Monday, 25 November 2013

Vegan Meringue - I

I'm one month off being a vegan for 20 years ... and for many of these years I have never thought about several dishes that are usually made with eggs, such as tiramisu, souffle, meringues, etc.  But then last Christmas I noticed on the back of a pack of Orgran egg replacer, a recipe for meringues.  I spent a week trying to source citrus pectin powder and had no luck, so my interest withered...

Then I bought Miyoko Schinner's Vegan Artisan Cheese and noticed in the recipe for Tiramisu, a method for making vegan meringues that she had developed.  The instructions were straightforward although the details were scant... the method makes a foam that is folded into vegan cream cheese and whipped coconut cream..  it was not designed to be mixed with sugar and baked... so I used the idea and began my own exploration...

I didn't have any linseeds/flaxseeds in the house.. but I did have a pack of ground flaxseed... So I boiled this up in some water for 20 minutes and it made a gooey mess... but it's impossible to remove the ground up fibres from the liquid.   I also tried with Chia seeds, and it's impossible to strain water off chia once the mucilaginous layer has formed around them.  So..

Rule 1 - Only use whole linseed / flaxseed - don't use ground flax or whole/ground chia.


(brown flax seed and golden flax seed - Images from Wikipedia)

I asked in the health food shop in York what the difference is between the brown and the yellow.. I don't know if I got a real answer.  They look like two varieties of flax seed.  The golden one perhaps looks nicer in food than the brown.  Brown is cheaper and is often used for making paints and non-food products.  I bought the brown variety.  I don't really need to spend more for golden.. especially for the first few trials.

I'm not interested in the Omega-3, ALA, lignan or protein content of flaxseed.. You can find that out in the link to Wikipedia above.

Step 1 - 1/3 of a unit of flax/linseed to 3 units of water.

This seems to be the general rule.  In this first few trials a tablespoon of flaxseed can be levelled or rounded..  measurements are fairly rough, as we are just looking at how it responds.    So I measured out 75 ml of flaxseed/linseed, which is about a third of a cup (roughly 210-220ml) and added that to about 600-700 ml of filtered water.  This is brought to boil and then simmered on medium for about 20 minutes.   I can't remember if I did this exactly or let it boil longer.. if you let it boil too long you will lose liquid.. if you don't boil for long enough, then not enough protein will leave the seeds.

Step 2 - Sieve and Cool

After my first trial with ground flaxseed, sieving this whole flaxseed was much easier... but I still made a messy job of it.  I had a few pieces of cheesecloth and I used it to line a metal sieve with a fine mesh... then I tried bunching the corners of the cheesecloth and holding it... scraping it with the edge of a spoon... it ended up being very messy.  Squeezing the bulb of flaxseeds in the cheesecloth just go the goo all over my fingers.. and eventually the cheesecloth slipped and I had to start again.  But eventually I had about a cup or less of clear, slightly brownish goo.  And the way it moves looks a little bit like egg white.

This is left to cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge.  

The flaxseeds in the cheesecloth could be added to a cake, biscuits/cookies, or to bread...

Step 3 - Whisk forever

Ok.. well not forever.  I had an electric hand whisk.. I set it to low.. and started whisking away.  The gloop wrapped around the whisk blades and climbed up... I changed the bowl several times because it threatened to jump out and run down the sides of the cabinets..  The instructions said 7-8 minutes... so.. after about 15 minutes I was getting a little tired.. the whisk was about to thermally cut out.  I decided to add sugar (several spoons of it - i didn't measure it) at that point, which is not supposed to happen until the meringue has been whisked until it forms peaks..  but it didn't seem to matter.. I was still whisking away...  So it worked... I ended up with a nice viscous foam... it didn't form really good peaks.. but it was close for my first attempt...  My next error was - I put it aside and went out for the afternoon.  Apparently you aren't meant to leave it.  I came back later, whisked a little more then decided to move on to baking it...  Here's the linseed meringue foam with sugar added... my phone's camera decided at this point to have a brown spot in the middle of every shot.. so this one is in black and white.. the foam is white anyway.. 

Step 4 - Cook

This time round I just spooned a little of the mixture into some muffin tins and then baked at 150 C...  I watched them rise and rise and rise.. they puffed up like balloons over about 15 minutes... and then suddenly they all collapsed.  Darn.. So next time I think I need a cooler temperature to stop the rising.. and longer than 20-30 minutes so they dry out rather than cook.  Here's some pictures of the cooked and collapsed meringues...  But despite all that, my partner reckons they tasted pretty much exactly like meringues...

Since this time I tried again and I had slightly better luck - and some of the stages were much easier.. I'll write that up in another post some time.

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