Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meatless Monday: Vegans on My Mind, a Continuing Saga

Eggless Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake
I have been reflecting on vegans quite a bit over the past year. This Summer’s egg recall had me considering for the first time what it would mean to go without eggs. In October I spent time with my college roommate who is trending toward veganism. And last month I had the task of preparing vegan-friendly dishes for the holiday feast.

I have some experience with tofu. I do know how to make both a tofu scramble which is a passable substitute for scrambled eggs and a pretty tasty eggless egg salad. And I have a great repertoire of recipes for legumes. While it is not too difficult for me to come up with a vegan main course, it is rather hard for me to refrain from adding a generous sprinkle of cheese to top off a dish of rice and beans. 

Still, by far my biggest vegan challenge falls in the realm of desserts. I have learned how to make a flaky pie crust using canola oil. I have discovered articles and lists, such as this detailed one from PETA, about what to substitute for eggs in baked goods. But the articles all advise that it is much easier to substitute for 1 or 2 eggs than it is to substitute for more. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable way to make an eggless meringue or angel food cake. Bananas, applesauce, and tofu all have their place, but sometimes the recipe calls for “egg replacer.” In my October post about the egg recall, I promised to look into such products and to report back.

Here is what I found. There are two readily available products marketed as “egg replacer.” Each has a shelf life about a year with no refrigeration required. PETA references one called Ener-G Egg Replacer, which is free of gluten, wheat, casein, dairy, yeast, egg, soy and nuts but  does contain some multisyllabic ingredients as well as potato starch. I opted to purchase the second — Bob’s Red Mill All Natural Egg Replacer — for my experiment, since I was already a fan of Bob’s whole wheat pastry flour. Bob’s products are milled in the Northwest using old stone grinding equipment. This egg replacer contains whole soy flour, wheat gluten, corn syrup solids, and algin (from algae). The instructions on the package (which I trusted based on an earlier success with Bob’s recipe for carrot cake on the pastry flour bag) called for mixing 1 tablespoon of egg replacer with 3 tablespoons of water for each whole egg to be replaced.

I started small, with a simple recipe for a Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake. The recipe called for a small amount of milk, 1 egg, and some melted shortening to accompany the dry ingredients in the batter, and 2 tablespoons of butter in the streusel topping. I substituted canola oil for the shortening and the egg replacer for the egg, but I didn’t monkey with the rest—this time. The result is pictured. It was delicious. If anything, it tasted even better than usual. With some 63 tablespoons remaining in my 16 oz. bag of egg replacer, plenty more experiments will follow. Next up is to make this cake with soy milk and vegan-friendly margarine. If it works I’ll publish the recipe. All I need is time…

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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