Vegan chocolate mousse - made with chickpea water
14 August 2017
My favourite chocolate mousse is the simplest. Best quality bitter chocolate. A little sugar. Egg white, plus maybe one egg yolk. It’s light, fluffy and carries that intensely chocolatey hit that brings an extra layer of satisfaction to life.
But some people are not keen on the idea of raw egg white. And I also have several vegan friends in my life, and it’s always my principle that if I’m cooking for someone that has a dietary preference for whatever reason, my aim is to give them food that is no-holds-barred delicious, not just some pale equivalent to “the real thing”.
So when I read about aquafaba - a fancy word for the liquid that you find in tins of chickpeas - and its remarkable ability to behave identically to egg whites - I was intrigued and actually rather excited. Because up until that point, eggs seemed this strange miracle of nature - a form of protein so incredibly versatile and magical that its presence could create all manner of culinary wizardry, from custards to meringues to foams, to mousses, to soufflés. And so on.
And it’s such a random thing. It’s like somebody suddenly discovering that a certain kind of bicycle, when drilled with holes in just the right locations, suddenly sounds like a stradivarius violin. I mean, it’s that bizarre. Chickpeas get put into tins and cooked, so that we can have pulses at our convenience. And somehow the liquid that’s left afterwards has become this amazing transformative thing? Really?
So I had to give it a try. I cast a quick eye over the existing literature about aquafaba to pick up on any already-known gotchas (there weren’t any - at least not for this project. For some uses - like making macarons - you need to reduce the liquid down to a thicker consistency). Then I decided to press ahead with my standard recipe and just throw in chickpea water instead of egg white (and to miss out the egg yolk - not a huge deal).
The chickpea water - from a small tin of Tesco chickpeas - whisked up very nicely. I took it to the level of soft peaks and then whisked in some sugar as usual. They became glossy and completely indistinguishable from the eggy equivalent. And even to taste the ‘egg white’ at this stage, before the addition of chocolate. There was no chickpea taste. You would swear you were tasting pre-cooked meringue. Quite incredible, really.
I did pick up that you should make sure your melted chocolate has cooled down before folding in the aquafaba. If it’s too hot, the air in the mousse may abandon ship, leaving a deflated experience. But, of course, if you let it get too cool it will stop being liquid. So you have to hit the ‘sweet spot’.
I clearly did this, since it worked perfectly. I was probably a little tentative on the folding, still quite disbelieving that some small error might not lead the whole thing to be a complete failure. So there were a few little intense bits of chocolate in with the mousse. No great hardship there.
But the bottom line is that it worked. I would have been hard pressed to tell the difference between my normal chocolate mousse and this vegan version. And one additional benefit - the leftovers you need to work out how to use before they’re wasted in this case is a small can of chickpeas. Very easy to add to all manner of dishes. Normally, the leftover is a couple of egg yolks. Possible to use, but a little more specialised, and trickier to store. For many people, I suspect, the yolks simply go down the sink or into the bin. I doubt people will be throwing away the chickpeas in order to use the water in the can, so maybe that means less waste overall. One can but speculate.
Vegan chocolate mousse - made with chickpea water
Please note. There is currently no information I could find giving a calorie count for chickpea water. Not entirely surprising. It's likely to be a rather low number, but be aware that the calorie count for the recipe below is missing that component.
90g fine quality 70% bitter chocolate (for vegan, look for a brand without any milk solids or other dairy)
30g caster sugar
5 tablespoons aquafaba (approx contents of one small tin chick peas)
Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water is not in contact with the bowl) and break the chocolate into small pieces in the bowl. Once all the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, put the chickpea water into a separate bowl and whisk for several minutes until it has begun to form soft peaks. Add the sugar in stages, whisking it in and carrying on whisking until slightly firmer peaks and the mixture is glossy.
Check that the chocolate has cooled to tepid or cooler. Don’t worry about waiting if it’s not quite there - the aquafaba should remain stable as whipped (unlike egg whites, in fact). At least for as long as you need here. Once it is at the right temperate, add a couple of spoonfuls of the aquafaba foam and whisk vigorously to loosen the chocolate. Then add the rest, and gently fold it in - aiming to get the chocolate fully and smoothly mixed in whilst beating as little of the air out of the foam as possible.
Once it’s fully incorporate, spoon the mousse into small serving bowls, or into cooking rings. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.
If serving stand-alone, heat the cooking rings quickly with a kitchen blowtorch and unmould. Otherwise, add any garnishes you would normally add to your chocolate mousse and serve to your guests.
The only leftovers from this recipe is the chickpeas from the can whose water you’ve used. Put the chickpeas into a clean container and cover with water. These will keep for several days in the fridge. You can easily add them to all sorts of meals - stews, sauces, salads, curries. If you value flavour and nutrition over convenience, then of course you could use them to make your own home made houmous. One of the best foods you can have in the fridge. Why wouldn’t you want to?
The chickpeas are generally a good sustainable crop - an efficient plant-based protein it will serve you well to add to your diet in some way or another.