How to Make Perfectly Smooth Hummus

Every week on Food52, we're digging up Genius Recipes -- the ones that make us rethink cooking myths, get us talking, and change the way we cook.

Today: Perfectly smooth DIY hummus in a fraction of the time -- thanks to a simple, brilliant trick.

Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus from Food52Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus from Food52

- Kristen Miglore, Senior Editor, Food52.com

You will go to picnics and barbecues this summer, and there will be that person who brings the laziest contribution this side of a bag of Doritos: the store-bought tub of hummus. Maybe a sack of wet baby carrots to go with.

And you won't judge them, because you're nice.

Tubbed hummus has become that friendly convenience food that everyone accepts -- it's the new, improved French onion dip. It's so popular, it even comes in guacamole flavor. (Now you can start judging.)

>>RELATED: An easy falafel recipe to go with your hummus.

But that stuff in the tubs -- as healthy and quick and easy as it may be -- is never going to be as good as the real thing. The real thing is rich and sultry and alive. It is tumbling over with nutty tahini and pricks of lemon and garlic and salt. It tugs at you so hard you want to drink it, not pop it open as a sensible snack.

I have the real thing for you. And it's a hell of a lot easier to make -- and faster -- than you'd think.

>>RELATED: A DIY version of another favorite dip: ranch dressing.

There are a few camps in DIY hummusry: from the people content to grind up a can of chickpeas, rustic-like, to those who methodically peel each chickpea for optimum smoothness.

But there is a growing consensus about one recipe: Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's, from their beautiful book Jerusalem.

As a Food52er wrote to me, "Besides being amazingly simple, it accomplishes the holy grail of smooth silky hummus without the craziness that is peeling the chickpeas." From another, "It's the lightest, creamiest, richest hummus I've ever been able to conjure. I'll never eat store-bought hummus again."

So it's simple and the results are perfect, but here's the real coup: Most from-scratch hummus recipes involve simmering the chickpeas for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Ottolenghi and Tamimi's are done in 20 to 40 minutes. How?

Plenty of hummus recipes (even earlier versions from Ottolenghi himself) call for soaking or simmering the chickpeas with a little baking soda shaken into the water. It's all about pH: alkaline environments soften legumes more quickly by weakening their pectic bonds, while acidic environments keep them stubbornly hard. This is why you never want to simmer beans with vinegar.

Chickpeas from Food52Chickpeas from Food52

The version in Jerusalem does them one better: after soaking, the drained chickpeas are sautéed with baking soda for a few minutes, before dumping in the water to simmer the chickpeas -- a technique learned from Tamimi's grandmother.

"We chose Sami's grandmother's way because we believe the friction helps the breaking down of the skins and gets the baking soda to penetrate the skin better," Ottolenghi told me. This brief, direct contact allows them to cook much faster and puree smoother. Without peeling.

A couple final clever tricks seal the deal: you'll blend in ice water at the end to help lighten up the emulsion. And you'll rest the hummus for 30 minutes, to let the flavors and textures settle in. And then you'll pour olive oil all over it and scoop it up with torn bread in heavy, spilt-over measures.

Now just imagine what will happen when you're that person who brings this to the barbecue.

Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus from Food52Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus from Food52

Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus

From Jerusalem (Ten Speed Press, 2013)

Makes 6 servings

1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 1/2 cups water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons tahini (light roast)
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6 1/2 tablespoons ice cold water
Salt

1. The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.

2. The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.

3. Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine sill running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about five minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.

4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving. Optionally, to serve, top with a layer of good quality olive oil. This hummus will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Save and print this recipe at Food52.com.

Photos by James Ransom, except Ottolenghi and Tamimi by Wes Rowe via Serious Eats