Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Substitutes: eggs in baking
I recently received an email from a reader who was struggling to find a way to make a "real" birthday cake for her young son, who is allergic to both wheat and eggs! She found my flourless chocolate cake recipe and was asking if flaxseed could substitute for the eggs. (note: I can't imagine how frustrating this would be...it's hard enough to explain to grown adults why you can't have "just a little piece" of cake, let alone to a kid on his birthday.)
People with food allergies need to know this key rule about substitutions: the majority of the time, you can't make 1:1 substitutions without making some adjustments. You need to understand the role of the food allergen in question and make sure that your substitute can contribute the same functionality. In the case of my flourless chocolate cake, beating the egg whites is what gives the cake its structure, essentially like a souffle, so in this case using flaxseed would have left a flat disc that would not rise. Being allergic to eggs would, well, suck eggs, because they're in just about every baked good, and in other things besides...fried chicken, candy (via lecithin).
Eggs are one of the more difficult things to substitute, especially in baking. In baking, they serve to bind ingredients together, provide structure, act as leavening to make things rise, and add soft texture to dry ingredients. The protein in eggs that does all this is exactly the same protein that allergic people can't have. So what are your choices if you're allergic to eggs?
I did some quick research (I've been meaning to do this anyhow for my cookbook), and here are some options, courtesy of the Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Ground flaxseed can be used in small amounts as a binder but has a strong taste. It works well in things like pancakes and whole-grain items. 1 Tablespoon finely ground flaxseeds + 3 Tablespoons water= one egg
Silken tofu (Mori nu brand in a box) works best in dense cakes and brownies.1/4 c blended silken tofu = 1 egg
Ener-G Egg Replacer is probably your best best when you need to replace more than one egg in baking. Seems to work best in cookies and things that are supposed to be crispy. (it's made of potato starch, tapioca flour and a combination of natural gums). 1-1/2 Tablespoons Ener-G + 2 Tablespoons water = 1 egg
used in small amounts works well in baking, except gives a banana flavor. 1/2 banana blended = 1 egg
Soy yogurt (I imagine you can use dairy yogurt too, but this is from a vegan cookbook says the FAQ) 1/4 c. soy yogurt = 1 egg
So, what did I recommend to my reader? Instead of going trying to invent something on her own, I recommended going to a good gluten-free or allergen-free grocery site (I have a link to Allergy Grocer on my site), getting a gluten-free cake mix and use Ener-G as a substitute the eggs. I guess we'll all wait to hear how it comes out because the little boy's birthday is a ways away and mom is practicing early! (Hopefully she'll read this and send us a picture.)
Next on the eggless journey...I'm dying to make eggless mayo with silken tofu, I'll let you know how it comes out. It will either be fabulous or funky. I can't wait to find out.