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Monday, October 25, 2021

Column: Between an egg and a hard place

Last quarter I baked a batch of cookies at least once a week, usually twice. This required many trips to the store, as well as a constant stock of eggs and butter in our fridge. You would think that with so much baking and cooking I probably bought a package of butter and a dozen eggs every trip to the store…. Well, you’d be wrong.

While I love to bake, I can be really forgetful. There is more than one occasion when I thought I had six eggs left in the carton and really it was one, maybe two. Or I thought I had purchased two packages of butter and really didn’t buy any. Where does that leave me? It means I have all my dry ingredients mixed together and sugar in a separate bowl unable to be creamed.

Despite how dire this situation may seem, there is a solution! No, do not go to the store. Go to the cupboards. Locate the applesauce. Add the applesauce to your sugar. Mix, bake, eat.

If you ever find yourself missing an ingredient, don’t freak out. There are substitutes for things like eggs and butter. Whether your supply has depleted, expired, you have an allergy or are watching calories, you can easily replace key ingredients with little noticeable difference.

Recipetips.com suggests using fruit purees like applesauce to replace butter. This works for anyone highly lactose intolerant, with sensitive stomachs or watching calories. The recipetips.com website reports that a one tablespoon (14g) serving of fruit puree contains approximately 35 calories. That’s less than half the calorie count of butter and margarine.

Oil also works as a substitute for butter, but things get tricky. In order to use oil – vegetable or olive – to replace butter you have to make sure the percentage of oil is high enough, because if not, the product you are attempting to create will not form or set properly. According to recipetips.com you don’t want to use oil with less than 50 percent oil if there are already a lot of other moist ingredients (product will be soggy or won’t set, cookies may spread out on pan). Yet anything with more than 50 percent isn’t recommended for baking in general either.

Now, if you are out of eggs, or choose not to use them, you have options as well. A word of warning: make sure you know what the eggs are doing in your recipe before replacing them. Eggs work as a leavening agent to make things fluffy. They add moisture and bind ingredients together.

I really like substituting pumpkin for eggs, mostly in cookies. I like this because, well, pumpkin cookies are delicious so the little flavor variation is great. But pumpkin also lasts longer than eggs. You can buy a can of pumpkin and have it on reserve for the times you run out of eggs or if you’re baking for friends who are vegetarian or vegan. Pumpkin binds and adds moisture but is also much denser than eggs.

The PETA website is a great place for egg replacement suggestions. A chart found under the “Living” subsection of the website recommends replacing each egg with one-fourth cup of pumpkin.

Another suggestion on the PETA website was, “Try substituting one banana or one-fourth cup applesauce for each egg called for in a recipe for sweet, baked desserts. These will add some flavor to the recipe, so make sure bananas or apples are compatible with the other flavors in the dessert.”

As noted by PETA, replacing ingredients will change the taste of your product. Make sure if you add pumpkin, applesauce or bananas for eggs or butter to remember that there will be a change in taste as well as consistency. For example, pumpkin may not be the best substitute for chocolate cookies the way bananas might. Applesauce might be better for the oatmeal raisin cookies because it keeps with the healthy-theme of the cookie and has a light taste but won’t make them too thick and heavy.

So whether you are working with a food allergy, lowered caloric intake or empty kitchen, do not be afraid. You have options, but choose them wisely. I really don’t recommend trying to replace eggs and butter in the same recipe, especially with the same ingredient. Who would really want to eat a pumpkin oily mess just because there are a few chocolate chips hidden in the mixture? Not me.

SABRINA VIGIL bakes with experience, not expertise. Send her your experiences at svvigil@ucdavis.edu.

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