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The Fantastic Fake

       

As a plant based eater, I’m not much for fakes. Vegan chicken? No thanks. But when I started to hear about aquafaba and its mysteriously similar properties to eggs, I was intrigued. And a little doubtful.

Aquafaba, which literally translates to “water bean” is the cooking liquid from beans, most commonly chickpeas. Yes, we’re talking about the thick and totally unappealing liquid you toss when you open a can. It can also be the liquid leftover when you cook beans at home though many who write about it note that the canned version is foolproof and a perfect consistency for most purposes.

What’s fascinating is that aquafaba can equally replace egg whites (as in a meringue), as it can egg yolks (as in mayonnaise) and of course whole eggs (as in any classic baking). And its taste is remarkably neutral so that even the simplest of recipes with few other ingredients can withstand the swap. Our brilliant food stylist and discerning taster, Victoria Granof, confirmed this fact when she tasted the aquafaba whipped cream she made for the images here.

We don’t totally know why aquafaba works so well and grassroots organizations exist to promote the study and research of aquafaba, but it seems that the specific ratio of proteins and starches is what makes aquafaba so egg-like. It works as a binder, an emulsifier, a thickener and to create foam or gelatin. And yet, with all of these properties, it is nutritionally almost negligible and a light food with just about 5 calories per tablespoon. (Most recommend 3 tablespoons as the standard replacement for 1 egg.) 

And so the plant based doors open wide to meringues, macarons, mousses and baked Alaskas. And we’ve been testing its limits. We’ve just scratched the surface but here are some highlights from our kitchen experiments so far: a perfect and classic plant based mayonnaise and a curried version that pairs perfectly with roasted cauliflower, new potatoes or rutabaga and next a waffle recipe that works for food combiners and vegans alike since the egg, a protein, is replaced with the light, plant food magic of aquafaba.

Classic Mayonnaise or Garlic Aioli

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard powder or prepared Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons aquafaba
1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
3/4 cup avocado or grape seed oil
Juice of 1/4 juicy lemon
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed, optional
White or black pepper to taste

Add vinegar, mustard, aquafaba and salt to a high speed blender. Blend until combined. With motor running, slowly(!) drizzle in the oil. You’ll be able to hear the emulsification as the mayo thickens. When oil is blended and mayonnaise is thick, add the lemon, garlic if using and black or white pepper and blend until combined. Store in refrigerator for up to 7 days. 

Madras Mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon mustard powder or prepared Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons aquafaba
1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt plus more to taste
3/4 cup avocado or grape seed oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon curry powder

Add vinegar, mustard, aquafaba and salt to a high speed blender. Blend until combined. With motor running, slowly(!) drizzle in the oil. You’ll be able to hear the emulsification as the mayo thickens. When oil is blended and mayonnaise is thick, add the syrup and curry powder and blend until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings. Store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Buckwheat Waffles

1 cup nut, seed or coconut milk of choice
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/3 cup aquafaba
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or ghee
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
big pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat waffle iron. We like this one.

In a small mixing bowl or measuring cup mix milk of choice with vinegar or lemon juice. Set aside for 5 minutes. In the meantime, place aquafaba liquid in a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. When soured milk is ready, add to aquafaba along with the other wet ingredients: coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla if using.

In a separate bowl, mix the buckwheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. 

When waffle iron is ready, add enough batter (quantity will depend on your machine) and cook until done. 

This will make a simple waffle that can be served breakfast style topped with bananas and maple syrup or loaded with pureed vegetables at dinnertime. Here are some variations we like:

Banana blueberry waffles:

Add a mashed banana to the wet ingredients before combining and stir in 1/4 cup blueberries (or any ripe fruit) to the finished batter before cooking. 

Savory vegetable waffles:

Omit the vanilla and add your choice of pureed raw or roasted vegetables like beets, carrots and onion to the finished batter. Freshly grated or ground ginger and a pinch of nutmeg goes well with this too.

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