If you are a reader of Savvy Eats, you know I recently gave up meat (mostly). I am still up in the air as to how I feel about seafood and eggs.
In theory, I would not have a hard time giving up eggs. Very rarely do I crave them, so they are primarily in my fridge for baking purposes.
Herein lies the key problem. If I decide to cut eggs out of my diet entirely, how will I bake cookies? How will I make pancakes or waffles? How will I bake anything, really?
Some of my lovely readers suggested that I replace my eggs with a mixture of flax seed and water. Being the food science nerd that I am, I naturally wanted to understand why that was a viable option. Really, that’s why I chose my major. Might as well put these 5 years of college education to good use, right?
Let’s start with looking at why we bake with eggs in the first place, shall we?
Eggs give baked goods their structure, act as an emulsifier, and also assist in leavening, by allowing air bubbles to form during baking.
Egg whites also are good at making foams, making treats like meringues light and fluffy. But that is a whole other story.
Egg yolks are 50% water, and about 30% lipids, or fats. The rest of the yolk is made of protein, sugars, and minerals. The proteins act as an emulsifier. All this means is that they keep the water-based and fat-based ingredients in your batter from separating.
This function as an emulsifier is what allows eggs to assist in leavening.
Here’s what I mean by an emulsifier:
Blue: The continuous phase, or the water-based part of the mixture.
Orange: The dispersed, or internal phase. ie: the fat-based part of the mixture.
Without an emulsifier, the two phases would naturally separate into 2 layers. If you have ever seen oil mixed with water, you know what I mean.
An emulsifier, which is often a protein, will protect the “bubbles” that are the dispersed phase from joining together and separating from the continuous phase.
So in other words, proteins and other emulsifiers will keep all of your ingredients blended together so that they don’t separate!
This is also how eggs aid in leavening in baked goods. Air bubbles make up the dispersed phase, and the proteins keep the ingredients from collapsing the air bubbles.
According to my research, 1 T. of ground flax seed mixed with 3 T. of water can be used to replace an egg in baking.
Really? Knowing what I do about eggs and emulsifiers, I had a hard time believing this.
Apparently, the flax seed absorbs water, allowing it to expand and take on a gel-like consistency that is not all that different from an egg. Because of this, they can bind ingredients in a batter together.
Make sure you beat the flax and water together with a fork or whisk so that it gets the consistency we want.
Really? Does it work?
Let’s see, shall we?
I decided to make two batches of vanilla cupcakes, one with real eggs, and one with flax “eggs.”
With flax “eggs.”
The regular eggs made the batter smoother, thinner, and a little darker. Other than that, though, they both look good….
Left: With eggs. Right: With flax ” eggs.”
Note that the cupcakes made with the flax/egg combo didn’t rise quite as much, but the tops are just as smooth and even as the regular cupcakes.
Left: With eggs. Right: With flax “eggs.”
I apologize for this one. I didn’t let the flax “egg” cupcakes cool enough before I cut them, I think, so they collapsed a little.
The flax “egg” cupcakes were a tiny bit more dense and moist than the regular cupcakes.
My guess as to why is that flax seed is not a good emulsifier naturally, and therefore doesn’t trap air bubbles as well as eggs do.
As far as taste goes, though, I thought they were about the same!
Thanks, Jessica, for the recipe!