Saturday, February 23, 2008

Egg substitutes

Just now the Emergency Food Hotline received a call from a friend who is home alone watching three dogs in the cold Midwestern winter. She wanted to make cornbread, but was hoping not to leave the dogs by their lonesome while going out in the night for eggs. The first few substitutions came to mind:

-applesauce (between 1/4 and 1/3 cup)
-bananas (I hate them but for those who don't, a smallish banana, mashed, will do the trick)
-silken tofu (1/4 c whipped is a favorite sub. of mine)*
-in a pinch, vinegar (1-2 T depending on the recipe) mixed with a little bit of water and/or baking soda can work**

The other key to knowing what kind of substitution will work best for the recipe you are adapting is to know whether you need a binding or a leavening agent. For example, applesauce and bananas will work well as a binding agent for cookies, quick breads and muffins, but not for leavening purposes--they will not alone cause your mixture to rise. So you would not want to use them for a fluffy cake.

This substitution was for cornbread, and would be combined with a mix, not from scratch, so it's a little harder to know exactly how the ingredients would all interact. The mix already included baking soda, so I didn't want to mess too much with the unkown proportions already in place.

After discussing all of the items that might be in the caller's pantry that could also be used as a binding or leavening agent (cornstarch, vinegar, arrowroot flour) we discussed whether mayonnaise would be acceptable. Mayonnaise can work really well, its main ingredients are egg and oil, both good binding agents. My main concern in using mayonnaise with a mix was not knowing if we needed to add more baking soda as well, or if cold mayo would have a strange reaction to the warmth of the melted butter that the recipe also called for.

eggs hiding bacon

After checking a few sources for guidance (my Fannie Farmer Baking Book--where I found my first Mayonnaise Cake recipe, and my Food Lover's Companion), we decided to go ahead with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, and no other added ingredients. I recommended allowing the melted butter to cool slightly and letting the mayonnaise sit out a bit before combining them, as most ingredients mix best when closer to room temperature (or at least a similar temp).

We shall see how the cornbread turns out.

* The silken tofu substitution doesn't alter the flavor of your recipe AT ALL and is a great vegan option for light cakes--won't crumble when making layer cakes!
** Vinegar has been used as a substitution for ages. My first experience with it was through a cookbook of my grandmother's, The Settlement Cookbook, which was compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander in 1934 from recipes tested in the Settlement Cooking Classes of the Milwaukee Public School Kitchens. When the contact paper over the spine began to peel, the additional title (subtitle?) of the book was revealed to be "The Way to a Man's Heart," hmm...


Bonnie said...

This is the link to an image of the cornbread mix I used, Betty Crocker brand. So, the 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise turned out to be an okay binding agent but not the best. The cornbread was sweet and fluffy, but super crumbly. It was great for sprinkling over the top of some chili but not so good for spreading butter on. Probably it will be good with some molasses for breakfast. It certainly did not rise as well as it would have with an egg.
Normally I don't even use a mix, but my mom sent it to me in a care package, so I felt it would be a good opportunity for a no-egg experiment. Back to "from scratch" for me!
Thanks Emergency Food Hotline, you gave me the confidence to play with my food!

jennifer bastian said...

Thanks for the update, Bonnie. Well, at least by isolating the added ingredient we've learned mayonnaise might not be the best addition for a store-bought mix. It's likely that since mayonnaise is already an emulsified mixture, it would be difficult to match it to a recipe where it would replace an egg ideally. I think it is more appropriate for recipes that are inherently fluffier.

And thanks for the link to the image--I may go get it and try the vinegar mixture to see if there is any difference. I am glad the flavor is good though! Thank you for calling the Emergency Food Hotline.

j03 said...

This blog is fancy. I like it.

extravagantaudio said...

I'd vote for using flax as a sub. 1tbs to 3tbs water for 1 egg.

But according to the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, you don't need a sub to make a good eggless cornbread. Just some cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sweetner, soymilk or water, and oil. Oh, and a good skillet, of course!

Anonymous said...

Another nice and tricky egg sub is ground flax seed + water, 2 t flax to 3 t water ~ 2 eggs, whip it in a little bowl and make a slurry. Tastes a little nutty, but good in pancakes and things that are pretty wheaty, earthy, or otherwise -y.