Ugly lockdown baking: Aquafaba vegan chocolate mousse – version 1

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Aquafaba is strange and miraculous.

Aquafaba vegan chocolate mousse – version 1

Aquafaba, the equivalent of four egg whites
1 cup sugar
Several tablespoons of sifted unsweetened cocoa

(You could also add vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean powder when you’re adding the cocoa. You can also add a lot more cocoa if you prefer. I used about two tablespoons, so it has a light chocolate touch.

Heat sugar and aquafaba, whisking together, in a glass bowl over a saucepan filled with water, gently simmering.

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When the sugar is completely dissolved, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to whisk at high speed until it comes together in medium peaks.

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Can you believe that this is chickpea water?!

Sift cocoa in and this point and continue to whisk – this will take while but will become fluffy eventually.

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Put in individual serving bowls and refrigerate for a few hours.

It’s not ‘pretty’, and this won’t be quite like the mousse you might be used to. It is very light but has a chocolatey marshmallow flavor.

This is a very simple version of a kind of vegan “mousse” you could make if you want something chocolate, light, easy, and vegan. I will soon try another version.

Ugly lockdown baking: Aquafaba vegan divinity candy

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On this day of torrential downpours, excessive reading and television viewing, I am not sure that there is a better time to experiment with food.

As I previously wrote, I don’t like cooking. Baking and candy-making is a bit more up my alley. Sometimes, various ingredients I use in cooking, like a tin of chickpeas, have castoff bits. Normally you strain your beans, sending the valuable bean water down the sink. But in fact, this miraculous liquid (also known as aquafaba) can act as an egg-white substitute and used to make vegan meringue, vegan Swiss meringue buttercream, and any number of other things… like espresso meringue cookies (my first aquafaba experiment).

I had some chickpea water leftover from one of my ugly cooking extravaganzas, and I thought about what kind of sweet things I could attempt. I thought back to a baking/candy-making disaster of my childhood. My mother tried to make traditional divinity candy many years ago, and it requires (as all divinity does) such extensive beating that she burned out her ancient hand mixer. She’s never made it again, despite replacing the hand mixer with a more heavy-duty stand mixer.

I should also note here that corn syrup is called for in this kind of recipe, and apart from believing that corn syrup is flavorless and bad, it’s also just not sold here. I use golden syrup instead.

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I recently watched the lightweight but engaging Nadiya’s Time to Eat on Netflix, in which the affable host, Nadiya, visited the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery and made a recipe using Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is something I use liberally and always have on hand for my baking.

I had never given much thought to the syrup but had a gab with S about it, and he said he always thought, as a kid, that there was a dead lion on the label. We looked it up, and indeed, it is a dead lion with bees buzzing around it, bearing text related to a Biblical passage (Judges 14:14): “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. A rotting lion carcass seems like an unusual slogan and brand position for a sickly sweet baking ingredient, but it has remained the same since the beginning. I read up a bit on Abram Lyle only to discover that he was a teetotaler and devout Presbyterian Scot, and is quoted as having said he’d “rather see a son of his carried home dead than drunk”.

Not terribly strange, but when you consider that his company merged with the rival Tate enterprise (to form Tate & Lyle), it’s strange bedfellows. Henry Tate, best known perhaps for giving his name and art collection to numerous art galleries in the UK, also gave freely to “non-establishment” causes and workers’ conditions. What struck me, in contrast to Lyle, was that he established a bar to let his workers have a good time (and probably to keep them out of trouble, trouble being bad for productivity, of course). Though Lyle and Tate the men never met each other, it’s hard to think Lyle would have approved of this kind of recreation. I love the contrast and kind of wish the men had met, and we could have a semi-fictional miniseries on the competing sugar refiners, along the same lines of The English Game to tell what could probably be a fascinating story. Much more fascinating than the tale of how my experimental aquafaba divinity candy turned out.

Aquafaba vegan divinity candy

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup golden syrup (or corn syrup, which isn’t sold here, and is not as nice or flavorful as golden syrup anyway)
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons aquafaba/chickpea water
1 teaspoon vanilla
(Add chopped nuts, if desired)

Heat sugar, water, syrup and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Add a candy thermometer, and continue cooking until the mixture reaches hard ball stage on the thermometer.

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Separately, beat the aquafaba with a mixer using the whisk attachment until it holds a stiff, meringue-like shape.

Very slowly add the sugar mixture and vanilla into the beaten aquafaba, and beat until stiff peaks form. You must beat to get the stiffest possible peaks; divinity will not hold its shape if you don’t beat it to the right consistency. That means you are going to beat, beat and beat some more… and you will be very happy that you have a stand mixer that can work autonomously.

To give you an idea of how much time the beating will take, know that I read a whole book. Between waiting for the syrup mixture to reach hard ball stage and the interminable beating stage, I read Virginia Woolf‘s A Room of One’s Own in its entirety. I’m a fast reader, and it’s not an excessively long book. But you get the idea. This is a very easy recipe – but it’s extremely time consuming. You will, however, be able to do multitask while the mixer works its magic. I think the “hard ball” waiting period was about 30 minutes, and then the beating process to reach the final product was another 30 minutes. Obviously this can differ, but this is just what worked for me.

At the very end of the process, add nuts if so inclined. Oh, I also added a wee pinch of red food coloring just to get a subtle tint for the final product.

Make small, rough blobs of divinity on pans lined with parchment or wax paper, or put into a pan and cut into squares. Let the little overly sweet balls set. I don’t eat stuff like this but did take a wee taste to make sure these at least taste edible. Apart from being sickeningly sweet (which some people like), they have a more complex flavor than if I’d made them with corn syrup, and also have a deeply vanilla flavor (thanks to the vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder I added).

white chocolate raspberry prosecco truffles

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What do you do when you end up not only with about five pounds of white chocolate (when you only needed about half a pound and also find white chocolate to be little better than eating crayons) but also with bottles of prosecco (when you don’t really drink, and if you did, prosecco would be one of the last things you’d reach for)?

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Too much white chocolate! And I was wrong. It wasn’t only 5 pounds but 5.5! Fuck! Incidentally I still have quite a lot of these and will make another batch of everyone’s favorite white chocolate macadamia cookies soon, even though my baking days are over… but as white chocolate goes, these are amazing. Thanks, Callebaut quality

You make white chocolate raspberry prosecco truffles. I saw a recipe online at the same time I was 1. stuck with these extraneous, and let’s face it, almost inappropriate amounts of ingredients, and 2. happened to be in a candy-making frenzy for handing over some homemade gifts to neighbors and people who stopped by in the post-holiday period.

So how did we get from there (see the oversized bag of white chocolate) to here (see below)? You can click the link above or follow the recipe below.

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White chocolate raspberry prosecco truffles
1 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup prosecco
red food coloring

2 cups white chocolate (for truffles)
2 cups white chocolate (for dipping/coating)

edible gold glitter

Mix in saucepan on medium, cook 3-4 minutes. Reduce to low. Add ½ cup prosecco. Simmer 2 minutes. Strain to remove seeds. Return to pan, add one drop red food color. Cook 10 minutes ( you should end up with about 1/2 cup of liquid).

Put 2 cups white chocolate chips in a bowl. Pour the cooked raspberry prosecco mixture over the chips. Let this sit 2 minutes, and then whisk until smooth.

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Put in freezer for an hour or two.

Remove from freezer and work quickly make 1 tablespoon-sized balls from the frozen mixture. Place balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze again, at least an hour.

When nearly ready to finish, melt 2 cups of white chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave.

Using a toothpick, lift each frozen prosecco ball and dip in white chocolate and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Freeze 30 minutes.

Re-melt chocolate and put in piping bag. Remove toothpicks gently – 3 at a time, drizzle white choc over – and top each with edible gold glitter.

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One of them cracked open and this is how it looked inside (somehow I think it could be less grey-lavender colored but my luck with red food coloring is lacking.

I can’t tell you how these taste, though, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to eat blobs of white chocolate and prosecco-tinged raspberry goo!

Brown sugar caramels

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I wondered if using dark brown sugar would change caramel-making. Well, the making is the same. The results were slightly different but positive.

Here’s how to go about it:

Brown sugar caramels
1½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
¼ cup water
1½ teaspoons vanilla
Sea salt to top, if desired

Lightly oil or spray an 8×8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper (the baking spray helps keep the parchment in place). Set aside.

Heat the cream, butter and salt in a small saucepan and heat together over medium-low heat until cream steams and butter is melted. (Or do the same in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave on high in 30-second intervals until cream is hot and steamy and the butter is melted, stirring or swirling gently between microwave intervals.) Set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot add the sugars, syrup and water. Whisk until thick and grainy. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the tip is submerged but not touching the bottom of the pot.

Turn the heat to medium. Without stirring, heat to 260 degrees F. Remove from heat, then slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Mixture will boil up so do this carefully.

Return to heat and, again without stirring, heat to 250 degrees. Turn off heat, quickly but gently whisk in the vanilla, and carefully pour into the prepared pan. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot, as this will have burned sugar that you do not want in your caramels.

Top caramels lightly with coarse sea salt, if desired. Allow to cool completely, at least 2-3 hours or, preferably, overnight. Cut into squares or rectangles and wrap each piece in waxed paper.

Caramels

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Caramels are not at all difficult to make. Candy-making in general is an exercise in patience. Most of the time, it’s a matter of mixing up very basic ingredients but then just standing there staring at a pile of sugar go through all kinds of chemical reactions to become something else and then something else again. But to achieve the desired results, the temperature is all the matters. So you have to just stare at the candy thermometer. And stare. And stare … and stare some more.

Here we go… I doubled this recipe.

Caramel
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
1 cup (200 grams) sugar

Chocolate (if you make chocolate-covered caramels)
1 pound high-quality chocolate, milk, dark, or white
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon course or flaked sea salt (to sprinkle on the caramel and/or chocolate if you decide to make salted caramels)

Lightly oil a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan then measure and cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit inside the pan and come up the sides. Lightly oil the parchment paper and place into the pan. Set the pan aside.

Cut butter into 8 pieces then combine with heavy cream in a small saucepan (if melting on the stove) or microwave-safe bowl (if melting in the microwave). On stove, heat on medium-low until cream is steaming and butter is melted. In the microwave heat for 1 to 2 minutes until hot and butter has melted. Set aside.

In another small saucepan combine the water and syrup. Then, add the sugar. Gently stir the sugar into the water and corn syrup, just moistening the sugar.

Heat over medium until the sugar has come to a boil. Then, cover with a lid for 1 minute. This adds steam/moisture to the pan, so any sugar that may have stuck to the sides of the pan melts and falls back into the boiling sugar.

Remove lid and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Then, cook sugar for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar reaches a temperature of 320 degrees F. At this temperature, the sugar will take on a light amber color.

As soon as the temperature reaches 320 degrees F, remove from heat and carefully pour the butter and cream mixture without scraping the bottom of the pan. The sugar will bubble violently as you add the butter and cream – so do this carefully and slowly to prevent the mixture from bubbling over the sides of the saucepan.

Return to heat (medium) and continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the caramel reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F/soft ball stage. This creates a very soft caramel. When I made this I cooked to firm ball stage (245-250F) but it was still quite soft.

The moment the caramel reaches your desired temperature, pour into the prepared loaf pan. Cool 20 to 30 minutes then, if salting, scatter the salt over the caramel. Then, let the caramel cool for at least 3 1/2 hours.

After cooling, unmold the caramel. If the caramel is too soft to work with, place into the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes to firm up. Use a large sharp knife to cut into desired shape. I made small rectangles. You can then wrap these caramels in wax paper if you are not coating them in chocolate.

For chocolate coating, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave or on stovetop until smooth and shiny.

Use two forks to dip each caramel into the melted chocolate then place onto parchment paper. If desired, sprinkle a little salt on top of each caramel and allow chocolate to set.

attempt at vegan caramels

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I knew I would be making regular caramels, hit as I have been with this urge to make candy (rather than bake). But again, this experimental bent made me decide to make vegan caramels as well.

First of all, I needed to get a new candy thermometer. I lost mine somewhere in my many moves. I bought two. One is vastly superior to the other, I have now learned.

Vegan caramels use coconut milk instead of cream. They were also made in an entirely different way from regular caramels (which are generally made all in one pan).

Things came together rather the way I would expect.

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Here we go…

Vegan caramels
2 or so tablespoons of melted coconut oil, melted, plus more for cutting caramels
1 (16 ounce) can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
3⁄4 cup golden syrup or light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 3⁄4 cups sugar
3⁄4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of an 8″x8″ square baking dish with parchment and brush with coconut oil; set aside.

Combine the coconut milk, syrup and sea salt in a 4-quart (2L) saucepan. Heat over medium low, stirring constantly for 3 to 5 minutes until mixture is warm and any coconut milk clumps are dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

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In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and the water and stir until sugar is wet. On medium-high heat, let cook without stirring until the sugar is light amber in color and a candy thermometer reads 310°F/155°C. Immediately remove from heat and pour melted sugar into the coconut milk mixture. Do this with care: the mixture will bubble and splash rather violently.

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Return saucepan to medium-low heat, stirring continuously until all the caramel is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium high, stir continuously, and cook until caramel becomes quite thick and a candy thermometer reads 240°F.

Immediately remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan.

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Let cool completely and cut into 1″ squares. Brush your knife with melted coconut oil between cutting to avoid sticking. Wrap individually in wax paper squares. Store at room temperature.

Verdict…

Well, I think this needed to be cooked a bit longer (beyond the 240F mark). I tasted it, and it tastes quite the way you’d expect – like caramel but not quite (i.e., it’s still made from coconut milk not butter and cream). But it was just too ‘runny’ in trying to cut it up, making it stringy and impossible to cut or wrap in pieces. It was just shy of being where it needed to be in terms of its solidity and texture, so this is kind of a sad and unsuccessful attempt, even if I can see that it would work if left to cook a little bit longer… better luck next time.

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