016 Food section of the NY Times, Aquafaba's miraculous culinary potential was discovered in 2015 by an Indiana vegan software engineer described as an "inveterate tinkerer" - a man after my own heart! But he says he got the inspiration from a french chef's cooking video using chickpea juice. See this detailed history of Aquafaba on the Aquafaba.com website if you're dying to know more about its history. The science behind this stuff, and in particular its ability to whip into hard peaks, is fascinating. Here is a brief description from the NY Times article, starting with how whipped egg whites hold their shape: The white is about 90 percent water and 10 percent protein. When whipped, those proteins unfold and bond together, trapping the air bubbles created by the whisk. This is what allows for relatively long-lived foams and, ultimately, delights like meringues, soufflés and angel food cakes. Apparently Aquafaba works similarly: How aquafaba works isn’t precisely understood. Mr. McGee said the key is its viscous mixture of protein and dissolved starch, which slows down the collapse of a foam, as well as chemicals called saponins. What a minute you might be saying, I've heard of saponins. Aren't they bad for you? Perhaps, if you're a cold-blooded animal or insect [1]. They can also give ruminants indigestion, and may (potentially) explain part of the reason legumes don't agree with some people, if you know what I mean. If you're one such person, you might want to start out slow with this recipe... But on the other hand, studies of saponins have shown they have have anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering and anticancer properties - so aquafaba has got that going for it! Saponins are found in many healthy foods including (not surprisingly) legumes, yams, oats, spinach, and quinoa in concentrations from 2-6%. In contrast, chemical analysis of aquafaba determined that it contains less than 0.03% saponins. So don't worry about it. Other analysis shows it contains zero fat and very little in the way of sugars and starch: If we add up all the carbs for the unfiltered version, we get 0.85g of total carbohydrates per 100ml of aquafaba. I haven't found analysis that quantifies the amount of protein in aquafaba, but if assume that, like chickpeas, aquafaba has 1/3rd as much protein as carbs, that puts the total carbs + protein at just over 1g/100ml (or 4kcals/100ml) of aquafaba. As you'll see, just a little of this miracle bean juice goes a long way, so its calorie contribution is quite negligible in this recipe. Guess what. After all that deep dive into chickpea aquafaba, I'm going to tell you know I haven't tried using it yet. Nope. While I do cook and eat chickpeas, what I've cooked most recently, and therefore being using for my culinary experiments, is the cooking water from black beans. As you'll see, it has all the same culinary properties as chickpea aquafaba, and I'm assuming the same nutritional properties (i.e. calorie count) as well. So when I refer to "bean water" or "aquafaba" below, assume I mean either the water from cooked or canned chickpeas or black beans, although as you'll see from the photos I used black bean water from canned beans in this recipe demo. I do plan to try using chickpea water next time I cook them, since I expect chickpea aquafaba will have a little less bean taste to it that the water from black beans. A milder flavor might be advantageous in the sweet version of this recipe. Which finally, the moment you've been waiting for - the actual recipe! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Chilled Vegan Sweet Bean Macarons Prep Time: ~25-30 minutes. Chill Time: Two hours minimum. Overnight recommended. Yield: Makes 24 1-inch macarons. Calories: Less than 0.5 kcal per macaron. About 2/3rd from the cocoa powder and 1/3rd from the aquafaba. Ingredients: Required Ingredient: ½ cup (125ml) Aquafaba - The liquid from canned or home-cooked chickpeas, black bean or other legume. Equivalent to the liquid from one standard 15-oz can of cooked beans. Optional (But Highly Recommended) Ingredients: ½ Tbsp Cocoa Powder - Other dry or liquid flavors should work too - experiment! See notes below. 1 pinch Stevia Powder - This is pure stevia powder, like this - not the stuff that comes in packets. A pinch is 1/16 tsp. Other sweeteners will work too. Pick your favorite and sweeten to taste. Note: This combination of cocoa and stevia results in a pretty chocolatey, not very sweet macaron, especially using black beans aquafaba. It is sort of like dark chocolate. I like them this way, but if you prefer a sweeter taste, adjust accordingly. Also, I've found the more extra flavoring ingredients you add, the less firm and crunchy the macarons will be in the end. Note: If you are going to try other flavors or sweeteners, here is one piece of advice. Watch out for acidic flavoring ingredients (like lemon juice) which I suspect will interfere with the foaming ability of the aquafaba. But I haven't tried it so I could be wrong. Equipment: Can opener - If using canned beans Small saucepan - For reducing the aquafaba Stove or Cooktop - For reducing the aquafaba Stand Mixer with Whisk Attachment - I highly recommend using a stand mixer (e.g. KitchenAid) rather than a hand mixer, both because the aquafaba will whip better, and your won't tire out your arm. But if all you've got is a hand mixer, that should work too I expect. Plastic Storage Bag - 1-qt or 1-gal size. For piping macarons. If you are a fancy baker and have a piping bag already, use it. Scissors - to cut corner off plastic bag to turn it into a piping bag. Large Spoon or Spatula - For scraping & scooping whipped aquafaba into piping bag. Cookie Sheet - Standard size. Non-stick. If you don't have one, or don't have room in your freezer for a full-size cookie sheet, you can use one (or two) 9x11 baking pans or equivalent. Make sure they are non-stick. If not, line the sheet/pan with a silicone baking mat, wax paper, or plastic wrap. Freezer - For chilling and hardening the final macarons. You'll need enough room in the freezer for the cookie sheet / baking pan(s). Instructions: Step 1: Pick Your Bean You need to decide what type of bean to use to make your aquafaba. Here are a few options, and considerations for each: Chickpeas - The traditional source for aquafaba. Lighter in taste and color than black beans Black Beans - Produces aquafaba with a bit more 'beany' tasting than chickpeas, and a darker color. Complements cocoa powder for a more savory macaron which I like. Other Beans - I've tried cannellini beans and they work fine too - very similar to chickpeas. I'm skeptical whether lentils would work, but I haven't tried them. Step 2: Pick Your Bean Preparation Method Aquafaba is the cooking liquid from cooked beans. Note - this isn't the soaking/rinsing liquid. There are two methods of getting aquafaba. One easy, and one more labor intensive. Here are your options: Canned Beans - By far the easiest. The liquid packed in one 15-oz can of cooked beans is exactly the right amount for this recipe. But for those concerned with excess sodium, watch out for it on the label. Most canned beans have a lot of added sodium, and much of it stays with the liquid in the can. The other possible downside is Bisphenol-A (BPA) exposure from lining of the can, which tends to leach into both the beans, and the liquid. Home-cooked Beans - I personally cook my own dry beans in big batches, and have always thrown out the cooking water, despite it appears to contain many of the brightly (or darkly) colored phytochemicals that have leached out of the beans. That was part of the motivation for developing this recipe in the first place. I cook my own dry beans largely to reduce the sodium and the cost of the legumes I eat. But for many people rinsing, soaking and then cooking beans from scratch is too big a hassle. If you do cook your own, you can generate a lot of aquafaba by saving the cooking liquid, and make this recipe several times over. The extra aquafaba stores well in the fridge for a week and pretty much indefinitely in the freezer. Homemade aquafaba has a lot less sodium than aquafaba from canned beans. Plus there is no concern about BPA with home-cooked beans. If you are using canned beans, continue to Step 3a. If you're cooking your beans yourself, jump to Step 3b. Step 3a: Make the Aquafaba - Canned Bean Version It's really pretty trivial to get aquafaba from canned beans, especially if you're using beans like chickpeas or cannellini beans, where the liquid is easy to pour off. Simply use a can opener to open the can most of the way, but don't go all the way around to completely remove the lid. With the lid still attached and over the beans, pour the liquid into a small saucepan, straining out the beans so they remain in the can. Save the beans for use in another recipe. They freeze well so don't worry about using them right away. I find that black beans have a much thicker liquid that clings to the beans, so the above "pour it off" method that works for chickpeas isn't enough to get all the aquafaba out of the can of black beans. So here is what you do. Once you've poured off the liquid that will come out easily using the above technique, simply pry open the lid and add about ½ cup (about ¼ of the can) of water to the can, which still contains the beans and the stubborn aquafaba. Bend the lid back down to cover the beans, and then put your hand over the lid to keep the liquid from escaping while you shake it vigorously to rinse the aquafaba off the beans. Pour this additional aquafaba into the saucepan with the rest. If you bother to measure it (I usually don't), a single 15-oz can of cooked beans should yield about a cup (240 ml) of aquafaba using the methods described above. Don't worry though, it doesn't have to be exact. Because next you're going to reduce the aquafaba on the stovetop to get the right amount and consistency. You're ready now to jump ahead directly to Step 4, skipping Step 3b. Step 3b: Make the Aquafaba - Home-cooked Bean Version Rinse and soak your dried beans using your regular protocol. Put them in the pot and cover them with twice as much water (by volume) as beans. Cook in your usual way until beans are tender (20-60 minutes depending on the bean). But rather than pouring the cooking liquid down the drain, pour it into an airtight container. It will keep for at least a week in the fridge and many months in the freezer. When you are ready to make this recipe, measure out 8oz (240 ml) of the cooking liquid and pour it into a small saucepan. It can be warm, room temperature, or refrigerator temp - it doesn't matter. Step 4: Reduce the Aquafaba Put the saucepan on a stove or cooktop. Turn on the heat to medium until the aquafaba starts to boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. It should look like this while it's simmering: Leave it simmering for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a 'skin' from forming on the surface. It should reduce down from an original 8 oz (240ml) to about half that, around 4 oz (120 ml). This step may not be entirely necessary, but I've found thicker, more viscous aquafaba makes for good final texture in the macarons. The reduced aquafaba should have the viscosity of heavy cream or half-n-half at this point. Remove from stovetop and go on to Step 5. Step 5: Whip the Aquafaba Now comes the fun part, where the aquafaba gets to do it's thing. First pour the reduced aquafaba from the saucepan into the bowl of your mixer: Starting on low to avoid splatter, slowly ramp up the speed of your mixer until it's maxed out. Let is whip on high for a couple minutes until it starts to thicken. Then pour in the cocoa powder and the sweetener: Starting on low again, ramp mixer back up to high making sure dry ingredients incorporate completely. Scrape sides of mixing bowl if necessary to incorporate. Continue mixing on high for 3-4 more minutes, or until 'stiff peaks' form in the whipped aquafaba. It should be the consistency of thick whip cream or ganache, and look something like this: Yum! In fact, you can stop right here and eat the aquafaba cream - at this stage it is a very tasty pudding! In fact, I encourage you to try a taste of it now to make sure the amount of cocoa powder and sweetener is the way you like it. If you need to make adjustments by adding more flavoring or sweetener, simply mix on high for a minute or two more to make sure your additions gets evenly incorporated. Don't worry about over whipping your aquafaba. Unlike egg whites, this stuff can be whipped all day and still maintain at stiff peaks. Step 6: Pipe the Cream to Form Macarons If you are going to use a plastic bag for piping, use a pair of scissors to cut about ½ " off one of the lower corners of the plastic storage bag: Now use a large spoon or spatula to scrape and scoop the aquafaba cream into the open end of the piping bag, like so: Seal the piping bag and gentle squeeze it to extrude approximate 24 1-inch turds dollops of the aquafaba cream onto the non-stick or lined cookie sheet / baking pan, like so: Here is what the cookie sheet should look like when you are done, depending on whether you are neat (top) or not (bot). These were two different batches. They had slightly different amounts of cocoa - hence the difference in color: Step 7: Chill The Macarons Slide the cookie sheet or baking tray(s) into the freezer. Leave them there to harden for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Then use a spatula to gently slide them off the sheet/tray. Store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Step 8: Enjoy! When you're ready to eat them, remove them from the freeze and enjoy! But do it quickly. They melt fast at room temperature, so you'll want to eat them while their are still frozen and have a nice crunch to them. Here is what the final product looks like, whole and with a bite taken out! I really like the way these taste and the mouthfeel. They are like chilled versions of the top and bottom shells of real macarons1. They crunch when you bite them and then quickly melt in your mouth. Even my wife, who has a discerning palate and usually hates what I eat, thought these were pretty good, and really liked the mouthfeel too. That's high praise from her! And at less than ½ kcal per macaron, they aren't going to break your calorie budget! ------------------ 1On the issue of whether these are real macarons. I will acknowledge for the serious chefs / bakers out there, that these are not complete macarons, which usually have two wafers like these with sweet ganache sandwiched between them. That's one difference. Another is that real macaroons are stable at room temperature☺. You could make these more like real macarons by reserving some of the whipped aquafaba, flavoring it differently, and keeping it in cream form rather than freezing. You could then spread it between two of these frozen wafers to make a little sandwich. But that seems like too much trouble, and the combination is going to melt pretty fast anyway, spoiling the effect. It might be worth a try though. Also, if you are interested in real macarons, there are plenty of recipes out there using aquafaba instead of egg whites. Like these or these - which look a whole lot fancier and authentic than this recipe. But most of them (including those two) have lots of sugar, almond or white flour and other ingredients that many obsessively healthy folks try to steer clear of. @ Copyright: 2016 Dean Pomerleau - All rights reserved. Please share this recipe with others but please include this copyright & attribution notice. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I really hope people will give this recipe a try, both in its original form described above, and with alternative flavorings and sweeteners. I'll be very curious to see and try for myself what other combinations people discover. Please post about your results trying this recipe below. Also, if you've got suggestions for a better name, I'm all ears. Bon Appétit! --Dean -------- [1] Tava A, Odoardi M Saponins from Medicago ssp.: chemical characterization and biological activity against insects In: Saponins used in Food and Agriculture. Waller GR, Yamasaki K (eds.), Advances in experimental medicine and biology, Vol. 405, 97-109 [2] Cheeke PR Biological effects of feed and forage saponins and their impacts on animal production Saponins used in Food and Agriculture. Waller GR, Yamasaki K (eds.), Advances in experimental medicine and biology, Vol. 405, 377-385
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