With an incredibly wide range of functionality, eggs do a lot of heavy lifting in baked foods.

“Eggs can serve many different purposes, including maintaining moistness for shelf life, providing aeration, emulsification, texture and structure, and influencing color, flavor and overall appearance,” said McKenna Mills, senior technical services specialist for bakery, Cargill.

While this functionality is great for bakers looking to make the perfect cupcake or cookie, the price volatility of eggs caused by unexpected supply issues is not. As a result, many bakers look to either partially or fully replace eggs in their formulations, mimicking their benefits without the price instability. They may also replace eggs to avoid allergens or achieve a clean label.

“Removing eggs from a formula can remove an allergen, save on costs, make storage easier and remove steps in the production process, like thawing ingredients,” said Rob Nordin, Southeastern sales, Brolite.

Extending product shelf life is another reason for egg replacement.

“The shelf life of a dry blend that contains eggs is very short,” explained Yanling Yin, PhD, director, bakery application, Corbion. “If no egg is used as one of the ingredients, the shelf life of a mix could be significantly extended.”

Replacing eggs can provide many benefits, but it’s a tall order in some applications. Cakes, for example, are especially dependent on eggs for their structure.

“They make up a large portion of batter weight and provide difficult-to-replicate aeration and foaming properties, essential to the finished cake’s volume and structure,” Ms. Mills said.

Some applications are easier to reformulate, however. Yeast-leavened products like bread and sweet doughs don’t need eggs to rise, meaning a full replacement is possible.

“For example, in pancakes, which don’t need much rise or structure, it’s possible to achieve total egg replacement without too much trouble,” Ms. Mills explained. “Complete egg replacement may result in some cracking in cookies, but 50% reductions are often relatively straightforward. In muffins, a 25% to 50% reduction is possible, though bakers may give up some volume as egg reduction increases.”

Finding the right egg replacement is especially important for many bakers amid the current avian flu outbreak, which has sent egg prices skyrocketing.

Fully replacing eggs in a formulation provides the biggest shield against price volatility. But even if a complete replacement isn’t possible, just reducing a formulation’s egg content makes a big difference.

“Even with a partial replacement, the baker can save a considerable amount of money and have a more consistent cost of ingredients,” Mr. Nordin said.

These ingredient savings can allow bakers to save their limited egg supplies for products that are more dependent on them.

“Using replacement ingredients in applications like cookies, which are less dependent on eggs’ functional properties, enables bakers to allocate more of their egg supply to things like cakes, where egg replacement is more challenging,” Ms. Mills said.

For example, Cargill’s Prolia soy flour is a cost-effective alternative to eggs and can replace 25% of liquid whole eggs in muffins and 25% to 50% in cookies and pancakes.

“Typically, we’ll recommend bakers opt for a re-lecithinated soy flour like Prolia Soy Flour 200/20, which can help replicate the emulsification and mouthfeel properties associated with the lecithin also found in eggs,” she explained.

While there are more options than ever for bakers looking to reduce their dependency on eggs, there is just as much they need to know before selecting the right replacement. Eggs provide a wide array of functionality in baked goods, but they don’t play the same role in all of them. To get the most out of a full or partial replacement, bakers must understand exactly what purpose eggs are serving in each of their formulations.

“Different functionalities show up in different applications,” explained Brook Carson, vice president of research and development, Manildra Group USA. “In laminated dough, eggs are going to contribute richness and pliability in the dough. In a cookie, they’re going to contribute body, leavening and texture. In a cake, they’ll contribute aeration, volume and resilience.”

Aeration is critical to cakes and sweet goods with a light and smooth texture and is directly related to the gas retention capacity of a batter. It’s also one of the hardest properties for bakers to replicate in their baked foods, and one of the first things that weakens when reducing egg content, Dr. Yin said.

“To accomplish aeration without eggs or reduced eggs, [bakers] have to think about emulsifiers and other kinds of proteins — pea proteins, soy proteins — that have similar properties to match that aeration,” Dr. Yin said.

Aeration provides many desirable qualities in baked foods, including texture, softness and moistness, so it’s critical bakers choose a replacement that can match the egg white’s ability to aerate the batter or dough. Corbion’s Function Plus 250W system, for example, can replace up to 30% of egg whites in angel food cakes, while the 150W system can replace 50% to 100% of egg whites in sweet baked foods.

Replacing the color and flavor of eggs can be a challenge as well.

“For color, bakers have to look for other types of food coloring,” Dr. Yin continued. “If it’s a natural product, they have to use a natural color like a mixture of paprika, annatto and/or tumeric to match the yellow color of the egg. Flavor is another standpoint, because yolk provides the eggy taste that people like, so we have to use natural flavors to get the match on the flavor.”

To fully understand what eggs are contributing to a formulation, one test Ms. Carson recommends to bakers is removing eggs entirely from their formula. From there, an ingredient supplier can add in their recommended solution based on what the egg is serving to your product.

“If you take it out, then you can see ‘The eggs were critical for volume, or the eggs were critical for resilience,’ ” she said. “Otherwise, we kind of just make assumptions. But it’s good to just get a real visual understanding of what the eggs are contributing. So that’s usually my first recommendation.”

Manildra uses a range of wheat proteins to fulfill bakers needs when replacing or reducing egg content. The company’s GemPro proteins provide one-to-one replacement of eggs based on solids, with the specific ingredient depending on a bakers’ application and desired product attributes. GemPro Plus is Manildra’s preferred wheat protein for egg replacement, as it provides the strength and structure required to achieve the volume needed in formulations.

“It relies on the film-forming properties of vital wheat gluten in order to create that sort of networking and film formation to give aeration and uniform cell structure in products that are using eggs,” Ms. Carson explained. “It has just enough resilience that you get the structure and the texture you need without too much strength that you would typically get from vital wheat gluten.”

In addition to GemPro Plus, Manildra’s GemPro Prime-W promotes the whipping, aeration and fine cell structure formation needed in cakes, while the Prime-W and Prime-E can provide tenderness in cookies.

Another way for bakers to decide on the right egg replacer, Mr. Nordin said, is to start at a low-level replacement and increase its usage until there’s a notable difference in the final product.

“It all depends on the formula, the process and equipment when trying to go to an egg replacer,” Mr. Nordin said. “Many vendors, like Brolite, are available to run samples with bakers to find the right egg replacer for your bakery and the balance between eggs and their replacements.”

Brolite offers a variety of solutions that can fully replace eggs in yeast-raised products and up to 30% of eggs in cakes. Its Eg-Sential and Bro Eg-Cellent products can be used as a total whole egg replacer, whether they’re fresh, frozen or powdered, in sweet doughs, cookies and bagels, while the Egg O Nomic can fully replace eggs in these products as well as in bread.

Regardless of the extent of a bakers’ egg replacement needs, Ms. Mills said working with the ingredient supplier is key to finding the proper solution.

“Common questions include: How much egg does your current recipe use, what type of egg product are you using — liquid vs powdered; whole, yolks or whites — and what functional roles do they play in your formula?” she said.  “We will also need to determine the customer’s egg reduction goals. The answers to these questions will influence how we approach egg replacement.”

Deciding whether a full or partial replacement is best also depends on the quality of the strengtheners already in the product formula.

“Breads have more gluten available to provide strength while cakes rely on the eggs. Many formulas now use other emulsifying agents and enzymes to provide strength, so bakers need to be cautious of overdosing their formulas,” Mr. Nordin explained.

Replacing eggs in pursuit of a clean or allergen-friendly label can be especially difficult for bakers. If they’re removing eggs because they’re an allergen, they can’t replace them with another one like whey protein.

“We really have to understand what type of allergen that baker can handle,” Dr. Yin explained. “Egg is one of the unique allergens that you don’t often see in yeast-leavened baked goods. Soy is often there, gluten is always there, and they’re both allergens. But if it’s already okay for the bakery to have flour there, they have gluten, so we need to choose a protein that can match the performance of egg that the bakery normally carries.”

For example, wheat proteins are easy to apply to most bakery applications, since they’re already using wheat.

“Because we know that the ingredients we have are suitable for wheat-based systems, we don’t have to worry about allergens,” Ms. Carson said.

Allergen-free and clean labels are increasingly popular with consumers and provide other benefits for bakers, including easier storage and a lower risk of contamination. But they come with added formulation challenges as well.

“Allergen-free or vegan-friendly formulations mean total egg elimination,” Ms. Mills said. “For applications like cake, which are so dependent on eggs’ aeration and foaming properties, that can be a very tall order.”

Eggs are an incredibly versatile ingredient in baked foods, but faced with repeated price volatility, many bakers may want to replace them. This can be a tall order, especially in applications where eggs are critical for structure, but ingredient suppliers are more equipped than ever to find the right solution for any situation. Bakers who fully understand the role eggs play in their products, and work alongside suppliers throughout the replacement process, can reduce costs, stretch their eggs further and achieve their formulation goals.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Egg Replacers, click here.