VeganBakingFilter: Replacing 3 eggs?
October 1, 2016 8:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to veganize a family recipe for nian gao, or Chinese-American glutinous rice cake. Ener-G Egg Replacer, which is supposed to "just work," hasn't on my first two attempts. What am I doing wrong?

Here are the ingredients of my one-bowl recipe, baked for 1 hour at 350F:

16 oz glutinous rice flour (naturally gluten-free with a distinctive chewy texture--think mochi)
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 cups vanilla soy or almond milk (this part is well-tested)
3 eggs

On my first attempt, I followed the directions on the back of the Ener-G Egg Replacer box exactly, had to add a bunch of water to make the batter blend (the flour is added last); the result was very under-cooked and didn't rise.

On the second attempt, I added 1 Tbsp of baking soda and an extra half cup of milk per this recipe, but then I ended up adding an additional half cup of liquid (3 cups milk in total) to make the batter blend. I baked at 375F and the result was too gummy and dried out on the inside. On the plus side, the baking soda made it rise so I'll keep that.

What am I doing wrong with the Ener-G Egg Replacer, which is supposedly one of the more foolproof vegan egg substitutes? Or what alternative egg substitute should I use that doesn't add any noticeable flavor or texture? Bananas and whole chia seeds are out; nuttiness from flaxmeal might be OK but will it be liquid enough? Is aquafaba really tasteless if I need to add over a half-cup to sub for 3 eggs?

Assume I can source any weird ingredient and cost is not a factor, but I really do not want to use/acquire a blender, food processor, or mortar & pestle.
posted by serelliya to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Aquafaba, in my (limited) experience, is actually tasteless when cooked. I've found it to work well in things like carrot cake, no idea how it will do in this recipe. There is a pretty active community of experimenters on Facebook who would probably have advice/opinions on best practices.
posted by sibilatorix at 8:22 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you successfully made a non-vegan version of this recipe using the same brand of rice flour & your particular oven? In other words, are you sure your flour will create the result you want, and are you sure your oven temp is accurate?

Is aquafaba really tasteless if I need to add over a half-cup to sub for 3 eggs?

Yes on the neutral flavor, although it really depends on your brand of beans. Low salt or no salt will be better, and butterbean is supposedly the most neutral tasting. However, the rule of thumb with chickpea or butterbean aquafaba is that generally recipes that have structure built from other ingredients (such as the gluten in wheat flour) can tolerate a substitution equal to 2 eggs. Recipes that use the “setting” ability of eggs (such as custards, low-gluten cakes, etc) or call for a higher percentage of egg-to-dry-ingredients will not be successful with a direct substitution.

I would recommend bringing this question to the aquafaba group on Facebook as that’s where you’ll find the bakers who have been carefully experimenting with this ingredient since it was “discovered.” There is a baker named Moira Wright who is particularly good with whole-egg substitution science and has built different combinations of ingredients for different purposes (like “soy yolks” etc); you could look through her postings for ideas. There are also a few Chinese and Japanese bakers there who are working with glutinous rice flour and might have input.
posted by bcwinters at 8:34 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I've made the dairy-free-with-real-eggs version of this recipe many times over, including last week with almond milk (instead of my usual soymilk) in my current oven. I was getting nervous about my ability to make it after the first two failures, but it's definitely the egg substitute that screws everything up.

Off to find this Facebook group now!
posted by serelliya at 8:40 PM on October 1, 2016

The largest group is the somewhat clunkily-named 'Aquafaba (AKA the original "Vegan Meringue - Hits and Misses!" group)'.
posted by bcwinters at 8:59 PM on October 1, 2016

I've never had the Follow Your Heart brand Vegan Egg not work. It works better with a blender or stick blender, but a strong arm and a whisk will do.

It has a vaguely eggy-sulfur whiff when uncooked but it's super bland (like, problematically bland for my uses that want an eggy flavor) cooked.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:13 PM on October 1, 2016

Do you have any experience with agar agar? It can be used to create the texture that I think you're going for. Here's an example using it. It might be something to use in place of or to supplement the Ener-G.
posted by Candleman at 11:17 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eggs contain fat/oil. You might have to add some of that. Maybe coconut oil?

The eggs are a major part of this recipe. If you were trying to make vegan quiche or vegan flan, I'm pretty sure Ener-G egg replacer wouldn't work; the eggs are a major part of the very specific textures of these foods.

You're going to have to invent a new texture for this, and call it something different, for it to be appetizing at all. It's just not going to be the same.

I recommend helping yourself (and other eaters) bridge that uncanny food vally by sprinkling some kind of spice on top, or serving it with a small ice cream scoop, or othewise making it look different from its inspiration dish.

You may enjoy it more if you rename the recipe. If people are expecting it to be "nian gao", they will only notice all the ways it's not that. If people are instead given "steamed daffodil cake" (or some other pretty but completely new name), they can enjoy it for what it is.

When I have an idea for veganizing a dish, I try to start by searching for any existing recipes. The first result for [vegan nian gao] gave me this. The recipe seems to assert that _most_ nian gao is vegan, but I couldn't say if that is true. It certainly won't be the same as your family's recipe, but taking out all the eggs will assure that's the case anyway...

Good luck! I'd definitely recommend reading through some other [vegan nian gao] search results recipes, in case there are some good ideas there.
posted by amtho at 4:57 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most of the nian gao recipes I've seen are naturally vegan. Like this one.
I haven't ever used milk or eggs to make nian gao...
posted by aielen at 9:48 AM on October 2, 2016

Response by poster: I made a third batch today using Follow Your Heart VeganEgg, plus baking powder and baking soda. The filling didn't set, more gooey than chewy, but otherwise it's OK.

I should note that I'm trying to make Chinese-American baked nian gao, which is very different from the traditional steamed version. The steamed version is indeed vegan.

For those who are curious, I found these three recipes for similar desserts. The first one, which I linked in my original question, is closest to my family recipe but looking at pictures it also suffers from the same unset filling problem (mitigated in their version by the addition of red beans). The other two are coconut-flavored but seem more dense/set so I'll be studying how they did it. (Unfortunately, red beans and coconut are two flavors that I hate, so I won't be trying any of these recipes as written.)
posted by serelliya at 7:13 PM on October 2, 2016

I have a package of Bob's Redmill ground flaxseed that lists a recipe for egg substitute on the label. I found the same recipe online here:

Maybe this would work.
posted by Majorita at 6:34 PM on December 27, 2016

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