Alicia Kennedy, Food & Drink Writer

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the egg-less meringue diaries, part 1

Vegans go to great lengths to replicate eggs in baking. They also make a lot of weird choices, sometimes. Why are you putting flaxseed in your cookies? If you don't want your brownies to taste faintly of applesauce, don't add applesauce. Why does your vanilla cupcake taste like a banana cupcake? Because you used bananas to sub for eggs, bro. Use your noggin.

When I bake, I generally use the flavorless arrowroot starch. If I'm making muffins or pancakes, though, I use flax eggs. Never have I really felt too compelled to get into the meringue game. Meringue is completely composed of egg whites, classically, and it's necessary to light French pastries like macarons. It's been known that one can make vegan meringue with a blend of starches and a protein. This is not greatly accessible to the home baker, though, because all of these things are kind of hard to find and they cost a whole bunch. Xanthan gum is readily available these days because gluten-free baking is so huge, but it's still pricey. And so I guess that's why this chickpea meringue trend began, apparently in a Facebook group by someone named Goose Wohlt, and has been all over the Instagram for a few months. It got so big that I decided I had to try it to see whether everyone had completely lost their minds.

To do it (I followed this recipe), you drain the water from a can of chickpeas, whip it in your stand mixer on high for a while, and then you've got bizarrely white, stiff peaks that really do resemble what happens with egg whites. You also add in sugar and vanilla extract to make it palatable. I was really freaking dubious of it because it sounds disgusting, and it really is disgusting when you think about it, but after trying it out and finding that the meringue itself when sweetened and flavored tastes like highly processed cereal marshmallows, I understood the appeal. You can also toast it with a torch, like a marshmallow, and it pipes okay—it doesn't keep its shape that well. For a person who wants to make macarons or meringues without getting too science-y, it seems like a good, cheap option. It never quite loses its bean-y-ness, though. 

I also tried out flax gel meringue from a recipe in (funnily enough) an old issue of Chickpea, which did not fluff up nearly as well as the chickpea version. That one is also pricier, a lot of work, and gives you a bunch of flax gunk that you probably won't do anything with. At least you can make hummus with the chickpeas. 

I am calling this "part 1" because I think I'll try out, finally, the more standard version and actually try to bake with it. I don't think the chickpea meringue will really hold up in anything more extensive than a meringue cookie or macaron (which people have been having good luck with, seemingly). 

In other news, LPK is popping up tonight at Passenger Bar at 8 p.m. Salted Chocolate Almond cookies and Oatmeal Cream Pies! Come by!