Pro Tip: Understanding the five functionalities of eggs can aid bakers in replacing them.
The recent surge in avian influenza is sparking concern for manufacturers in not only egg supply but also pricing. With the potential of egg shortages as well as increasing consumer demand for plant-based baking options, egg replacement is becoming a more sustainable option for bakery manufacturers.
Eggs are not only one of the basic ingredients in cake-making, but they also play an important role in improving the quality of the volume, structure, tenderness and eating properties in a wide range of bakery products, including brioches, cookies and cupcakes.
Considering egg replacement for large-scale bakeries requires a basic understanding of the composition of an egg, its functionalities and how to properly use substitutes without affecting the shelf life and quality of your products.
Composition of an Egg
An egg consists of the following:
- The egg white (albumen) makes for approximately 60% of an egg.
- The yolk, which comprises the remainder, and provides all the fat and color in an egg.
Eggs used in the baking industry come in the form liquid frozen, liquid fresh or powdered. Liquid whole eggs are 25% solids and 75% liquids, so when formulating liquids to dry, it is important to compensate for the water.
Functionality of eggs in baking and substitutions:
- Binding: Whole eggs are a rich source of proteins. The egg proteins form a complex network in association with the flour gluten to provide support. Specialty functional starches and proteins like whey can help create the right viscosity in cake batters. Fruit purees like apple and banana are good alternatives.
- Leavening: Egg proteins readily whip to provide a leavening to baked goods. A replacement needs some protein content to act similarly to egg proteins. Chickpea proteins (aquafaba) can provide good aeration and, if done in combination with a baking powder, can provide the right leavening.
- Structure: The proteins of egg white produce a toughening effect, with the yolk providing a tenderizing function, and the entire egg contributes to tenderness. The structure of eggs can be replaced with functional starches such as cornstarch and arrowroot. Colloids like flax and chia are also a good alternative to achieve the needed structure.
- Flavor: Eggs contain fat, and fat provides flavor to baked goods. Substituting eggs from a recipe often requires adding extra flavors (vanilla, butter, etc.) to compensate for not having eggs and also creates richness.
- Color: Whole eggs and yolks contribute to a light-yellow color and richness to cakes. Adding turmeric or a natural yellow color to a batter will give the cakes the richness of eggs.
Richard Charpentier is a classically trained French baker, CMB, holds a degree in baking science from Kansas State University, and is owner and chief executive officer of Baking Innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn.