It’s challenge time! This week we’ll be looking at vegan egg replacements in baking. I hope you all like cookies!
When I first became vegan I had no idea of all the different kinds of replacements for animal-products that existed out there. Some are simple changes – things like swapping butter for Olivani and exchanging dairy milk for soy or almond milk (if you’re willing to get up early enough to milk the almonds). In fact, most people don’t know or realise that they’re accidentally eating vegan food a lot of the time – for example Oreos, most kinds of bread and pasta, and many kinds of dark chocolate are all animal-product free. However, the trickiest baking ingredient to replace is eggs, and there is some fascinating science behind why. So without further ado, let’s begin our challenge of finding the best replacement for eggs in the form of a warm, chewy and oh-so comforting chocolate chip cookie.
Eggs are an important player in the cookie game. If you’ve ever boiled, scrambled or poached an egg, you’ll know that heat causes them to firm up and cook. The same process occurs as they bake in a cookie, allowing it to hold its shape. The different parts of the egg – the yolk and white – also contribute to making the cookie crunchier or chewier by allowing or inhibiting the formation of gluten – a protein found in wheat that creates strands and makes bread elastic. Our vegan replacements will therefore need to be able to hold their cookie together whilst making it crunchy or chewy (depending on the baker’s preference!).
And here they are, ladies and gentlemen!
- May add a slightly nutty flavour
- Cheap to buy and available from most supermarkets
- Forms an egg white-like consistency when added to water
- Doesn’t add any extra flavour
- Easily available
- When blended smooth with a little water, adds a fluffy texture to the cookie
- Available in most supermarkets
- Creates a dense texture
- Just add to water
The chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ll be using is standard and has been designed with animal products in mind. The rules are the same for each batch: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, chocolate buttons buttery margarine, and egg or egg replacer (and extra non-dairy milk where needed). There shall be no boycotting or giving any cookie an advantage with an extra button or two.
3 hours and 60 cookies later – the results are in!
- Dough: I found the dough with egg in it easiest to mix, the three vegan doughs needed a tablespoon of non-dairy milk added to get them to the same consistency. This was because the vegan replacements were stickier and had less liquid than the egg, causing the dough to be drier.
- Baking time: all baked in the same time (12 minutes) and formed a light golden crunch. It seemed all four held their cookies together well – all ingredients contained water that allowed the formation of gluten. Additionally, because the vegan ingredients were lower fat than the egg, the gluten could form more easily and make for an airier cookie.
- Appearance: it was very interesting to see that the tofu and linseed cookies were taller and fluffier than the egg and egg-replacer cookies. Egg-replacer’s main ingredient is potato starch, whose granules absorb water when heated and finally burst to release the granule’s gel that binds the cookie together – a bit like a water balloon that’s too full. With the resulting lack of water, the gluten didn’t form as effectively which lead to a flatter cookie.
- Taste: you’ll have to wait and see!
And now, a glass of (non-dairy) milk
It seems the vegan replacements have held up well in terms of dough, baking and appearance. But will they keep their cool under the taste test? Tune in next time to find out! But while you wait, here’s the recipe (adapted from Chelsea Sugar).
Peace and science,
Chocolate Chip Cookies
125g buttery Nuttelex or other vegan butter/margarine
½ cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
½ cup white sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 egg (or substitue 1 Tbsp ground linseed + 3 Tbsp water/1 tsp egg replacer + 2 Tbsp water/1/4 cup blended sof tofu)
1¾ cups self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup chocolate chunks or chips
Preheat oven to 180°C conventional and line 1 baking tray with baking paper
Beat butter/margarine, sugars and vanilla until pale and creamy, add egg and beat until mixed.
Sift in flour and salt, mix until combined before stirring in the chocolate chunks or chips.
Roll into 15 balls and place on tray and lightly press down with a fork. Bake for approx. 12 minutes.
Images by Summer Gleeson.