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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recipe: Eggless Sugar Cookies

Three Varieties of Eggless Sugar Cookies

Recipe: Eggless Sugar Cookies



An Eggless return! After several weeks off, the Blog is back.

It has been a busy few weeks since those Hazelnut Crème Brûlées. A brief hiatus for some vacation time was unexpectedly extended. The cause? A potential trademark issue around the name "Outside of the Breadbox".

Long story short...  

There is a gluten-free bakery in Colorado by the name of "Outside the Breadbox". Although the company now has a federally-registered trademark on the name, they have graciously allowed the Blog to continue. All of you know I've never dabbled in gluten-free recipes. But for those who are interested in a range of gluten-free products, check out their website. They ship! huge thanks to "Outside the Breadbox" and its owners!

As for the return, this is the long-promised and long-overdue Eggless Sugar Cookies recipe. It is also the fifth in a series of The Great British Bake Off inspired posts, following the "Alternative Ingredients" episode. And given an infant son's recently diagnosed Egg allergy, it is also a little self-serving. This kid will have Cookies!

There are a lot of potential Egg Substitutes out there. I decided to try six of them in one of my basic Cookie recipes. Those Cookies were then submitted to some hungry taste testers. The results were surprising, even to me, and I knew which Cookies were which!

Bowl of Eggs
Eggs are nothing short of individually-packaged, baking miracles. They can be transformed into everything from rich Custards to fluffy Meringues. No other ingredient has capabilities that are so varied.


Marshmallow with Egg Whites
Does a true Egg substitute really exist? Quite simply, no! You will never find a single ingredient that can replicate all of the properties of an Egg. The Whites and Yolks are too unique in their composition. And while there are commercially available Egg Substitutes that come close, they are often expensive and have various limitations.

What is the composition of an Egg? A large Egg, weighing 50g (without the shell), is 74% water, 13% protein and 11% fat. In baking, water provides moisture, protein helps provide structure and fat provides richness. There are also other components in Eggs that make them great emulsifiers - ingredients that help bind water and fats.

With any recipe, when replacing something as complex as an Egg, you have to understand what function the Egg is serving in that particular recipe. The answer will determine which Egg Substitute is best.

Is the whole Egg used to provide moisture? Then perhaps some Milk or Apple Sauce would work.

Is the Egg White used to leaven the product? Then a chemical leavening agent like Baking Powder might suffice.

Is the Egg Yolk used to provide fat for richness? Then another fat, like Butter or Sour Cream, might work.


Lemon Custard Cake
A quick Google search will uncover a disturbing number of recommended Egg Substitutes - disturbing, because many of them seem totally crazy (thank you, Internet!). Most of these Egg Substitutes are presented as catch-all solutions. "Just add half a Banana for each Egg in a recipe", they claim, "and everything will turn out amazing!"

Wrong! Can you imagine a Lemon Curd made with Bananas rather than Egg Yolks? No thank you!

To see how six commonly recommended Egg Substitutes fared, I tested each of them in a basic Sugar Cookie recipe. Unlike a Cake or Custard, a Cookie is a rather forgiving baked good. Sometimes you can even omit the Eggs and yield edible results. This was safe territory.


Common Egg Substitutes:

  • Puréed Avocado
  • Grape Seed Oil
  • Flax Seed & Water
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Puréed Banana
  • Puréed Tofu


Since a whole, large Egg weighs approximately 50g, I used that amount of the Egg Substitute in each test.

Here were the results (ranked from least to most favorite):


Dish of Avocado
Avocado

As a high-fat fruit, Avocado can mimic some of the properties of an Egg Yolk. And an Avocado is also high in fiber, meaning it has a drying effect, like an Egg White.

I had high hopes for this one! Foolish me.


Sugar Cookie with Avocado as Egg Replacement
The Good: The best thing I can say for the Avocado Cookie is that it worked. It yielded a Cookie - a dry and rather bland Cookie.

The Bad: Among all of the tests, these Cookies really stood out visually. Avocados are green, and so were these Cookies. That sickly hue certainly didn't make the Cookies very appetizing. Maybe it is an ingredient to break out around Halloween or St. Patrick's Day.

The Verdict: If you're a health conscious snacker looking for a vegan, "good fat" alternative to Eggs, you could do worse. But you can also do much better.


Dish of Grape Seed Oil
Grape Seed Oil

Replacing an Egg with nothing but Oil didn't seem like a very logical proposal. It sounded indulgent, trading water for fat. I imagined all of the fat would be too much of a good thing and that it would destroy the composition of the Cookie Dough.

I expected extremely moist, dense and possible greasy Cookies. I was so wrong!


Sugar Cookie with Grape Seed Oil as Egg Replacement
The Good: These were the most surprising Cookies - and that was fun! Rather than bake into dense, chewy and greasy treats, they were surprisingly light and dry. What happened?

Replacing the Egg, which is mostly water, with nothing but fat, there was almost no way for any gluten to develop. For most baked goods (aside from Breads) bakers want to minimize the amount of gluten that is developed to prevent the product from becoming tough. However, a little gluten provides a bit of a chew. With so much fat, the texture of these Cookies was more like a Shortbread. They had that signature, sandy mouth-feel.

The Bad: With all of that Oil, these were undeniably the least healthy options. And there were noticeable oil prints left on the sheet trays after baking - a somewhat reliable sign that the amount of fat in the recipe was too high.

The Verdict: Some people loved the sandy texture and gave these Cookies top marks. Others felt they were the worst, missing the soft, chewy texture they expected. It's a matter of personal preference.


Dish of Flax Seed and Water
Flax Seed

Flax Seed is one of those items I've mentally classified as "Health Food". I seldom consider it for pastries. But it is one of the most concentrated sources of plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids (so I'm told). So if you're craving some vegan Omega-3's, I suppose you could find worse options.

When mixed with water in a 1:3 ratio, Flax Seed takes on a gelatinous consistency that is not unlike an Egg White. Perhaps the visual similarity is what first inspired its use as an Egg Substitute.

Flax Seed is mostly fiber. So while the mixture shares the high water content characteristic of an Egg, there's very little fat or protein.

I expected this Egg Substitute would produce a perfectly acceptable Cookie. It did. Unremarkable but acceptable.


Sugar Cookie with Flax Seed and Water as Egg Replacement
The Good: Flax Seed did remarkably well in terms of replicating the original recipe. These Cookies looked like the original. They smelled like the original. And without a direct comparison, they seemed to taste like the original.

The Bad: In a side-by-side test with some of the other Egg Substitute options, these Cookies tasted "flat" - the flavor intensity was somehow lost.

The Verdict: On they're own, these Cookies were a success. But there were still better options.


Dish of Yogurt
Plain Yogurt

Plain Greek Yogurt seemed like a great idea for an Egg Substitute. The composition of water, fat and protein is quite similar to an Egg - much more so than the other Egg Substitutes that were tested. The only missing component is a strong emulsifier, but that is not as critical in a Cookie as it would be in a Cake.

I expected this to produce the best Cookie. It was good. Very good. But not the best.

Sugar Cookie with Yogurt as Egg Replacement
The Good: Like the Flax Seed Cookies, Yogurt did remarkably well in terms of replicating the original recipe. But unlike the Flax Seed Cookies, there didn't seem to be any flavor loss. An improvement!

The Bad: What the Yogurt Cookies gained in flavor, they lost in texture. Yogurt has a high acid content. And acid activates the gas-producing reaction in Baking Soda. Without reducing the amount of Baking Soda used in the recipe, the addition of Yogurt produced much more leavening than the original, altering the texture.

The Verdict: It was another success. But given the effect the acid had on the leavening, the amount of Baking Soda used would need to be reduced to perfectly replicate the original Cookie.


Dish of Banana
Banana

If the Internet is any indication, Banana is the go-to Egg Substitute for many home bakers. While it works well for items like Quick Breads and Muffins, there is one insurmountable problem: everything will taste like Banana.

Because of the undeniable flavor issue, I expected Banana to end up on the bottom of the list. 


Sugar Cookie with Banana as Egg Replacement
The Good: These were a favorite for several testers - people who were so taken by the delicious Banana Cookies that they were willing to ignore the fact that, as a stealthy replacement, there was no bigger failure.

The Bad: These Cookies smelled like Banana. They tasted like Banana. There was no hiding the Banana.

The Verdict: I have to admit, if you were just looking for a delicious Cookie, it was hard to deny the Banana!


Dish of Tofu
Tofu

To some, Tofu is a four letter word. One taste tester proclaimed at the beginning of our session, "I really don't want to have to eat the one that has Tofu."

Tofu is mostly water and protein, so in a Cookie, I expected it would be a solid Egg Substitute. And while there is very little fat in Tofu, I realized after all of this Cookie testing that the fat from an Egg is really insignificant in relation to the amount that comes from the Butter. Very little is actually lost in using a nearly fat-free Egg Substitute.


Sugar Cookie with Tofu as Egg Replacement
The Good: Tofu yielded a nearly perfect replacement. The flavor held up. The texture was perfect. There were no issues with leavening. There was no green color.

The Bad: n/a

The Verdict: The best! Even the Tofu nay-sayer had these Cookies as her top pick.


Three Varieties of Eggless Sugar Cookies Cooling
The Eggless Sugar Cookies will keep well for up to a week when stored at room temperature in an airtight container. The Eggless Sugar Cookies can be frozen for a couple of months in an airtight container. Allow the Cookies to temper to room temperature before serving.




- The Recipe -




Eggless Sugar Cookies:


Yield1,100g (18 x 60g Cookies)

Ingredients:
  • Butter: 227g (1 Cup / 2 Sticks)
  • White Granulated Sugar: 175g (7/8 Cup)
  • Brown Sugar: 175g (7/8 Cup)
  • Glucose / Corn Syrup: 40g (1/6 Cup)
  • Vanilla Extract: 13g (1 Tbls)


  • Egg Substitute Ingredient (use only one)*: 50g
    • Avocado
    • Grape Seed Oil
    • Flax Seed & Water (1 part Flax to 3 parts Water)
    • Plain Yogurt
    • Banana
    • Tofu, silken


  • Flour: 360g (3 Cups)
  • Corn Starch: 20g (2.5 Tbls)
  • Salt: 9g (1.5 Tsp)
  • Baking Soda: 7g (1.5 Tsp)


Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Prepare the Egg Substitute of choice:
  • Avocado: Mix the Avocado smooth in a blender or food processor. Set the Avocado aside with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface to prevent it it from browning. 
  • Grape Seed Oil: No preparation required.
  • Flax Seed & Water: Stir the ground Flax Seed and Water together and set the mixture aside for five minutes. The mixture will take on a gelatinous consistency similar to an Egg White.
  • Yogurt: No preparation required.
  • BananaMix the Banana smooth in a blender or food processor. Set the Banana aside with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface to prevent it it from browning. 
  • Tofu: Drain any excess water from the Tofu. Mix the Tofu smooth in a blender or food processor and set it aside. 

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the Butter, White Granulated Sugar, Light Brown Sugar, Glucose and Vanilla Extract until it is light in color and airy. While the Butter and Sugars are mixing, gently whisk together the Flour, Corn Starch, Salt and Baking Soda until the dry ingredients are well combined.

Chef's Note: Adding Glucose will increase the tenderness of the Eggless Sugar Cookies and also improves shelf-life.

4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the Egg Substitute of choice. All of the Egg Substitutes can be added directly to the Cookie Dough except for the Grape Seed Oil. When using Grape Seed Oil, slowly stream the Grape Seed Oil into the Cookie Dough to form an emulsion and to prevent the  Cookie Dough from breaking.

5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients. Mix the Cookie Dough briefly. While the Cookie Dough is still streaky, add the remaining dry ingredients. Continue mixing briefly.

Chef's Note: Once the dry ingredients, which include the All Purpose Flour, have been added to the Cookie Dough, the mixing process should be as gentle and as brief as possible. Overworking the Cookie Dough will develop gluten, which will result in a tougher-textured Cookie.

6. Scoop the Cookie Dough into 60g portions. Evenly space the Cookie Dough on the parchment-lined sheet trays, leaving sufficient space to allow the Eggless Sugar Cookies to spread.

7Bake the Eggless Sugar Cookies for approximately 20-25 minutes (rotating the sheet trays at 10 minutes). The Eggless Sugar Cookies are done when they are slightly crispy at the edges but still tender in the center. Allow the Eggless Sugar Cookies to cool on the sheet trays for at least 10 minutes before removing.

Storage:
The Eggless Sugar Cookies will keep well for up to a week when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- The Eggless Sugar Cookies can be frozen for a couple of months in an airtight container. Allow the Cookies to temper to room temperature before serving.

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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