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Bakers Are Still Searching for the Perfect Egg Replacement

Egg prices are hitting record highs, raising demand for substitutes

(Eric Raptosh Photography/Blend Images/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

If you’re a baker, there’s not much better than the egg — it’s versatile, delicious, and imparts the perfect texture and height to baked dishes. So what’s a frustrated baker to do when the national egg supply is threatened? Simple, writes NPR’s Dan Charles: go out in search of the perfect understudy.

Okay, it’s not really that simple. After all, the unique proteins in eggs bring their chemical properties to baked goods through foaming, coagulation and emulsification. That’s why a recent shortage of egg due to avian flu has flummoxed bakers, writes Charles — there just doesn’t seem to be anything like an egg.

Things have gotten so dire that egg replacement research is really taking off, Charles reports. These understudies mimic the properties of eggs to add structure to baked goods like cake. Companies like Glanbia, writes Charles, have struggled to create a product that does everything the egg can, combining flaxseed emulsifiers, whey protein and artificial egg flavors to get as close to the real deal as they can.

But flavor and texture aren’t the only problem for bakers trying to adapt to a post-egg way of life. Prices are, too: with eggs becoming a more expensive protein than that of the chickens they come from, prices for everything are going up. The Los Angeles Times’ Jim Puzzanghera reports that the jump in egg prices has driven a 0.3 percent spike in food prices as consumer price indices rise across the board. The moral of the story? Savor every (expensive) bite.

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