Aquafaba Meringues

Photo credit: (vegan-baking/Flickr)

Photo credit: (vegan-baking/Flickr)

Dr. Kent Kirshenbaum flew from NYC to LA to speak at our March 8th public lecture about the impact of what we eat, sharing the stage with Dr. Amy Rowat, Dr. Paul Thompson, and Chef Daniel Patterson. Impressively he brought along with him a case of hundreds of homemade vegan meringues for lecture attendees to nosh on after the event.

In lieu of egg whites, the meringues contained aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas. To the surprise and delight of Science & Food guests, the airy confections were devoid of any chickpea flavor. Some reached for seconds (or guilty thirds) while others wondered how Dr. Kirshenbaum was able to transport the fragile cookies across the country without any of them breaking. (Note from backstage: all the cookies were in mint condition when we received the case from Dr. Kirshenbaum–until moments before the event when one of us volunteers fumbled during setup and dropped one. Oops!)

Whether you want to recreate Dr. Kirshenbaum’s aquafaba meringues because you loved them so much or you couldn’t make the event, we have the recipe below!

A Science & Food volunteer offers lecture attendees Dr. Kent Kirshenbaum's amazing vegan meringues.

A Science & Food volunteer offers guests Dr. Kent Kirshenbaum’s amazing vegan meringues.
Photo credit: Abbie F. Swanson (@dearabbie/Twitter)

Aquafaba Meringues

1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid drained from a 15 oz can of chickpeas
1/2 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 215 °F.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the canned chickpeas liquid at high speed until stiff peaks form.

3. Once peaks have formed, add sugar one tablespoon at a time. After all the sugar is incorporated, if the foam feels gritty, keep whipping until the mixture is smooth.

4. Spoon or pipe the meringue in 1.5 inch dollops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

5. Bake at 215 °F for 1.5 hours.

6. After baking, turn off the oven and crack the oven door open to allow the cookies to cool to room temperature. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Alice PhungAbout the author: Alice Phung once had her sights set on an English degree, but eventually switched over to chemistry and hasn’t looked back since.

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Vertical Farming & Micro-Gardening

In preparation for tonight’s conversation with ZeroFoodprint, we’re reading up on new farming methods that promise fresher and ultra-local produce for urban areas. What are the pros and cons of vertical (indoor) farming in a city like Chicago? How micro is micro-gardening?

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Anthony Myint

Anthony Myint, a chef based in the Mission in San Francisco, is a founder of the restaurants The Perennial, Mission Street Food, Mission Chinese Food, Mission Cantina, Mission Burger, Lt. Waffle, and Commonwealth Restaurant. His cookbook, co-written with his wife Karen Leibowitz, Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant, was a New York Times Notable cookbook in 2011. In 2010, Food & Wine Magazine listed Myint as one of the big food thinkers in their “Top 40 Under 40” list, and in 2011, was named as’s empire builder of the year for San Francisco. As the pioneer of the charitable restaurant business, he was named SF Weekly’s Charitable Chef of the year in 2009 and is one-third of the non-profit, ZeroFoodprint.

See Anthony Myint May 19, 2016 at “Curbing Carbon Emissions in Dining: A Conversation with ZeroFoodprint”

Anthony Myint

What hooked you on cooking?
Years ago what got me into the industry was the desire to do things the way I thought they should be done. At the time that was to make food in the middle ground between serious fine dining food and fast food/cheap ethnic food. It seemed like there was plenty of culinary expertise that doesn’t cost anything, but wasn’t being utilized in the $8-$15 price range.
The coolest example of science in your food?
Since then my whole orientation has changed and I am very interested in food and climate change. So to me, the exciting thing right now is carbon farming—how the production of food can store significant amounts of carbon in the soil. Or maybe I should restore it (I think literally billions of tons of carbon used to be in the soil before we started plowing.)
The food you find most fascinating?
I had a whole evolution from being infatuated with technique driven junk food, to lighter and more delicate haute cuisine food, to now, food that prioritizes the environment on equal footing with flavor. That said, I am most fascinated by the business side of food and the best value.
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
Carbon farming, carbon ranching, perennial grains and plants, and aquaponics as an intensive urban agricultural route to freeing up millions of acres of fields that are currently planted with annuals and could be switched to perennials.
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
Kernza is a perennial grain that was being optimized through natural breeding for the last 10-15 years by The Land Institute, in conjunction with The University of Minnesota. It’s finally starting to become available and a lot of science has gone into making an intermediate wheatgrass that could do wonders environmentally, into something commercially competitive with annual semi-dwarf wheat.
How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next 5 years?
Making it taste better and be healthier and more eco-friendly. We recently visited the labs at Impossible Foods and they are doing exciting things with producing a vegetab;e protein based burger that really mimics meat, all the way down to bleeding and firming up at 140 F.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
Silicon Spatula
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Milk, eggs, chicken, beer, ranch dressing
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Chicken skin.
Favorite cookbook?
That’s tough. I really like the Mugaritz cookbook because it is so analytical and articulate.
Your standard breakfast?
Scrambled eggs with a little bit of sautéed vegetables

Eating Better & ZeroFoodprint


Is the way we’re eating going to bring about the end of the world? ponders Michael Pollan in an article for Lucky Peach, as he delves into the history and politics of food consumption, the source and amount of energy used for food production, and how food science could lead the movement for better eating. Back in 2014, the non-profit ZeroFoodprint was founded to tackle some of these issues in the foodservice industry, specifically climate change. Find out what the founders (Chris Ying, Chef Anthony Myint, and Peter Freed), who will be headlining our last 2016 public lecture, “Curbing Carbon Emissions in Dining: A Conversation with ZeroFoodprint”, have accomplished in the past 2 years and their future goals for ZeroFoodprint.
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Photo credit: Flickr user cmbellman

Photo credit: Anders Adermark (cmbellman/Flickr)

Fizzy, bitter, yeasty, sour, floral, and sometimes just downright offensive—there are a dazzling array of adjectives that can come to mind when you think of fermentation. Fermentation is one of world’s oldest and simplest culinary traditions. Serendipitously discovered in ancient times as a means of preservation, flavor enhancement, and intoxication, it has exploded as an art and scientific field in recent years. Aptly described by Chef David Chang as when “rotten goes right,” fermentation is a process that harnesses the power of benign microbes to produce complex flavors and can transform a seemingly rotten pile of vegetables into a curiously palatable delight (1). It’s fermentation we can thank for transforming a lonely, simple cabbage into a bustling hotspot for microbial activity that we know as sauerkraut.

German for “sour cabbage,” sauerkraut is distinctively tangy, floral, and surprisingly simple to create. It requires no specialized ingredients or starters, demanding just cabbage and salt (1). Sauerkraut is an example of wild fermentation, a process that exploits microbes native to the surface of cabbages. To make a batch, begin with finely shredded cabbage with roughly 3 tbsp salt per 5 lbs of cabbage. Give your fingers a workout by gently massaging the cabbage mix and after a few minutes, you’ll notice that the cabbage appears to be sweating (2). This sweat is the basis for our brine, whose presence is absolutely vital in our cabbage-to-sauerkraut transformation.

This brine sets a stage for successful sauerkraut fermentation, a fermentation made possible by the flavorful collaboration between several different microbes. These microbes, specifically lactic acid bacteria and yeast, thrive in salty, anaerobic environments, much like in the brine (1). Although the brine is simple, comprising just salt and water, it must be carefully controlled so as to provide the lactic acid bacteria and yeasts with a competitive advantage over other undesirable organisms. Too much salt and you ruin the palatability of our sauerkraut, but too little salt and you risk creating an environment favorable to spoilage or pathogenic bacteria (3).

As the microbes feed on sugars in cabbage, they mainly produce lactic acid, which like salt lends taste in addition to antimicrobial effects. As the brine becomes enriched with lactic acid, the pH declines and the sauerkraut begins to develop tart notes. These effects inhibit the growth of our unwanted microbes, which tend to be sensitive to acidity. Secondary products can also include carbon dioxide, alcohol, and acetic acid, all of which can suppress the growth of our unwanted organisms, too (3).

After massaging long enough, you should have enough brine to prepare your cabbage for jarring. Employing a willing and eager fist, pack your cabbage into a jar so that it’s completely submerged beneath the recently-created brine—you may also want to consider weighing it down. Ensure that your cabbage is entirely covered by brine, otherwise you risk inviting the growth of harmful aerobic bacteria into your jar. Anything left exposed to air is susceptible to mold or invasion of other organisms (2).

Depending on your preferences, you can let your sauerkraut ferment for just a few days or up to several weeks if you prefer stronger flavors. Leave it in a closet, on your countertop, or bury it in your backyard—it’s totally up to you!

References cited

  1. McGee, Harold. On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.
  2. Katz, Sandor E. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub, 2003. Print.
  3. Katz, Sandor E., Michael Pollan. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub, 2012. Print.

Mai NguyenAbout the author: Mai Nguyen is an aspiring food scientist who received her B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Virginia. She hopes to soon escape the bench in pursuit of a more creative and fulfilling career.

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