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Book Reviews

We review the Aquafaba cookbook from Zsu Dever

Book Review:
Sweet and Savory Vegan Recipes Made Egg-Free with the Magic of Bean Water

by Zsu Dever
review by Marla Rose

Has there been anything that has shaken up the vegan cuisine scene in recent times as much as the discovery of aquafaba? From elegant European pastries to frothy cocktails, hearty savory foods to familiar, home-baked treats, aquafaba, a.k.a. bean water, manages to bring a level of flavor dimension and textural depth we didn’t have before, adding another tool to the vegan tool box with an ingredient that just a couple of years ago, people would wash down the sink without a second thought. (Check out this recipe for a brief history of aquafaba.) Of course, it was clear that with so many applications and so much potential unlocked with its discovery, it wouldn’t be long before an aquafaba cookbook was published. Thankfully, aquafaba neophytes and enthusiasts are all in good hands with the publication of Aquafaba: Sweet and Savory Vegan Recipes Made Egg-Free with the Magic of Bean Water by the talented vegan cookbook author and recipe developer Zsu Dever.

One of the things that I love most about Zsu’s cookbooks is her unabashed enthusiasm for food. I know this sounds strange – enthusiasm for food is something that should be expected from a cookbook author, right? – but it seems that so many vegan cookbooks these days are more about restrictions, avoidance and anxiety than the pleasure and enjoyment of great food. Zsu comes at her recipe development as someone raised by Hungarian parents who were in the restaurant business and from a long line of culinary professionals: the joy she derives from adapting recipes from around the globe to vegan ones is very evident in each of her cookbooks. With a particular emphasis on classic European favorites, Zsu demonstrates with recipe after recipe that vegan food does not need to be about sacrifice at all.

In her new cookbook, Zsu spans the world to bring us a phenomenal array of aquafaba-boosted recipes, from lemon meringue pie to brioche, madeleine cookies to crepes. Just as impressive as the variety of recipes, Zsu takes much of the mystery out of aquafaba, taking cooks by the hand and answering persistent questions about how best to work with this sometimes fickle ingredient. From her advice on the best aquafaba to use (homemade and with her instructions) to tips and tricks, storage advice to a thorough troubleshooting chart, Zsu helps to demystify aquafaba and turn it into something that everyone can use. Not only that, she cleverly answers the question so many aquafaba enthusiasts have after the water has been used: What do we do with all these excess chickpeas? There is only so much hummus one person can eat. She has included a whole chapter on this as well and I am happy to say that only one is for hummus. (I love hummus, just sayin’…)

Zsu’s recipes are written with clarity and precision, with compellingly descriptive recipe introductions. There are plenty for cooks of all skill levels to try, from the decadent Chewy Fudge Brownies on the simpler end to her impressive Tamagoyaki Rolled Omelet for those with a bit more experience and time. Ingredients are generally easy to find in a well-stocked grocery store. With chapters including condiments (Mayonnaise!), breakfast (French Toast!), lunch & dinner (Swedish Meatballs!) and sweets (Mississippi Mud Pie!) and even an extensive primer on candy-making (follow her instructions and you’ll get vegan nougat), Zsu leaves no stone unturned in pursuit of delicious recipes starring aquafaba.

The book begins with a foreward by Goose Wohlt, the man whose search for vegan meringues on YouTube in early 2015 led him to the discovery of a French video mousse using chickpea water; it is a great history of the development of aquafaba as well as a paean to the value of community and collaboration, which were essential to the growth of it. This same generosity of spirit and passion for discovery infuses Aquafaba. I highly recommend it!

2013-2016, Vegan Street

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