Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vegan Eggs?

For those of you reading this who don't know me personally, let me explain that I love to cook. Cooking and the duties one occupies herself with in the kitchen are my passion in life. I have always been lauded for my talents in the kitchen. Several of my friends have referred to me as their own personal Paula Deen because I am both Southern like Ms. Deen and I have a mix of humor and joy in the kitchen just like she has. When I became vegan six short weeks ago, I despaired of losing my relationship with the kitchen. It is a huge part of my identity, this cooking thing, and I don't really know how to be a vegan cook.

Rather than allow such a gloomy thought to take me over, I decided that I would be proactive and study how to make this transition. A life without the joys of cooking for my family from our own kitchen would not be worth living to me. Perhaps that's a bit melodramatic, but you get the idea. I pulled out all my dusty vegan cookbooks and ordered a couple more. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and I finally got my mitts on a copy of Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet. In addition to these books, I have the Low-Fat Moosewood cookbook, The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld and George Minot, and The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak. So, anyway, I pulled these out and began looking through them. I also got online with and the Vegan Yum Yum blog. I was determined not to fail at this quest for culinary knowledge.

The most immediately helpful thing for me from all of this was learning about egg replacers. Non-dairy milks are kind of obvious. We all know about them and they're easy to find in conventional grocery stores. Replacing eggs, however, was a bit more difficult. I make a lot of cornbread and muffins and cookies and the like, so baking substitutes were a must. Today, I'd like to talk about the three egg replacers I've found, explain their differences, and tell you how to get them. So...let's talk about vegan eggs:

1.) Firm Tofu
Being Southern, I love me a good fried egg sandwich. My entire life, this has meant bread toasted with butter, a bit of egg mayonnaise, and a fried egg. OMG...yum. Let's face it, though: that's a lot of animal fat. It's been long enough, now, that just the memory of it makes my tongue feel coated and gross. I won't lie, though...egg sandwiches are freaking awesome in the taste department. The salt, the heavy nature of the animal protein, and the filling creamy quality of all that animal fat...yum. I have replaced all of that by using firm tofu for whole egg replacement. Yes. Tofu. I will do a blog post on Tofu's role in replacing the consumption of whole cooked eggs another day, but for those who don't want to wait on me, you can find recipes for Tofu "Egg" Salad, Tofu Scrambles, and Fried "Egg" Sandwiches all over the internet with a simple search.

2.) Flax Meal
I first picked up a bag of flax meal when I saw it in the gluten-free products section of the commissary in early December. I had heard that flax seeds were good for me, but I had no real idea of why that was the case. I was buying a lot of new things, then, just to try them, and I had seen flax seed products mentioned in a LOT of vegan recipes. So, I put the bag in the cart. After getting it home, I read the label more fully. It said I could use it to replace eggs in baking. I tried it in my next cornbread, and it worked! The cornbread had that same cake-like texture I had been missing in my cornbreads. I tried it in some oatmeal cookies, and they puffed right up. Flax meal, however, wouldn't work for everything. There are large brown flecks of the seed hulls and the flavor is decidedly nutty. I couldn't imagine making a custard or pie or cheesecake type of dessert with flax meal. It has it's uses. Muffins, breads, and anything "grain-ish" would be a great recipe for flax meal.

3.) Powdered Egg Replacer
There are a couple brands of egg replacer out there, but the one mentioned over and over in vegan cookbooks and blogs is Ener-G Egg Replacer. I could not find a mail order service to send me Ener-G, however, and while I was searching Bob's Red Mill website for other items, I discovered their egg replacer. I can only imagine that it works in a very similar way to the Ener-G brand, though the ingredient list is quite different. Made of soy flour and soy protein isolate as the biggest ingredients, Bob's Egg Replacer works to bind in baking recipes. I used it in waffles just this morning, and it worked very well. Bob's Red Mill products can be ordered online directly from their site (linked above), and they ship to FPO's. I received my items from them less than a week after placing the order, and that's really saying something since we live in Japan. They must've filled that order nearly immediately.

In the case of both flax meal and the powdered egg replacer, you simply use 1T of the product mixed with 3T of water for each egg in the recipe you're making. In both products, you simply stir the water in and let it sit for a minute or two. The result is a viscous, thick sort of runny paste, and it does the binding work of eggs for you as well as giving the recipe a bit of "lift." Give them a try next time you bake.

These products can seem foreign and you might feel skeptical at first. This is no time for cowardice, though! Get in there and give them a try. They are inexpensive and easy to come by once you know what you're looking for. Good prosciutto ham and authentic pancetta bacon are hard to find, too, but non-vegans don't balk at the inclusion of it in recipes. So if you want to try this out...just do it. It's cholesterol-free, and no one had their beak chopped off, underwent forced molting, or spent a life confined to a battery cage to provide it for you.

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