It is possible to select replacements for these ingredients, but not without understanding their function.
Milk, sugar and eggs, in most instances, are necessary elements to produce an edible baked product.
Vegans avoid granulated sugar due to the bone meal that is often ground up and added to it as a whitening agent. Brown sugar may even contain bone meal, since it is many cases it is merely granulated sugar that has molasses added. Raw sugar cane and turbinado sugar are generally safe choices for vegans or anyone wanting to avoid the bone meal additives.
Honey is also a sugar product that is on the avoidance list for vegans. A suitable substitute would be natural cane syrup or light corn syrup. Contact the manufacturer to verify that bone meal was not used in the processing of cane or corn. Generally, these items are safe and without added animal by-products.
Milk is one of the easier items to replace in baking. Soy milk is generally a good substitute, but understanding its physical properties will produce better tasting and textured baked goods. The water content of soy milk is higher than cow’s milk. Thus, a reduction of 1-2 tsp per cup is recommended. Also, the sugar content is higher and can cause premature browning.
Rice milk has an even higher water content. This can produce products that are gummy and don’t thoroughly bake. To prevent this, reduce the milk by 2 Tbsp per cup, when using rice milk.
Coconut milk is also an acceptable substitute for most applications. The sugar content of coconut milk is very high and can cause browning to occur prematurely. If using coconut milk, or any high sugar content replacement, consider tenting aluminum foil over the baked product until it tests done.
Eggs are much trickier to replace. They provide structure, leavening, moisture and flavor. You may even encounter recipes, especially those requiring 3 or more eggs, that will not accept any egg substitute. Instead focus your energy on recipes that use one or two eggs.
Commercial egg replacements, such as Egg Beaters, should not be confused with egg replacers. Egg replacements are designed to provide the physical baking or cooking properties of an egg without the negative health impact. They are egg white based products that use other ingredients to mimic the texture and taste of a whole egg.
Egg replacer products, like Ener-G Egg Replacer, are free of egg and animal products. They were designed to work without the addition of any egg containing ingredient. They can be found at your local health food store or online at specialty food retailers.
Identify the function of the egg in the specific recipe. Is the end result of the baked good a leavened light and airy cake or muffin? If so, select a substitute that is based on baking powder or contains an equivalent leavening agent.
Low sodium or no sodium baking powders should become an integral part of the vegan kitchen. Standard baking powder is based on baking soda which will result in a metal or salty taste when used to replace eggs. The low or no sodium baking powders often are based on calcium carbonate, which is flavorless and odorless. It also adds the mineral calcium to your baked goods.
Recipes that only require binding will readily accept pureed fruit, vegan gelatin powder, flaxseed gel or tofu as the binder. A list of egg substitutes and recipes that are designed to work without egg will help eliminate some of the stress.
Experimentation will help you determine which substitutes work best for you. Take careful notes and record your successes and failures.
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!