Culinary Experiment: Spiced Chocolate Black Bean Meringue THINGS of DOOM

Also known as, Why People Are Making Meringues With Chickpea Water All Over The Internet but Nobody Is Making Them With Black Bean Water.

So on Friday I was tired.  Really, really tired.  Tired enough to absent-mindedly pour half a packet of chilli con carne spice mix into a batch of Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chilli, not because my hand slipped, but because my brain genuinely thought that pouring spices into a saucepan by the sackful was a good idea.  This is what several days of seminars and not enough sleep will do to a Catherine.  (The chilli was not improved by this act of misjudgment, incidentally.)

Anyway, this left me with the water from two tins of black beans, and I looked at the terrible, purple-grey, goopy stuff with the eyes of tiredness and poor judgment, and began to wonder whether one could  make meringues out of black bean water.

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Exhibit A. Surely, a more unpromising ingredient has rarely been seen in a kitchen. It’s cloudy, it’s purple-grey in colour, and it tastes just as bad as it looks.

Undeterred by the unprepossessing nature of black bean liquor, I duly poured it into a bowl – finding it surprisingly heavy for its volume – added some cream of tartar, and began to beat it.

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And beat it…

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And beat it…

So the first thing you need to know is that black bean water takes a very, very long time to reach anything remotely resembling a meringue consistency.  At least three times as long as chickpea water, I’d say.  It makes whipping cream look like a fast job.

At one point, I added a tablespoon of water, to see if thinning the mixture would make it light enough for the protein to hold it up.  This seemed to help, but not enough. Still, after a long, long time of beating it on a very high setting (and getting grey-purple droplets all over the kitchen), I suddenly realised that it was just barely holding its shape.  Sort of.  Kind of a bit more than the ribbon stage of beating eggs and sugar.

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So then I started adding sugar.  I had a cup of the original bean water, so I added 1/3 cup at a time of sugar, and it actually started looking a bit promising.

It wasn’t holding peaks, but it was holding waves, and I thought that might be enough.  Interestingly, it tasted really good at this point – much better than chickpea meringue does before baking, and rather like toffee.

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At the point where I had added a cup of sugar, I added a tablespoon of a chocolate spice mixture (from Gewürzhaus), and another third of a cup of sugar.  I beat it a little more, and it occurred to me that this might be a mixture that would do better in patty cases – it was a bit too soft to work as a standalone meringue.

And somewhere at this point, I made a mistake.  I don’t know what the mistake was.  Perhaps I overbeat the mixture, perhaps I added too much sugar, or perhaps leaving the mixture for sixty seconds while I lined patty cases was too long, but somehow, before the sugar finished dissolving, the mixture had gone back to being foamy and not really holding any shape at all.

It was obvious to me by now that black bean water is a much weaker protein than chickpea water, and I wasn’t going to get meringues out of this.  However, what I did have tasted fantastic, so I wasn’t going to stop yet.

I duly poured the mixture into patty cases, and put it into the oven at 100°C for an hour.

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And, since it was still liquid, for another hour.

And another hour, this time at 80.

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By this time, the meringue-things looked pretty well set, so I switched off the oven, and left the meringues in to sit there and dry out overnight.  Alas, my oven had other ideas.  About twenty minutes later I heard a beep and smelled a worrying toffee sort of smell – on investigation, I discovered that my oven had had some kind of fit and had somehow switched itself back on to 200°, fan forced (it occasionally has these moments of madness).  Most of my meringues had turned to burned caramel…

I took the sad remnants out of the oven – which now peaceably switched itself off as instructed and stayed off – and left them on the bench to cool overnight.

The next morning, I went in to investigate.  About a dozen of my 48 meringues looked salvageable, so I began removing them from their tray.  The first thing I noticed was that they were hard on top, but still somehow liquid underneath.  I don’t quite understand how this can be, but never mind.  They did, however, smell lovely, so I decided to taste one.

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I am here to tell you that smells can be deceiving.  It tasted revolting.  You know how chickpea water loses its chickpea taste when you bake it into meringues?  Well, it seems that black bean water gains this taste back, and then some.  The meringue tasted, to put it bluntly, kind of like black bean farts.  Slightly sweet, crunchy black bean farts.  Quite disgusting.

The goo underneath – and yes, I was brave enough to taste this – had become a chocolatey, spicy sort of treacle sauce, and tasted lovely, but it was evident that the black bean water had somehow separated itself from all the flavouring ingredients during the cooking process.

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My conclusion?  Well, it might be worth trying another time, with equal volumes of black bean water and sugar, because I think the sugar was what made it start losing integrity in the first place, and it’s possible that this is what led to the separation during baking, but honestly, I don’t want to.  I’m not sufficiently sure of what happened – I really do need to learn some food chemistry – and I don’t want to take the risk.  The flavour of black bean fart is not something I need to taste twice in this lifetime…

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5 responses to “Culinary Experiment: Spiced Chocolate Black Bean Meringue THINGS of DOOM

  1. Thank you for conducting this experiment so that we don’t have to!

  2. I was having a conversation just a few days ago about the importance in science of publishing negative results so that others don’t waste their time doing things that you already know don’t work. I think this counts as an example of an experiment that nobody is going to gain anything from replicating.

  3. What Cindy said! Plus I’m still waiting to eat meringues others have made before trying my own…

  4. It is fascinating to read about your experiment and like Cindy says it probably more fun to spectate than participate in this instance (unlike so many other great food on your blog and elsewhere online)

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