The best hummus is smooth and creamy, but a lot of homemade hummus comes out much more textured than its restaurant-made counterparts. Unfortunately, the key to truly smooth hummus lies in the removal of the chickpeas’ flimsy little skins. Fortunately, though, peeling them is not hard.
If you’re only dealing with a cup or so of cooked garbanzo beans, peeling them by hand is quite manageable — even soothing. I learned my chickpea peeling technique from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen, and I’ve been quite happy with it, because I never make a huge amount of hummus at one time:
Chickpeas, when they’re cooked, have a thin skin that sags a bit, kind of like a Sharpei’s, but less cute. It hangs about them like they’re trying hard to shake it, but just couldn’t. I have found that if you help them — put a single chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers and press gently until it pops out with a rather satisfying soft pop, then plink! into a bowl — it makes all of the difference in the texture of your final hummus.
Peeling freshly-cooked (or even canned) chickpeas is a good activity to engage in while watching an Adult Swim show, as they’re the perfect length and just engaging enough; last Saturday, it took me exactly one episode of Tom Goes to the Mayor to peel about two cups of cooked garbanzo beans with my bare hands. The little beans pop right out of their skins with a squeeze, though they do pop out much easier if you let them cool first.
But if you’re making a vat of hummus, the by-hand method is most likely not what you’re looking for. This doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to chunky, textured hummus — not while baking soda exists. Chefs and Jerusalem cookbook authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi use the bicarb to scuff up the skins so they float away while boiling (it also allows the beans to cook much faster).
After soaking the chickpeas overnight (like you usually would), drain away the water and add the beans to your saucepan with a little bit of baking soda (use 1 teaspoon for every 1 ¼ cups of dried chickpeas). Cook the soaked beans over high heat for about three minutes, stirring constantly, then add enough water to cover them by a few inches, and bring everything to a boil. Cook for 20-40 minutes, skimming off any foam and skins that float to the top, until the beans are tender, but not mushy. Drain and make your hummus however you usually would. Both Perelman’s and Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s recipes are exemplary, but any hummus recipe benefits vastly from peeling your chickpeas first. (Unless you like a chunky hummus. If that’s the case I don’t know why you read this whole thing.)