Monday, 2 September 2013

Egg replacements in a nut shell

There's this amazing project called "Vegan MoFo" that's happening right now, and the whole world should know about it. I'm participating unofficially (I missed the submission deadline), but there are so many blogs participating and so worth a visit during September, if you want to experience vegan awesomeness.

To check out all my posts connected to this campaign, just check out the Vegan MoFo tag!

I get questions all the time about what kind of egg replacement I use in my baking and cooking. The truth is, if there was one simple fix that covered all the bases, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. But I have found that there are solutions that work pretty widely across the board, and so I'm going to go over what each option accomplishes, and which options I usually opt for.


Scrambles, custards and quiches

Tofu
Sometimes you need something that just feels and (roughly) tastes like a cooked egg. Thankfully, there's a pretty good option for replacing eggs in this context. It's tofu. Yes, tofu. You can blend it and plunk it into a pie shell with seasonings and veggies to make an amazing quiche. You can scramble it up with some onion and spices to make scrambled "eggs" for breakfast or egg salad for lunch. You can use silken tofu to achieve something that's not so unlike a custard (hey, Westerners are behind on the times for this; a lot of Asian traditions have involved tofu puddings forever).

Are you ever going to make a soufflé without eggs? Probably not. But there are so many other things that are just as yummy, and my tactic as a vegan has been to just discover amazing new things I never would have tried otherwise, like homemade tapioca pudding and more green smoothies than I even thought were possible.

Cakes, cookies and breads
Flaxseed meal to the rescue!
Flaxseed
This has been a life-saver on a lot of occasions. I will never be caught dead without flaxseed in my cupboard, I assure you. There are two ways to do it: either grind up the seeds into a meal and mix with warm water, or boil them in water and strain out the seeds until you have a gel-like substance. Here's the specifics on both methods:

Flax meal egg: grind flaxseed finely and use 1 Tablespoon of the meal to 3 Tablespoons hot water per egg. Whisk the mixture until it starts to thicken and resemble the consistency of an egg. Use in your favourite baking recipes. Drawback: in light-coloured baked goods, you'll see little brown flecks from the flax meal and there is a mild nutty taste added to the final product. Perk: it's so easy to whip up as long as you have ground flax on hand.

Flax gel: use 2 cups water and 1/4 cup whole flaxseed. Place in a saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking for 10 minutes or until the mixture starts to get sticky in texture. Strain the seeds out and use the clear gel in your baking, 1/3 cup at a time. (One recipe of this should make about 4 eggs.) Drawback: it's a pain in the ass to measure (gel is truly the word for it) and it takes a while to make. Perk: it's invisible even in the whitest baked goods and has all the egg power that the flax meal egg has.

These beauties make good use of chickpea flour.
Chickpea flour
The idea is to use 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water to replace one egg in your recipes.This works best for recipes that don't have a huge egg content and that already have a starchy dough (i.e. don't use it in custard; use it in muffins or the like). Drawback: this will make your raw batter taste odd, but this is fixed once it's baked, so definitely don't use this egg replacement for something you're not planning to cook. Perk: it's inexpensive and suitable for people allergic to or avoiding other options, as well as being easy to whip up on the spot.

This bread uses tofu as its binder.
Silken tofu
You'd use 1/4 cup of soft silken tofu per egg, and whisk or beat thoroughly to mix it in. You may need a little extra liquid, as this is not as watery as an egg would be. Drawbacks: Some people avoid soy, so this option isn't good for them. Perks: the flavour and texture is completely unchanged when you use this method, and the properties of the tofu work very well to replace the rising and binding of eggs in baked goods.

Raisin water. Seriously.
Pectin or fruit purée
I have very seldom used this one, because I've found that it's not as successful with anything except muffins and quick breads. But, for instance, this is all that's keeping my favourite raisin cake together. Sometimes using the natural pectin in fruit can be useful, but for more information on this, I'd strongly recommend checking in with someone else who has more experience with it.

Nothing
No, for real. Some things can just have the eggs removed. Only try this with recipes where there isn't a large egg content (cookies, for instance), and be sure not to alter anything else in the recipe, as it may mess with the science of it. You might want to add a little extra baking powder and a couple of Tablespoons liquid, to help with the moisture lost when you removed the egg. Take note of the recipes that this works for, and then use other egg substitutions for recipes that seem to need the extra help.

The final verdict...

I can survive using nothing but ground flaxseed for baking and tofu for savoury egg dishes. I know that some people avoid soy for health-related or ethical reasons, and if that's the case, and even organic, local tofu doesn't cut it for you, there are probably going to be some items that you're not going to be able to enjoy anymore as a vegan. But as far as baking, there is no real need to use anything but flaxseed unless you're choosy about the little brown flecks. Since everyone has different priorities, I encourage you to pick your poison from the list above to make sure your needs are met. And, hey, if you come up with new ideas (or questions, for that matter), let me know in the comments! 

Happy cooking!

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