The Dried Bean Conundrum

CHICKPEASI got interested in hummus in the first place because Cook’s Illustrated announced that canned chickpeas are just as good as dried ones if you microwave the peas for a few minutes before you machine them into hummus. I admired the sheer audacity of the thing: a more-processed food declared to be just as good as a less-processed product. Could it be?

Cook’s Illustrated has more or less confirmed its bold conclusion since then – although conceding a slim advantage to dried chickpeas at the boundary where peas cross over from those that are creamy to those that are “mushy.” Anyway, I read Cook’s Illustrated as holding to its position: canned chickpeas, if microwaved, are equivalent to the dried – and they are quick.

But then I encountered this:

I only buy dry beans, as they are healthier and more nutritionally dense than canned beans. These beans are cute and they make great hummus. The garbanzo beans will expand to over 2X the size after you soak them in water overnight. Great healthy product at an affordable price.

How can you stand against that? Cute?

That comment was part of a review of garbanzo beans marketed by the bag on the Internet. (A review of a bag of beans!) This led me to Nourished Kitchen, a food website with its own hummus learning, where they make “sprouted hummus” from “identity preserved beans.” (On your cell phone, you can track the growing conditions, seed date, harvest date, even the varietal, of your garbanzos – and see a Google map of the field where your beans first saw light.)

And so, bit by bit, I have been drawn into the world of dried chickpeas.

There is much to know. The marketer of those bags of beans gives these basic instructions:

1 Cup of Dried Palouse Brand Garbanzo Beans = 2.5 Cups Prepared

– Soak 1 cup of beans overnight in 4 cups of water

– Boil the beans for 1 hour

The directions on its bags decree “DO NOT add salt to water.” Salt makes’em tougher.

All this soaking and boiling and the microwaving. First, it’s about hydrating the beans (pulses, we call them by now), then it’s about breaking down something in the beans that keeps them from being “creamy.” Baking soda addresses the same thing. (The alkali in the soda weakens the pectin bonds in the beans).

So, I have taken to adding a teaspoon or so of baking soda to the overnight soak.

Here’s where I am. You start with your dried product. You soak overnight with baking soda. You boil your beans for an hour. Then you are ready to start with your hummus. And, you know what? The hummus from the dried beans is better than canned. It ought to be.

Or – you can start with canned chickpeas that you microwave – and you’ve got hummus in 15 minutes. And that is good hummus, too. But you can’t see a picture of where your beans grew up and they may not be cute.

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