Can the magic of chickpea water make an eggless brioche that’s as rich and soft as the traditional variety?
Is there anything Aquafaba can’t do? In this series, I am exploring the almost suspicious versatility of this ingredient that is little more than the leftover liquid from a drained can of chickpeas. Fortunately for us, someone diplomatically came up with the Latin translation “aquafaba” so we don’t have to go around talking about “bean water” which doesn’t sound nearly as elegant. Something about the protein-rich properties of this aquafaba means that it behaves in a very similar manner to egg whites — both in terms of its binding properties and its voluminous, air-trapping abilities. This has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for vegans and there are a zillion innovative recipes out there. I plan to both bring you original recipes and to test out those that are full of promise and promises, to see how far this bean water can take us.
So far I’ve used aquafaba to make aioli and chocolate mousse, but I decided to level up and try something a lot more involved, in the form of vegan brioche. Brioche is a French bread, traditionally fortified with eggs and butter. This recipe instead uses aquafaba and olive oil to provide similar properties in a vegan way.
My recipe, while adapted a little, is sourced directly from this one at holycowvegan.net and I encourage you to read what they’ve said for further reference. I love baking bread and was keen to see how these two key ingredients would emulate the properties of a traditional brioche, turns out the protein in the aquafaba and the fat in the olive oil result in an amazing loaf of bread that’s rich and soft, with a fluffy, light, layered crumb and a gently crisp crust. I was so delighted with the brioche that I ended up eating it on its own — nothing spread on top, no sandwich fillings — because it’s just so delicious. Aquafaba wins again.
I don’t have a stand mixer and didn’t want to assume that you have one either, so have formulated this recipe to be made entirely by hand, incorporating the olive oil by rolling and folding the dough repeatedly, which I believe also aids the texture of the finished brioche. If you have a mixer with a dough hook the kneading will definitely be quicker! The kneading process is quite involved and there’s a lot of resting time for the dough, but I promise it’s worth it for the tender, luscious loaf of bread awaiting you.
Adapted from this recipe at holycowvegan.net
- Two ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (or, one sachet)
- ⅓ cup soymilk, gently warmed
- Four tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup aquafaba (this should be one can’s worth)
- One cup all-purpose flour
- Two cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place the yeast, soy milk, and one tablespoon of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Swirl the bowl around to mix the yeast into the liquid, then let it sit for five minutes, to allow the yeast to bloom and get a little puffy.
- Tip in the rest of the sugar, salt, aquafaba, and the all-purpose flour, and stir together with a wooden spoon. Then, add the bread flour to the bowl and knead the mixture together for about five minutes, until it forms a solid cohesive clump of dough. I often knead the dough right inside the bowl, but you might find it easier to place it on a clean surface. I find the easiest way to knead is to think of a pushing and pulling motion — push the dough away from you, pull it back towards you, and then push it away again.
- Now comes the even messier part: kneading in the olive oil. For me the best way to incorporate the olive oil is to get out a rolling pin and roll the dough into a square. Pour a couple of spoons of olive oil over the dough, fold it up like it’s a piece of paper, and then roll it out again and repeat. You may need to scatter a little flour over your surface if it feels like the dough is getting saturated, and you may need to let the dough rest for a few minutes before it will roll out again. It’s okay if the final ball of dough seems very sticky and oily. Keep going!
- First rise: Rinse out and dry the mixing bowl and place the ball of dough into it. Cover the bowl tightly and allow the dough to rise in a warmish place for 90 minutes.
- Second rise: Punch down the dough — literally, just smush your fist into it, which seems counterintuitive but is very satisfying — cover the dough again, and this time pop it in the fridge and leave it overnight.
- Third rise: The following day, remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. I set my alarm early, put it on the bench, and then went back to bed. Shape the dough into a loaf shape in a tin — I followed the original recipe and split the dough into four balls which I butted up next to each other in the tin — and allow it to rise for one last 90 minute stretch.
- Finally: Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, at which point the top should be golden brown and the base should feel gently firm when you lift it out of the tin and tap it. Allow the loaf to rest for about ten minutes, then slice it up and eat.