Several posts ago, I lamented the importance of eggs in baking. Scientifically, they’re perfect for the job: as emulsifiers (proteins in the yolks bind liquids and fats), as leaveners (the whites create that rise), and in giving structure, taste, and texture. So, when you take eggs out of the equation, you need to balance out the formula with an adequate substitute.
The chemistry of baking is something I’d love to understand better. Why do individual varieties of sugar give biscuits different textures? What actually happens to the molecular make-up of a cake when you put it in the oven? And can egg and dairy-free recipes really match up to those that include them?
My past experience with vegan baking hasn’t been too successful, but I’m going to crack on (no pun intended) with trying: starting with substituting out the all-important egg. Supposedly, eggs can be swapped for ingredients such as apple sauce, banana, chia seeds, and even tofu; after reading this article about eggs and vegan alternatives (very informative!) I thought I’d give flaxseed a go. I came across this recipe for oat and raisin cookies on egglesscooking.com – a good place to start, right?
To make twenty small and rounded cookies, you’ll need:
- 170g softened butter (could be replaced with dairy-free butter – I’d love to see how that would turn out)
- 200g light brown sugar
- 85g plain flour
- 270g rolled oats
- 150g raisins or sultanas
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- tsp vanilla extract
- tbsp ground linseed (flaxseed)
- 1/2 tsp of salt (leave out if your butter is salted).
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line two baking trays with baking paper. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, using a hand mixer if one is at hand (very punny today).
Make the ‘flax egg’: mix a tablespoon of ground linseed with three tablespoons of warm water. Whisk briskly with a fork, electric whisk, or milk frother, until foamy. Add to the bowl with the vanilla extract, and stir to combine.
Sift in the flour with the bicarb, salt, and cinnamon, before stirring in the oats and dried fruit. Incorporate well with a wooden spoon, before dropping small handfuls of the mixture onto the trays (these don’t spread too much during baking). Flatten each circle before popping in the oven for around fifteen minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown – I’d recommend putting in a tray at a time. Leave to cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.
These biscuits taste really lovely, and were very well-received in my family – described as “like Nature Valley bars” by my elder brother, something I’ll take as a compliment. I like small biscuits, but if you like your cookies thin and wide, make sure to flatten them out. The second time round, I used light brown sugar (as the recipe intended – I just didn’t have it in the cupboard) and three tablespoons of water for the flax eggs, and they formed much more stable rounds before baking. One more thing – if you’d like to try this recipe, don’t reach for the eggs – these are fantastic without them!