One of the most difficult foods to give up, at least for me, when adopting a vegan diet is eggs. Not just because you love a tasty omelette with toast, or a perfectly poached egg to go along with your prefect sausages. No, it’s more because eggs are used as an essential ingredient in so many different food products.
Think of baking day when you were a child. Along with the bowls of flour and bottles of milk, there were also a dozen eggs sitting waiting to be beaten to make that glorious Victoria Sponge. I can still remember scraping out the mixing bowl, although definitely not the most healthy thing to do! And what about mayonnaise, an essential element of so many salad sandwiches.
The Guardian newspaper recently published an article, highlighting the problem many vegans who still enjoy making the foods that traditionally included eggs as an ingredient. What on earth can be used as a substitute? Well, you may be surprised by some of the options open to vegans.
Perhaps the most widely used, partly because it was featured on that perennial favourite The Great British Bake Off, is Aquafaba. Basically, this is the water left at the bottom of the tin when you drain chickpeas, or the water left after boiling dried legumes. Doesn’t sound too appetising, but it apparently works well due to its ability to be whipped, emulsified and act as a binder in sweet and savoury recipes. This is because it has the same ratio of water to protein and starch (90:10) as egg whites. So it is widely used in homemade mayo, Yorkshire puddings and even meringues. And, of course, tinned chickpeas can be found in almost every vegan kitchen cupboard around the country. And, according to the Guardian article, it is very important to whisk it thoroughly in order to aerate it.
But some vegan bakers say that while Aquafaba is great for mayo or omelettes, when it comes to baking it really doesn’t cut the mustard (a strange expression, especially when used in a baking reference!). A preferred option are flax seeds, which must be blitzed in water and left for 20 minutes to become gelatinous. Some say it is better to use flax meal rather than seeds, and others prefer chia seeds, as when blitzed with water retain more moisture. But other options are available – sweet potato puree for brownies as it holds them together and gives good moisture. Alternatively, black or butter beans whizzed in a food processor are another option.
For brownies or muffins, top chef Theo Randall suggests mashed banana or even unsweetened apple or pear puree, to which a splash or apple cider vinegar is added Also, any plant-based milk used in baking should also include a splash of cider vinegar, which apparently gives cakes a perfect texture. For savoury dishes, slow-cooked pureed vegetables seems to be the preferred option, although like all these alternative ideas, there will always be an element of trial and error. Other alternatives include grains, and silken tofu, whipped up into a mousse.
So there are plenty of options out there. Not being a baker I could not possibly recommend any one alternative, but also check out the excellent article written by our friends at PETA, with 24 ideas for eggy alternatives.