Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Vegan marshmallow Easter eggs

I've nailed a new Easter egg recipe.  After ludicrously extensive experimentation, I bring you: vegan marshmallow Easter eggs!


This is part of an ongoing quest to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Working conditions in the cocoa industry are terrible and child labour is common.  We want to love our neighbours in far-off cocoa-growing regions by ensuring they have what they need to flourish: a living wage, safe working conditions and, if they're kids, the opportunity to go to school.  But we also want to love our nearby neighbours by showing them hospitality.  For our vegan neighbours at Easter, that means hand-making vegan Easter eggs using fairly traded chocolate, as vegan fairly traded Easter eggs are otherwise very hard to come by.

I figured out vegan peppermint creme eggs some years back but I've been keen to expand my repertoire - and the chemist in me has enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to make vegan marshmallows at home :-)

My regular marshmallow Easter eggs contain two non-vegan ingredients in the actual marshmallow: gelatine and egg white.  For the vegan ones, the gelatine has been replaced with agar agar (which gets boiled in with the sugar as it doesn't work unless you boil it for a bit) and the egg white with aquafaba (chickpea cooking water).  Various proportions needed changing to get a good texture, although the clincher was changing the cooking method.  Instead of beating the sugar/agar agar mix then folding in beaten aquafaba, the sugar mix is drizzled onto beaten aquafaba with continuous beating.  I'm not sure why that makes such a difference, but it led to a vastly fluffier product :-)  The idea for that came from here.

The butter in the 'yolks' is replaced with 1:1:3 water:olive oil:coconut oil (with thanks to The Ice Cream eBook for teaching me that a 1:3 mix of olive oil:coconut oil gives a similar texture to milk fat).  The milk chocolate coating is replaced with Whittakers Dark Ghana chocolate, which is both vegan and Fairtrade (although, bizarrely, only Fairtrade in the 250g blocks - all other shapes and sizes of Whittakers Dark Ghana are mass market cocoa).

So, on to the eggs :-)
  1. Spread 2-3kg flour out in trays 2-3cm deep.  Make 60 half-egg-shaped depressions in the flour, using either an actual egg or a spoon the size you'd like your eggs to be.  This is your mold.
  2. Make one batch of vegan marshmallow (see below) and spoon into the flour depressions using two dessert spoons.  Leave at least 4 hours to fully set.  If your household includes a cat that likes to jump on things, it's best to cover the trays with baking trays at this point!
  3. Dip flat surface of marshmallows into the flour then brush excess flour off all surfaces with a dry pastry brush.
  4. Make 'yolks':
    1. melt 1 T fractionated coconut oil (i.e. coconut oil that's been distilled to remove the taste - we use Blue Coconut as it's widely available in supermarkets in NZ)
    2. mix in 1 tsp each water and olive oil, 1/4 tsp vanilla essence, 1 drop yellow food colouring and 1/2 cup icing sugar (we use Countdown brand as its supply chain is independently audited to check for child labour, slavery and safe working conditions) to form a thick paste.
  5. Melt Whittakers Dark Ghana chocolate (or other vegan fairly traded chocolate).  You'll need about 400g all up.
  6. Spread half-eggs flat-side down on a board and coat the curved side with chocolate using a knife.
  7. When the chocolate is set, spread out the halves flat-side up (I find egg trays particularly good for this as the support the curved side nicely).  Pinch off small pieces of the 'yolk' paste (approx 1/8 - 1/4 tsp), shape into flat ovals and place one on each egg half.  Spread melted chocolate with a knife onto the remaining halves one by one and press onto half on the egg tray.  Place a small weight onto the tray when finished (e.g. an empty baking tray) until they're set.
Gives approx 24-25 eggs.  They will keep 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge.   DO NOT FREEZE - that makes the marshmallow lose its structure.

Vegan marshmallow recipe

Ingredients
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (buy from health food shops - the aquafaba foam won't be sufficiently stable without it)
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (the water from cooking chickpeas/found in cans of chickpeas.  Have a look at it before using - if it's thick like egg-white then use it as is, but if it's watery boil it down to an egg-white viscosity before measuring your half cup
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cups white sugar (we use Countdown brand as its supply chain is independently audited to check for child labour, slavery and safe working conditions)
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (I haven't found a commercial brand in NZ that audits for slavery in their supply chain, but Chelsea at least only uses suppliers that have promised not to use slave labour.  If you have the time, it's also possible to make your own using Countdown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 1/2 tsp agar agar powder (buy from Asian grocers - it usually comes in little sachets)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Method

  1. Sprinkle xanthan gum over aquafaba, add vanilla and beat on high until it holds stiff peaks (will take longer than with egg white).
  2.  In a 3L saucepan heat sugar, golden syrup, water, agar agar and salt with constant stirring until it boils.  Continue stirring until a candy thermometer registers 115 deg C, about 12 minutes.
  3. Add sugar syrup to aquafaba mix very slowly with beating.  It should stay fluffy.  Continue beating approx 5 minutes until mostly cool.

Here are some photos of the process:

Tray of flour with egg-shaped depressions, ready to use as a mold

Rather than an actual egg, I use this egg-shape with a handle to make my flour molds.  It's made of Das modelling clay, formed in an Easter egg mold.  It's a lot easier to handle than an actual egg!

The completed marshmallow ready to spoon into the flour molds


Molds filled with marshmallow

Ready to dust the flour off the half-eggs

Dusted half-eggs ready for chocolate coating

Chocolate-coated halves

Egg-yolk paste

Half-eggs in egg tray with blobs of yolk paste

Painting the matching halves with melted chocolate

Assembled eggs - ready to have a weight put over the top whilst they set

Yummy vegan marshmallow eggs :-)

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