This is huge. For those of you who haven’t heard the buzz yet, recently a French chef discovered an amazing replacement for eggs in baked goods, and it’s pretty mind-blowing. A man by the name of Goose Wohlt introduced the idea to vegan social media, and it has initiated an international flurry of excitement. He’s calling it “aquafaba” (from the Latin for “water” and “bean” – click the link to find out all about it). It’s the cooking water left over when you cook beans, or the brine that comes in a can of chickpeas, for example, or even the water in a box of tofu. Aquafaba makes cakes, cookies and pancakes light and fluffy. It can be whipped with sugar, just like egg whites, to make meringues, French macarons, pavlovas, marshmallows and more, throwing the door wide open to endless possibilities for previously non-vegan favorites. Some of the creative chefs in a wonderful Facebook group I’ve been following on the topic – Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses! – are using it to make vegan mayonnaise, ice creams, whipped toppings like royal icing, corn bread, chocolate mousse and more. If you’re interested, I highly recommend joining this group, because the community is supportive and we’re all learning from one another’s experiences, both good and not-so-good.
Upon hearing of the wonders of aquafaba, my own imagination turned immediately to an old favorite of mine: French madeleines. These soft, fluffy little cakes were such a treat when I lived in France. But because they are made almost entirely of eggs and butter, I haven’t had much hope for recreating a suitable vegan version. Until now.
Those of you who are familiar with my recipes will know that I generally focus on healthy dishes and baked goods made of whole-food (unprocessed) ingredients. This is not one of those recipes. Although I did experiment with alternative ingredients, I came to the conclusion that my goal this time was to recreate the closest possible approximation of the authentic Madeleine. My recipe uses all-purpose flour, some white cane sugar and Earth Balance vegan buttery spread. (I did try using coconut oil in place of the “butter” and using all whole cane sugar, and it did work, but the result just wasn’t as true to the original.) It’s not an everyday recipe; it’s a special treat. It is fabulous and delicious. Madeleines go perfectly with tea and, for me, they evoke memories of happy days in France, just like they did for Proust in his famous passage in “Remembrance of Things Past.” And in a similar way, when all the ingredients came together, before I knew what to expect, for me, it was the smell of the batter that filled me with excitement and spontaneously brought me back to a visit to Mont Saint Michel when I bought some fresh madeleines from a local bakery.
Here is my recipe, heavily inspired by the internationally renowned French celebrity chef Daniel Boulud and his recipe as published on the Bon Appétit website.
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- heaping ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
- 4.5 Tbsp. chickpea brine (“aquafaba”), preferably chilled
- ¼ cup evaporated cane juice
- scant Tbsp. whole cane sugar or brown sugar
- scant Tbsp. agave syrup
- 1½ tsp. lemon zest
- 4 Tbsp. Earth Balance buttery spread, melted
Use a microplane to lightly grate the zest of a little more than half a regular-sized lemon, until you have a teaspoon and a half.
In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the aquafaba, sugars, agave syrup and lemon zest. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture gets foamy on the surface.
Blend in the dry ingredients until just incorporated, and then, as the beaters are spinning, slowly pour in the melted butter. Beat the batter until it is smooth and shiny.
Transfer the batter to a Ziploc bag. One easy way to do this is to place the baggie in a glass (I used a stemless wine glass) and cuff the top of the bag over the rim of the glass so it stays open as you pour in the batter.
When the batter is cool to the touch and you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400º F. Cut off one small corner of the Ziploc bag, and pipe the batter into each mold of the pan, filling each well only about two-thirds of the way full. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown.
Allow the madeleines to cool to a touchable temperature before sliding them out onto a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. They should slip right out of the pan. These are often served sprinkled with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but I think they are sweet enough as is.
If you’re using a mini-madeleine pan, you might want to adjust the quantity of batter, because it does seem to hold a bit less than a regular pan. Here are the quantities I found to be perfect:
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, ½ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. fine sea salt, 3 Tbsp. aquafaba, scant 3 Tbsp. evaporated cane sugar, ½ Tbsp. whole cane sugar or brown sugar, ½ Tbsp agave syrup, 1 tsp. lemon zest, 3 Tbsp. melted Earth Balance buttery spread. Then, follow the above instructions for the regular-sized pan.
Mini madeleines, shot quickly with my phone:
*Green Sage Madeleine Pan Giveaway: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of 7/7/15 8:18AM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules.