Sunday, 7 December 2014

Egg Substitutes

I believe many thoughts are circulating on the use of eggs in our diet, & it is always easy to find support for whatever viewpoint we seek to justify to ourselves. Cage Free, organic, free range are all labels we are familiar with, those soothing 'feel good" words supporting our purchases. But do we ask the hard question.....what happens to low or poor producing hens, how long do free range hens actually stay in this environment, what is their used by date before the next port of call becomes their destiny...chicken sausages or whatever........looking towards a vegan diet brings up these issues & for myself it has been one of my stumbling blocks, as egg replacement powder just doesn't do it for me!
Here are a few tips I have been working on & may be helpful if you are researching this subject.
Depending on its role, you can use appropriate substitutes for eggs without compromising (to a large extent) on the taste. To my knowledge, the various roles of an egg (and the appropriate substitutions) are:
  1. To act as a binder (Coagulate)
  2. The egg proteins act as a binder by holding the ingredients together (or as they say “coagulating”) while cooking or baking. When they are beaten/ heated, they change the liquid mixture to a solid state. They help in preventing crumbling and provide structure for foods.
    Nutloaves casseroles, burgers, breads etc
    -In such cases, to substitute eggs you would need an ingredient that plays the same role. Like mashed potatoes, cooked rice, bread crumbs, cooked pasta, oatmeal, flax or chia
    seeds, commercial egg replacement products, Tahini, nut butters, silken tofu, tomato paste, arrowroot powder etc. -In cases of Sweet based goodies (like biscuits or pancakes), you can use fruits like Banana, applesauce, Xanthan Gum, agar agar (a non vegetarian equivalent like Gelatin),  cornstarch to perform the binding function. Keep in mind that using fruits can alter both the density and taste of the finished product. I have even seen mashed pumpkin used with great success.
    -In case of Baked Goods, you can use flax or chia seed (1 tbsp ground flax or chia seed with 3 tbsp hot water, whisked and set aside until thick and sticky). But if it’s also acting as a leavening agent along with binding then add in additional ¼ tsp baking powder.
  3. To act as a leavening agent
  4. Beaten eggs are a leavening agent as they incorporate air into the batter, which will expand in the oven and cause the cake to rise. Some cakes use beaten eggs as their only source of leavening.
    cakes, cupcakes, souffl├ęs etc
    Baking powder (plus extra oil), Vinegar, Baking soda (plus lemon juice/orange juice),  all play an equivalent role as leavening
  5. To provide moisture and texture (Emulsify).
  6. Eggs have emulsification properties, which in plain English would mean something that binds things together which naturally won’t come together or mix. Like say- Oil and Vinegar. Egg yolks allow fats to stay dispersed in water and water to stay dispersed in fats which in turn promote thickening and product stability. So this property gives the baked goodies that smooth and creamy texture along with providing it moisture.
    Mayonnaise (emulsifier) and, biscuits, muffins & breads(to provide moisture)
    Turns out that there is lecithin in Tofu as well which acts as an emulsifier when the oil is added slowly, which is perhaps why you will see that Tofu is sometimes used to make Vegan Mayonnaise.
    For additional moisture, try using fruit or fruit puree like banana, applesauce, pumpkin puree, apple butter etc
  7. To provide color
  8. The cartenoids present in the eggs are responsible for the color it provides to foods. This is found in Egg yolks (the yellow part), that give crusts that beautiful golden brown color.
    Scrambled Eggs, egg wash, coating for frying etc.
    As for cases like scrambled egg, they can be replaced with Tofu with a pinch of Turmeric. The softness of tofu mimics the creaminess of eggs and the turmeric gives it that beautiful golden color to ape the yellow of eggs. Tofu, as we all know, is a protein powerhouse too.
    When it comes to using egg coatings for frying, use a mix of all purpose flour + water to form a paste and then apply that as a coating instead of beaten eggs. Instead of all purpose flour, you can also use Chickpea Flour (Besan) to do the same.
    For Glazing on pies, breads etc, try using some melted vegan spread with perhaps some almond milk to glace, it works fairly well.
  9. For extra Volume and Lightness
  10. Egg Whites when beaten provide extra volume and air thereby giving lightness to the finished product.
    Omelets, cakes etc
    One way to do this, that works is creaming the vegan spread and sugar in the beginning of the cake making process for a long time, until it becomes very light and fluffy. Also, by simply folding the ingredients instead of beating, helps to provide lightness to the baked goods. This is because, both the creaming and folding process helps to incorporate more air into the batter. Of course this is not applicable in the case of  Sponge cakes where eggs form the basis of such cakes & where a satisfactory substitute is unrealistic!
    All said and done, keep in mind that if a recipe for baked goods calls for three or more eggs per batch (with a typical “batch” consisting of 36 cookies, one pan of brownies, one loaf of bread, or in one cake), then, more often than not, egg substitutes do not work. Baked Goods and other popular desserts with relatively high egg content do not turn out well in egg-free cooking. In these situations, it is usually best to make something else !

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