A night dedicated to remembering the dead, saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed, Halloween is celebrated worldwide on the 31st October. It’s quite a debate trying to decipher where Halloween traditions began, but many believe it began as a Celtic harvest festival, welcoming the darker half of the year through the Samhain festival. However, others believe it to be a Christian festival, holding vigils and lighting candles on the graves of loved ones. Regardless of where you believe the holiday to have originated, we can all agree that Halloween is one of the most enjoyable holidays of the year.
Personally, I love all horror but try my best not to think about it too hard. A commercialized Halloween often includes pumpkin carving, trick or treating, Halloween costume parties and visiting of haunted attractions – one element of Halloween I will most definitely be avoiding. In the U.S Halloween is a massive celebration that for some would take an entire month of planning. Here in South Africa, we tend to watch it pass by, with an occasional celebration if we feel so inclined. I prefer subjecting myself to a good old 80’s horror movie marathon, with tons of ghostly treats and wine – but I’m old so I do prefer the comfort of my couch over the pumping music of Cape Towns night scene. You cannot let a Halloween pass by without the thought of The Adams Family, Beetlejuice or any Halloween classics.
I inherited my love for horror from my mom, she’d sit up with me as a kid and let me watch movies like The Poltergeist and later, old classics like Rosemary’s Baby and the Exorcism of Emily Rose. I have a strange relationship with horror movies, as I’m sure most of you do too; the habit of starting a horror movie, being scared out your mind but not being able to turn it off because you really do need to know what happens in the end or you might never sleep again. – I still do this. I never really watched all the cult classics such as the first Exorcist or Pumpkin Head and I’ve sadly never watched the Friday the 13th movie series either. Shock. Horror. I KNOW. Now I feel I owe it to my younger self to play catchup and watch them all, and what better night than hallows eve.
This year we rehashed an old favourite recipe of ours; the vegan meringues and added a small twist. With a simple swoosh of a paintbrush, we transformed our regular looking meringues into Casper the friendly ghost. I haven’t made vegan meringues in a while and needed to remind myself of a few things; such as having to use baking paper. This seems like a silly thing to forget but it’s actually essential in allowing your meringues to succeed – the baking paper has no oil or moisture residue which helps harden the meringues while baking. This is also why you should use a glass or stainless steel bowl when making these.
Meringues were always my nemesis until I discovered aquafaba (chickpea brine) and since then I haven’t actually made a single egg based meringue. You don’t taste the chickpea brine at all – given this may be because of the amount of sugar you’re using (same as egg-based meringues) but it’s still pretty incredible. Aqauafaba meringues are also less likely to flop because it’s impossible to overbeat aquafaba. These meringues are incredibly quick to whip up and so much fun to decorate and paint. We all need to create things away from the computer every once in a while and these are the perfect activity to do with friends or family. No one actually likes spending Halloween alone, but if you do that’s okay too. No judgement if you don’t share, they’re actually just sweet blobs of air anyway right?!
- 1 cup Aquafaba chickpea brine, chilled overnight
- 1 cup Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp White Wine Vinegar Optional, but recommended
- 1 tsp Black Gel Food Colouring for painting
- 1 Piping Bag large round nozzle
Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper, making sure your baking tray is grease and oil free, the grease and oils will cause the meringues to collapse in the oven.
In a large, clean bowl, preferably not plastic as plastic usually has an oil/grease residue. We opted for a stainless steel or glass bowl. beat chickpea water with an electric whisk or use a stand mixer until you get stiff peaks, you can now add the vinegar and vanilla extract. The white wine vinegar helps stablise the mixture, while we do recommend you add it, it’s not entirely necessary for these smaller meringues and you can still achieve lovely meringues without it.
To test if your aquafaba is ready, gently turn the bowl upside down. If the mixture does not start sliding down, you can start adding sugar. Otherwise, keep on whipping until the mixture stays in the bowl when inverted, and believe us when we say it will happen. Chickpea water takes longer to reach the stiff peak stage than beating egg whites would, but have a little more patience and keep on going.
Start adding the caster sugar very slowly. Tablespoon by tablespoon, whipping well after each addition, about 2-3min. Continue until all the sugar has been added. By now, the mixture should become beautifully glossy, thick and sticky – no different to an egg-based meringue.
Preheat your oven to 80 degrees Celcius, please make sure you don’t turn up the heat, this will cause the meringues to become unstable and collapse into a gooey mess.
Using a piping bag with a narrow nozzle, folding the top of the piping bag over your dominant, piping hand and spoon your aqaufaba mixture into the bag, filling it halfway. Hold the bag perpendicular (straight up) to the tray and squeeze medium sized blobs of the mixture onto the tray and quickly pull away after each blob. Allow some space around each blob as they expand in the oven and may stick together.
Bake for about 60 minutes, then turn the oven off but leave the tray with meringue kisses inside with the oven door slightly open for another 15 – 20 minutes for the meringues to fully dry out and harden.
Once your meringues have hardened it's time to turn them into ghosts. Using a thin (00) paintbrush, dip the tip into your black gel food colouring and paint on a set of eyes and an oval mouth. Repeat steps across all meringues.
This recipe can also be adapted for making grey ghosts by adding a drop of the black gel food colouring into the meringues mixture - once you've added the caster sugar.
Make sure to store your ghosts in an airtight container to keep them fresh.