Ingredient Substitutions: Extending Eggs

by Laurie Gorton
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Nobody likes being held hostage to rising commodity costs, yet such situations occur with fair regularity in the baking industry. Wheat prices spring to mind, but egg costs also soared during the past year. Recently, egg prices haven’t been so dramatic. Even in late March, when prices for Midwest Grade A large eggs rallied 11% in two weeks, overall costs remained down 40% from a year ago, according to Food Business News, a sister publication of Baking & Snack.

Commercial bakeries buy more than 200 million lb of eggs annually, and such price uncertainty should prompt egg users to consider alternative ingredient systems that extend or completely replace egg products. Because eggs do so many beneficial things for baked foods, the choice of egg extenders depends not only on price but on their functional attributes as well.

Advances in egg replacement systems now include use of all-natural ingredients to replace the maximum amount of eggs within a bakery formulation, according to Kurt Miller, sales manager, J&K Ingredients, Inc., Paterson, NJ. “Also, we have been able to greatly lower the cost of our system to allow the most cost-effective replacement possible,” he added. “In the end, our goal is to replace eggs with the highest degree of quality at the lowest possible cost.”

WHAT EGGS DO.

Most baked foods require a stable protein matrix that supports the other nutritional components and flavor materials. In bread, the gluten proteins of wheat form the matrix, but in sweet goods, especially cakes, that job often requires a partner: egg proteins. The high proportion of sugar, the use of cocoa, the extra weight of shortening and the inclusion of particulates such as chocolate chips plus the additional starch naturally present in soft wheat flours put a heavy burden on gluten. Eggs, with their protein, fat and lipid content, have helped bakers meet these formulation conditions. Specifically, eggs provide the functions of coagulation, emulsification and foaming to baked foods. They also make baked foods more appealing by contributing flavor and color.

Eggs and their products constitute important ingredients in a wide range of bakery products because they contribute significantly to nutritional value and markedly improve the physical and organoleptic properties. In cakemaking, eggs exert a binding action, are capable of leavening five to six times their weight and exhibit a considerable emulsifying effect. In the case of yolk, it provides a marked shortening action and contributes to the flavor of the baked product.

In cookies, eggs assist with structural stabilization. The egg proteins permeate the dough and coagulate, contributing rigidity to the crumb, thus assisting the gluten to hold the volume attained. Egg white protein alone adds binding, while the yolk serves as a tenderizer and natural emulsifier. And eggs impart flavor to cookies.

ALTERED REALITY.

With all the functions eggs perform, egg extenders and replacers must measure up in similar ways. Manufacturers employ a variety of components in these ingredients, which are more accurately described as ingredient systems, and some even use egg fractions themselves.

“With advances in gums and enzymes, we have been able to manufacture products that fit the baker’s needs while reducing cost and eliminating the problems of using liquid whole eggs,” said Ken Skrzypiec, Eastern vice-president, sales, and director of technical services, Brolite Products,Inc.,Streamwood,IL.Some of the company’s items contain eggs, while others are completely egg-free. Brolite’s Novalite, for example, is an egg-free replacer capable of substituting for all of the eggs in breads, rolls, Danish items, sweet doughs, cookies and bagels.

Advanced Food Systems, Somerset, NJ, works with hydrocolloids and supplements their properties with other components.“The BakeRite ER line for egg replacement uses a blend of hydrocolloids to trap air and hold moisture to give the mouthfeel and flavor of eggs,” explained Chris Kelly, the company’s director of technical services. “They help hold moisture and assist with aeration functions. These products have dual functionality; they are not just gums or leaveners. They do both.”

“Even with egg prices dropping, bakers can still save more than $1 per lb versus powdered egg whites,” said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager, Natural Products, Inc., Grinnell, IA, who derived his figures by contrasting the company’s NOVA1000 Egg White Extender used at 40 to 50% replacement rates with the March 27 price of dried egg whites. Similar analysis of the company’s BLUE100 Whole Egg Replacer, which contains whole egg powder, found a $0.80 per lb savings, compared with whole egg powder. The company’s products are formulated with all vegetablesourced ingredients, suitable for vegetarian or vegan markets. Both are marketed under the Scotsman’s Mill Ingredients brand.

“The key benefit is cost reduction,” Mr. Stratford continued. He described additional advantages to include absence of cholesterol, improved water absorption and binding for reduced staling, reduction or elimination of off-flavors from processed eggs and enhanced handling properties.

While J&K Ingredient’s Vita-Ex egg replacer uses natural ingredients to replace egg functionality (emulsification, volume and aeration), Mr. Miller explained that some products in this line contain whole egg solids, “allowing the baker to include eggs on the label. The whole egg solids are optional in cases where the baker cannot use eggs,” he observed.

AT WORK.

Because eggs offer multiple functional benefits, suppliers commonly provide a range of egg extenders and replacers to achieve the best match for a given application.

For example, Cargill Texturizing Solutions describes its egg replacers by noting their uses. Emtex can be used in baked foods; Gelogen in cakes, pies, pastries and sweet goods; and XCG-SC 4903 in cakes and muffins, according to Susan Gurkin, bakery, snacks and cereals category marketing manager, Cargill Texturizing Solutions, North America, Wayzata, MN. “Egg is a highly functional ingredient essential for cakes and muffins,” she continued. “Yolk contains lecithin, which emulsifies fat and water, aids dispersion and contributes to softness. Egg white proteins play a key role as foaming agents and provide structure to the finished product.” XCG-SG 4903 is a blend of lecithin, whey proteins and hydrocolloids that mimics egg functionality.

“With the blend of ingredients that we use, we are able to duplicate the quality of eggs,” Mr. Skrzypiec said. “We are able to add our egg replacers in the dry stage, blending them with the flour and sugar to make an easier product for the baker to use.”

Soy flour, the base ingredient of Natural Product’s BLUE100, is an excellent emulsifier because of the lecithin content of the soybean’s oil. “The unique minor ingredients help to provide volume and structure in the baked product,” Mr. Stratford stated. Water binding is also excellent, which contributes to freeze-thaw stability in applications such as cookie dough.

The company’s NOVA1000 functions as a foam stabilizer, or as Mr. Stratford explained, “Egg whites have excellent foamability and poor foam stability — an egg white foam weeps and becomes brittle. In contrast, soy has poor foamability but excellent foam stability properties. This allows bakers to achieve and maintain the same volume in their product while replacing up to 50% of the egg whites with a significantly less expensive ingredient.”

BACK TO EGGS.

In contrast, Primera Foods, Cameron, WI, decided to discontinue its line of egg replacers. “We frankly found that they don’t work as well and, in some cases, are now more expensive than egg,” explained Leslie Rask, Primera’s director of industrial sales. Instead, the company enhanced its processed egg products.

“Our Primex and EggSTREME lines of egg products are eggs that have been manufactured in such a way or blended with other ingredients to offer improved performance and therefore lower egg cost,” Ms. Rask said. They contain additional ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup and salt or are blends of whole, yolk and/or whites.“The idea is to identify the functionality the customer needs from the egg and maximize it.”

She also reported that Primera Foods is working on converting its bakery customers from liquid to dried products. The dry format benefits include freight and storage savings, plus less product loss and spoilage. Also, because dried eggs have a longer shelf-life and lower microbiological concerns, they improve food safety.

FLEXIBILITY OF CHOICE.

Egg extenders and replacers find application in virtually any baked food that requires eggs. “Brolite egg replacers can be used in any application to either replace or reduce the use of whole eggs in bakery products,” Mr. Skrzypiec said.

Mr. Miller noted that Vita-Ex can replace eggs in cakes, donuts, breads, muffins, cookies, Danish, “virtually any sweet good product that uses eggs,” he said. Replacement percentages vary from 20 to 100% depending on the product, and these ingredient systems save greatly on the cost.

Uses for BakeRite from Advanced Food Systems “include all sorts of cakes, muffins, cupcakes, cookies and so forth,” Mr. Kelly said. “It also cuts fat and cholesterol in breads and other baked products, while slowing down their staling.” The readily dispersible egg extender also boosts the flavor of eggs in the finished product.

Replacement levels for BLUE100 from Natural Products range from 40 to 50% in pound cakes, 45 to 50% in muffins, up to 50% in donuts, 50% in sponge cakes, 50 to 100% in cookies, up to 55% in creme cakes and 75 to 100% in pancakes and waffles. The company’s NOVA1000 can replace up to 50% of egg whites in angel food cakes, white cakes and other baked products without affecting quality or volume. “It can also be used in meringue and marshmallow creme without a loss of quality,” Mr. Stratford said.

What does the future hold? “We are actively exploring the use of our egg replacers in other applications such as pie fillings, sweet doughs, batters and breadings, cake icing and even nutrition drinks,” Mr. Stratford concluded.

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