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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

All About 'Aquafaba'

Erin Zimmerman/Vegan Meringue -- Hits and Misses

Here are two words we never see together: “vegan” and “meringue.” That’s because meringues, those sugar-browned peaks atop lemon pie, are made from egg whites. So are macarons, the French cookies sandwiched around jam or other sweet fillings.

Replacing whole eggs in desserts with applesauce or other fruit-based products is easy. But replacing just the egg whites needed for meringue – with an ingredient a home cook can sweeten, whip, and bake – has been almost impossible.

Enter aquafaba. It’s a new name for the liquid that results from cooking legumes such as chick peas. Aqua (water) + faba (bean). Yes, that milky juice from canned garbanzos we’ve been draining and discarding can be transformed into a fluffy, vegan meringue for desserts and other dishes.

It’s a game-changer.

A tidy timeline on a website devoted to aquafaba explains how innovators Miyoko Schinner, Joël Roessel, and Goose Wohlt separately began experimenting with plant-based liquids that would have a similar texture and behave like egg whites. By blogging about their results and engaging other intrepid recipe testers, a community was born. At last count 20,199 people had joined the “Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses” Facebook group to post recipes and photos of their efforts.

Erin Zimmerman got a gorgeous result by using a crème brûlée torch to toast the top of her vegan lemon meringue pie. Kendall Imogene created lovely pastel macarons in raspberry-lime and lavender-earl-grey-tea flavors. Others weren’t so successful. Their results were grainy, goopy, droopy, splotchy, or runny; in other words, the same problems that can befall any egg-based meringue.

Here’s the basic recipe for baked meringues:

Strain the liquid from a 13- to15-oz can of chickpeas into the bowl of a stand mixer with balloon whisk, and whip at high speed until it forms firm peaks.

Then, with the mixer running, slowly pour in 3/4 cup of granulated sugar slowly until it's well combined and glossy. At that point the peaks should hold if you turn the bowl upside down.

Scoop in 1-1/2 inch/4 cm blobs onto parchment paper on cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated oven at 200F degrees for 1-1/2 hours, then let cool.

For more recipes, links, advice and photos, it’s easy to join in the aquafaba fun!

Amy Rogers is the author of Hungry for Home: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas and Red Pepper Fudge and Blue Ribbon Biscuits. Her writing has also been featured in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, the Oxford American, and the Charlotte Observer. She is founding publisher of the award-winning Novello Festival Press. She received a Creative Artist Fellowship from the Arts and Science Council, and was the first person to receive the award for non-fiction writing. Her reporting has also won multiple awards from the N.C. Working Press Association. She has been Writer in Residence at the Wildacres Center, and a program presenter at dozens of events, festivals, arts centers, schools, and other venues. Amy Rogers considers herself “Southern by choice,” and is a food and culture commentator for NPR station WFAE.