Milk and egg replacements save bakers money amidst commodity price woes.
Cost-savings by far is the biggest reason bakers are turning to milk and egg replacements, especially in today's economy.
“Just a year ago, liquid egg sold for roughly 30 cents per pound. Now, it sells for around $1 per pound,” says Roy Silva, president, Allegra Foods USA Inc., Norwalk, Conn. “A study shows 75 percent of egg costs are based on feed costs.” As corn is used for ethanol, and feed costs subsequently rise, egg and milk prices are expected to remain high. In a high-priced market, bakers in search of price stability are finding it in milk and egg replacements.
Why replace eggs?
While bakers most often switch to egg replacers for the cost savings, replacers offer many other benefits. Egg replacers can reduce the cholesterol content in a formula, help bakers achieve a vegan-label claim, increase protein content, and reduce saturated fat, total fat and calories in a finished product. Some egg replacements also are fortified with vitamins A, C and E, as well as minerals, to increase the nutritional profile of the product. Plus, with a shelf life of 8 to 18 months, egg replacements last much longer than whole eggs.
How do they work?
Eggs serve many functions in baked products. They provide emulsification, nutrition, viscosity, aeration and structure. Egg replacements often are developed with soy, whey or both, which mimic the functionality of eggs in a formulation. Like eggs, soy protein isolate and whey protein concentrate absorb water and provide viscosity to a batter, even when it is heated. “When you heat a batter, it has to get viscous, not liquid, or all the air will escape,” Silva says. In sweetgoods, adding oils and emulsifiers in addition to the soy and whey helps mimic the functionality of eggs.
“You have to see what kind of application and formula [are involved] and decide how much egg will be replaced,” says GuoHua Feng, bakery ingredients manager, Bakery Ingredients Innovation Center, Caravan Ingredients, Kansas City, Mo. Some formulas are more challenging than others because they require a larger amount of eggs and rely on the eggs for aeration and structure.
Cakes, for example, depend heavily on the protein in egg whites, which keeps the cake from collapsing and provides a resilient or bouncy structure. “Some cake products fully depend on this unique capacity of the egg to generate the porous structure of the cake,” Feng says. Therefore, it is more challenging to completely replace eggs in a product such as angel food cake. Breads and rolls, meanwhile, require a small amount of eggs and are structurally supported by the gluten protein in the flour.
Egg yolks are more easily replaced than egg whites. Egg yolks contain emulsification properties. The main ingredients needed to replace egg yolks in formulations are a fat, such as vegetable oil, water and an emulsifier. “There are a lot of emulsifiers available for bakers to use, such as soy lecithin, sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL), DATEM or a mono-glyceride,” Feng notes. Some whole egg substitutes include a small amount of albumen or egg white, while others use enzymes, vegetable proteins or whey proteins to replace the egg white component.
The amount of egg substitution needed also depends on the individual formula. “If you normally use 5 lb. of liquid egg, you use 1 lb. of our product, and then 4 lb. of water to reach 5 lb.,” Silva notes. However, the water level might need to be adjusted between a range of 3.8 lb. to 4.1 lb., depending on the formula, to achieve the ideal consistency.
Bakers worried about the make-up of egg replacers need not be concerned. “All our ingredients are standard food ingredients. There aren't any new chemicals. Our technology is based on soy protein, whey protein, emulsifiers, fat, and color and flavor additives, which are fairly standard in baking,” Silva says.
Surmounting application challenges
A challenge in achieving the same crumb color and texture as egg-based products is getting the cake to set at the same time and getting it to aerate. To achieve this, Alleggra adds both soy and whey, as well as emulsifiers to its formulations. “Soy has functionality, but by itself can't copy an egg. Whey has functionality, but by itself can't copy an egg,” Silva notes. “We have added emulsifiers and oil to the formulation, so there is no difference in terms of final volume and texture [of the finished product].”
Depending on the desired results, bakers can decide if they want to completely replace the eggs or only a portion. Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Arla Foods Ingredients conducted a sensory evaluation test involving one of its egg replacers. Pound cakes using a 50 percent substitution and a 100 percent substitution were compared to a pound cake made with eggs. The pound cakes in which eggs had been all or partially replaced had a slightly higher density and batter viscosity. When 50 percent of the eggs were replaced, the pound cake had a better appearance because of higher volume and had similar crumb softness and resilience. In addition, it had a slightly lighter crumb color compared to the pound cake made with eggs. In a 100 percent substitution, the pound cake also had a better appearance, the crumb had higher softness and similar resilience, and the crumb color was significantly lighter than in the pound cake made with eggs. A lighter crumb color allows for whiter pound cakes, while beta-carotene can be added to achieve a more yellow color, according to Arla.
In order to achieve high quality results when using an egg replacer, bakers need to monitor batters' specific gravity, flow and, with products such as cake, ensure they set at the proper time, Silva notes. Finally, bakers need to change labels accordingly and note possible allergens, such as soy and whey.
Benefiting with milk replacements
When using milk replacements to replace milk or milk solids in baked products, “bakers can save themselves, conservatively, 50 percent on the price of nonfat dry milk (NFDM) high heat,” says Al Orr, vice president sales and marketing, J&K Ingredients, Paterson, N.J. In addition, some milk replacers are nondairy, which makes them vegan as well as kosher pareve. This is a big advantage for bakeries seeking a kosher pareve claim. “If they run kosher dairy, they need to have separate lines. It is much easier for kosher certification if you use all nondairy ingredients,” Orr adds.
Using a nondairy milk replacer also eliminates the allergen factor from label claims, as well as eliminating allergen cross contamination concerns for a plant. In yeast-raised products, such as breads and rolls, milk replacers can enhance crust color, and provide a softer crumb, which leads to extended shelf life. It also provides the same flavor notes as milk. In sweetgoods, milk replacers provide the same softness, volume and flavor-richness as milk. Milk replacers also help extend shelf life up to 18 months.
Arla tested its milk replacers against skim milk powder (SMP) in pound cake, muffins and sponge cake. The products that used milk replacers had a similar viscosity, surface color, cake appearance, crumb color, softness, resilience, mouthfeel, specific volume and water activity compared to the product using SMP.
Navigating functional applications
Milk replacements often are created using either a soy- or a milk- protein base. Those with a soy-protein base, have a higher absorption rate, so bakers need to increase the amount of water in the formulation. Some milk replacements work as a pound-for-pound replacement, while others might require 50 percent replacement and 50 percent flour or so on. Before using any milk replacement, bakers should research and develop the project thoroughly and ensure they are using a 100 percent substitution. As with eggs, bakers will need to adjust their labels to include the new ingredients. “Because of the market for milk, the cost savings of using a milk replacer greatly outweighs any one time cost, such as labeling changes,” Orr says.
Both egg and milk replacers save bakers money, while maintaining a positive nutritional profile and similar finished product quality.