07 November 2009

Creamy Hummus Every Time

Someone from the vegan forums that I'm on wrote in to ask about her hummus. Let's see what she had to say. Vegan K wrote:
Hi Dino!

Let me first say that I love your Podcast! I have been listening to them since you first started and I have really enjoyed them all. Many of your techniques and ideas mirror my own and so at last I don't feel so alone in my in my approach to the kitchen :) -- But believe me, you have touch me much as well.

My question is about canned beans, or tinned beans as you would say, versus dry beans.
I make a mean hummus, but whenever I use dry beans the hummus seems less flavorful and the texture is not as smooth. Mind you my processor is not that great so the texture difference is very noticeable.
I have added more liquid to the dry beans concoctions and have thrown in additional salt but it still doesn't seem to have the same texture and flavor that I get with canned beans.
Any suggestions?
I was thinking maybe it is something that I have to get used to, like when you change from "Skippy" peanut butter to the "Natural". When I eat the Skippy kind at a relative's house I want to gag nowadays.

But still, the questions is Why?!

Thank you for your wonderful shows... sometimes I listen to them if I am just in a crabby mood... your voice and demeanor is very comforting.

Kathleen (katieo - VeganFreak forums)
The thing about tinned beans is that they're consistent. The manufacturers have enormous cooking pots that clean, sort, and cook the beans to perfection. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to have happen at home. So. there's a couple of things you can do to ensure that your dry beans (especially chickpeas, as they take an extraordinary amount of time to cook) will cook all the way through. They're all fairly important, but there's a couple that are more important than others. When you've read through the procedure, you can either tweak your own method, or decide that it's all too much effort, and just stick to tinned beans! I'm kidding. In reality, this whole process is actually extremely simple. I'm just being detailed, so that you have a framework from which to work. Most of the "work" is leaving the beans alone.

Before working with any dried beans, always turn them out onto a cookie sheet, and check for any stones or other foreign material. Then, when you're ready to start the soaking, wash them under cold running water, until the water runs clear. Even if you're buying organic beans, you're still unable to know what's been going on in the processing plant, the storage warehouse, etc. etc. Best not to take any chances, and just get them rinsed clean. It only takes one or two washes anyway. Sorting and washing the beans takes about two minutes, and is well worth it.

1. Soak your beans well, for a minimum of 8 hours, in cold water. The "quick soak" method is fine if you're just using the beans for a chickpea dish, but for hummus, we're doing everything just so, and it's worth spending the extra step of properly soaking them in cold water. When soaked, the beans have a chance to slowly re-hydrate, and expand their volume. It also give a chance for any impurities and the like to leak out into the soaking liquid. It's best to set them in cold water before you wind up the kitchen for the night. Some people start just before they go to bed, but for me, giving it those couple extra hours before I even think of bed helps me to remember to soak them, and it gives the soaking a couple of extra hours.

Another thing to remember is that you're soaking your beans in a lot of water. If you start out with about two cups of beans, you're going to want 6 - 8 cups (or 1 1/2 - 2 litres) of water. There are many reasons for this, principle among them being that you want the beans to have enough water to "drink up". Aside from that, I just feel like my beans turn out better when I give them plenty of water to soak in. In other words, for every cup of beans you start with dry, soak them in 3 - 4 cups of water.

2. The next day, when they've been thoroughly soaked, drain off the soaking liquid completely. Place a pot of water on the stove, and crank the heat onto high. For every cup of beans (dry) that you started with, put in 3 cups of water into the pot to boil. As you wait for the water to come to a boil, rinse the beans off a couple of times. This is especially important if you're not using organic beans. Any of the chemicals or pesticides should be rinsed down the sink, and not go into your food. Anything in the water will inhibit the cooking process. This includes salt, the chemicals on the surface of the beans, or anything else. Keep things clean, and you'll be fine.

3. When the water comes up to a full, rushing, rolling boil, drop the soaked and rinsed chickpeas into the boiling water. Wait for the water to come back up to a full rushing boil. At this point, start timing about 10 minutes. Let them continue to boil at that high heat rushing boil for about 10 minutes. If you go over a minute or two, it's no biggie, but try not to go under 10 minutes. After boiling fiercely for 10 minutes, drop down the heat to as low as it'll go, and cook gently until they're tender (about 2.5 hours or so). Do not let the water come back to the boil after that initial 10 minute boiling. Cooking at too high a temperature will result in cooked but firm beans. You want your chickpeas to be so tender that you can easily mash them with a potato masher.
If you have a pressure cooker, let the beans cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. Exact times will be on the manual that came with the pot.

On mine, chickpeas take about 10 - 12 minutes, but your pot will have its own instructions specific to yours. Follow the instructions exactly, and cook towards the higher minute range listed. If it says 10 - 12 minutes, let it go for 12 minutes. Let the pressure come down by itself (don't do "quick release").

When the chickpeas are boiled completely, let them sit in the hot cooking water until you're ready for them. Because you've cooked them so long, chances are that you won't need to use too terribly much water in the hummus itself.

For the hummus, start with your very well cooked chickpeas. Beat them around a bit with a wooden spoon. If they don't easily mash up this way, the beans aren't cooked enough. They'll need longer on the stove. If they do, however, beat up fairly easily, you're just about where you wanna be. Combine the chickpeas with the olive oil, garlic, salt, tahini, and lemon juice. Toss the chickpeas and the other ingredients until well combined. Then, fill your food processor only half way full with this yummy chickpea mixture (which frankly, I'd be quite happy to eat as-is, because it's quite delicious all on its own). Pulse a few times until the chickpeas are broken down. THEN crank it up to full speed, and let the hummus grind down. Open the top, and scrape down the sides frequently.

The reason for doing this is two-fold. For one thing, you're thoroughly combining the ingredients and flavours together long before it goes into the food process, making it so that the food processor isn't working so hard. For another, when the food processor is only half full, it can really grind your hummus down without very much fat or water. Once the hummus is down to a paste, you add a bit of water, a couple tablespoons or so at a time, until it's the desired smoothness and creaminess.

This would not work if the food processor were full, however. It only works when you do the method I described.

Hope this gives you some ideas as to where to tweak your current procedure! Thanks for writing in.