In my second year of university, I lived in a cute, albeit somewhat run-down flat. The flat was barely furnished, and each room was oddly shaped and sized. One bedroom had no sunlight, the other was huge and could fit two beds, and mine was small but sunshine-filled. The ceiling of the main hallway slanted downwards, and our bathroom was tiny. The kitchen was quaint and had a large window, but was oddly narrow, making it difficult for more than two people to be in the kitchen at the same time. Although tiny, the kitchen became the heart of our home. It was where all the magic happened: friendships, romance, and culinary experiments all unfolded within those four walls.
The kitchen was where all the best conversations took place, and played a defining role in my friendship with my then roommate Jess. We would spend hours procrastinating by talking about everything from boys to how terrible urinary tract infections were, and we often moaned about the amount of work each of us had, which was only exacerbated by the amount of time we spent chatting.
(But who am I kidding, we would bump into each other in the library and even though we lived together we would still manage to talk for 45 minutes, because neither of us could shut up around the other. Jess, if you’re reading this, I imagine you are nodding and laughing and rolling your eyes at the number of times we’ve said “only five minutes!!!”, only to spend at least half an hour talking about real-life problems before having to force ourselves to return to work.)
The kitchen was also where the beginning of my relationship with Lewis unfolded. It was where we always headed first when he came over (most of the time, anyway…) and it was where he first kissed me one evening, when the both of us were sitting on the kitchen floor after maybe one too many drinks. Romantic, I know.
Upon discovering our shared love of food and cooking, we would go through phases of making and eating one single food in a mission to perfect it. We would devote, give or take, two weeks to our food obsession of the moment: pizza, pasta, fries, pancakes, bread, french toast, tacos… you name it. Yes, it was a carb overload, but I had rose-coloured glasses on and was ready to eat whatever this man put in front of me. Through these kitchen experiments, I rediscovered just how much I loved french toast. And while we never attempted vegan french toast, it’s been something I’ve been meaning to experiment with since then.
A few days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon the best vegan french toast ever while recipe testing vegan meringue using Chef Joël Roessel’s technique. He discovered that if you whipped the leftover water from canned chickpeas (aquafaba), it would become fluffy and resemble meringue. The meringue was first baked by Goose Wohlt, who coined the term aquafaba. Chef Dan Barber also put the technique to use during his wastED restaurant pop-up in March.
Curious and inspired, I set out to make a chocolate meringue with cherries and coconut whipped cream. The batter itself was fluffy, a seemingly perfect replication of traditional meringue. I had no cream of tartar but thought lemon juice and some potato starch would be enough to stabilize and solidify the meringue. Within five minutes of placing the meringues in the oven, however, I discovered just how wrong I was: the meringues had all melted into a large chocolate puddle.
I looked at the batter and thought about all the things I could do with the whipped aquafaba. If aquafaba was good enough to replace eggs in meringue (except in my case…), it would be good enough for vegan french toast, right? I’m happy to report that the experiment was successful and delicious in all the ways imaginable: the edges and the outside were seared to perfection, and the insides weren’t soggy, but soft and fluffy. Afterwards, my apartment was filled with the sweet smells of vanilla and chocolate. Needless to say, I was a very happy camper.
(What I’m really trying to say is that I found vegan french toast heaven. Also, I am so obsessed with aquafaba that I’ve joined a Facebook group dedicated to making vegan meringue with aquafaba.)
NOTES: The length of time it takes to whip the aquafaba will vary depending on the kind of mixer you have. I used sourdough bread here but you are more than welcome to use whichever bread you prefer. In my experience, conventional white bread is too soft for french toast and becomes soggy easily. I would recommend using sturdy bread from a good bakery, but, as The Kitchn advises here, would avoid using bread that has too many holes or too thick of a crust. If you want regular french toast instead of chocolate, skip the cacao powder and reduce the sugar to 1/2 a cup.
GENIUS VEGAN FRENCH TOAST: CHOCOLATE FRENCH TOAST WITH CHERRIES AND COCONUT MILK
Yields enough batter for around 10 pieces of french toast.
- 1 3/4 cup aquafaba/canned chickpea water
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 10 slices of bread
- 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 cups cherries
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- Preheat the oven to 95ºC/200ºF.
- Using an electric mixer, whisk the aquafaba until the volume increases and you have fluffy, soft peaks. Add the coconut sugar, cacao powder, vanilla extract, salt, and lemon juice. Whisk again until all the ingredients have been incorporated.
- Melt the coconut oil in a large pan on medium heat. While the pan heats, dip your bread into the batter. Soak each side for a minute and place the bread slices into the pan. Make sure you scrape the excess batter off, as too much batter will make your pan sticky when all the sugars caramelize.
- Let the french toast cook for a few minutes. Check the bottom occasionally to prevent burning. When the bottom is golden brown, the bread is ready to be flipped. Flip the french toast and cook until the other side is golden brown.
- Place the french toast in a baking tray and leave in the oven until serving to keep warm while the other slices cook.
- Serve with cherries and a drizzle of coconut milk.
Wishing you much love and happy kitchen adventures,