Eggs and its substitutes in Baking
Eggs and baking are often spoken about in the same breath. Eggs are said to be the Baker's best friend, almost like our magic ingredient which do so many things that they are nothing less than superman to the world of Baking.
So lets first start with what makes an egg. I think that probably is something my 8 year old can answer as well. A yellow (called the yolk) which has the fat and minerals of the egg white which has almost all the egg's protein, infact it is entirely made of protein and water. Baking has use of both, separately and then together. Told ya it is our magic ingredient.
So first things first Size does matter. Most recipes will tell you x large eggs but have you wondered, what are large eggs? So a large egg weighs approximately between 55-65 grams. I find the eggs in India in general a bit smaller than that so when I baking I do a mental calculation, if the recipe asks for only one egg 5-10 grams won't make a huge difference but if the recipe is asking for 4 eggs, 40 grams is a huge difference and I tend to add an extra egg in those cases. Some people believe it is actually best to weigh your eggs like the other ingredients.
Moving on what are eggs used in baking for. Like I said before eggs are like the magical ingredient all bakes have, they play a very important role in almost all baking from cakes and cookies to meringues and pastry cream, eggs help create structure, they help thicken and emulsify custards and fillings, they add moisture to cakes and add glaze to our breads. So much on one small egg's weight.
Eggs white = Foam, that is the first magical mantra I learned. Egg whites are mostly used in bakes in the form of whipped peaks, soft and stiff. Think of those egg whites as many million small air bubbles trapped inside the cloud which when baked will release air and give the baked goodie a beautiful rise and light texture. That is why you will see egg whites being used in souffles, meringues. If you use your egg whites well, there is actually no need for baking powder kind of leaving agent in the recipe, in fact a lot of traditional sponge cake recipes use this technique and not add baking powder to it.
Tip : to whip egg whites easily use a pinch of cream of tartar and a drop of lemon juice in egg whites.
Egg Yolk = Richness and moisture. I know that is not 100% fool proof as the egg white statement but the fat in egg yolk typically translates into that and most recipes which call for egg yolks only are using the yolk for the fat and the emulsifying properties of the yolk. Hence the most common use of egg yolks in baking would be in custard and other sauces.
Egg Yolk + Egg White = Magic Baking Answer, this is where the cake wins. It gets the moisture from the yolk and it gets the structure from the white making it most perfect. A lot of recipes take the combination of this to the next level by whipping whites separately (since the whole egg won't whip as much as the white alone) to induce air and then fold in the yellows with the rest of the batter for the fat. 60% of the baked recipes ask for the whole egg though.
So now that we have looked at components of eggs and their functions, lets quickly list and summarise the roles that eggs performs before we move on to substitutes
1. Leavening (mainly egg white)
2. Structure/Binding (egg white + egg yolk)
3. Fat/Moisture (mainly egg yolk)
4. Glaze, color and shine (egg white + egg yolk)
And the other very common questions around eggs is "What can I replace eggs with" and today I give you an answer for that, though at the offset I might say that more often than not eggless recipes work better than replacing eggs but if you have to substitute eggs understand for what purpose it is being used in a cake and pick up an alternative accordingly.
Where egg is used a leaving agent - Primarily in cases of cakes, cupcakes etc and in cases like these following could be used.
Baking powder plus oil. 1/4 oil + 1/2 tsp BP can be used for replacing one egg.
Vinegar + Baking soda along with some citric juice like orange or lemon. 1 tsp vinegar + 1/2 tsp BS can be used for replacing one egg.
Buttermilk with some added baking soda. 1/2 cup of buttermilk + a pinch of baking soda can be used for replacing one egg.
Flaxseeds + hot water. 1 tbspn of flaxseed oil or 1 tbsp flaxseed powder whisked together with 3 hot tablespoons water can be used to replace one egg. This specially works well in chocolate cakes.
Drinking Soda. Sounds funny, but it is not. 200 ml of soda can replace 3 eggs in a cake recipe and if you are making a chocolate cake use Coke and see the magic.
Where egg is used as a binder - More often than not, eggs aren't used only for binding purpose in baking but wherever eggs are used as binders (some non baked desserts like custards, mousse etc yes) one can replace them with Tahini, nut butters and silken tofu. In my experience mashed silken tofu works like wonders in most cases (Tip : try chocolate and tofu mousse next time and I can assure you it is even tastier than the one with egg). In case you are cooking and eggs are needed as binders you can use cornflour or mashed potato to replace the eggs
Where egg is used to provide moisture - Most often in the case of quick breads , muffins etc. The best bet here is fruit purees. Apple sauce (mixed with a pinch of BS), mashed banana, pear puree they all work wonders here. Tofu works great here as well I believe.
Where egg is used to provide color or glaze - This is primarily used to get that lovely shine and color in pies, breads and some cookies. Some of the replacements could be milk, cream, water, oil, butter. A combination of either milk/water + oil seems to be give the result closest to egg glaze.
So that is what I have in the Egg 101 today, if you know of any egg substitute not mentioned here leave it in the comments or may mail me at [email protected] and I will add it to the post with a credit to you. I am mostly a baker who uses eggs so would love to hear from all you eggless baking experts.