This is the time of year when it’s dark before dinner and the production from the chicken coop is way down. One egg today? Hurrah! Whether the lack of eggs is from fewer daylight hours, the annual molt, or just the lull before this year’s pullets begin laying (and I’m inclined to believe it’s a combination of all three, at least in my hen house)—this is just the time of year when baking begins in earnest. Pumpkin pie, corn pudding, yeast breads, hearty breakfasts all require eggs. What do YOU do? Sneak into the local grocery store and ask for a dozen in an unmarked paper bag?
Now, if you had been very smart—last summer when all the hens were working overtime and you had all those extra eggs that you were giving away—you would have frozen some of the bounty for these days of scarcity. HERE’s what you could (and should) have done.
I didn’t do that either. So, I’ve had to do some adjustments in my kitchen.
First of all: no eggs for breakfast! Experiment with hot cereals. Our family favorite is old-fashioned oatmeal made with milk instead of water, with some chopped dates or raisins added for sweetness, a handful of chopped nuts for protein and crunch, and a shake of cinnamon.
Next: plan ahead. If you might find half a dozen eggs in a week, and you know your favorite pie recipe takes 4 eggs (and you’ve promised to take pie to Aunt Ellen’s for dinner), save them. Mark the box if necessary.
Search for recipes that take few, or no eggs. These aren’t as difficult to find as you might think. Great-Grandma’s handwritten recipes often have a “no-egg cake”. The Internet is a great source for egg-free possibilities—vegans and those allergic to eggs like to eat, too!
Finally, do some thinking. Just what purpose does the egg in your recipe serve? Is it for leavening—to help make the other ingredients rise instead of spread all over the pan? Is the egg in the recipe for added flavor? Is it a source of moisture or even used to hold other ingredients together? Once you have figured that out, you can start thinking about substitutes.
If the eggs are used for leavening, in cookies, for example, the cooks at www.kidswithallegeries.org suggest mixing together 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 ½ tablespoons water and 1-teaspoon baking powder per egg. This works well if you are replacing one egg, but not if you are replacing several.
Sometimes eggs are added to a recipe to give it a richer flavor, too. You might consider substituting unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana for the eggs. Mix in the teaspoon of baking powder (NOT baking soda) to give the recipe some lift.
A rule of thumb (Betty Crocker’s thumb, to be honest—this is from my splattered and well-used cookbook) is that 1 medium egg equals ¼ cup of liquid.
Fruit and vegetable purees can also be used for moisture in a recipe—you can find more ideas at www.organicauthority.com.
For a binder—a “glue” to hold ingredients together—there are several options, too. Chia seeds or ground flax seeds, mixed with water, will even work to hold your meatloaf ingredients together! www.sheknows.com suggests 1 tablespoon of seeds with 3 tablespoons of water to equal 1 egg.
While you are thinking, of course, think about flavor. A mashed banana might not be the best substitute for an egg in your meat loaf—but thickly pureed zucchini, carrots and/or beets would not only add flavor, but nutrition as well. That mashed banana, however, would be delicious substituted for an egg in a one bowl chocolate cake.
Use the extra hours after dinner to do some experimenting in your kitchen. Maybe you only have one egg, but think about how you can streeeetch that egg right around your holiday baking!
I’d love to hear how you stretch and substitute while waiting for the full egg baskets of spring!