Thursday, 5 July 2012

Flax egg replacer

Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Flax is a wonderful plant. It is the plant that gives us linen fibre and flax seeds, which have a multitude of uses. I saw a field of the stuff in flower last year and didn't have my camera, but it was glorious - tall willowy single stemmed plants, packed in tightly together, with beautiful bright blue flowers at the tops. The seeds are highly nutritious, a good source of Omega 3 oils, protein and vitamins, according to the Wikipedia page. 100g of seed contains a whopping 27g of fibre, hence the warnings on flax seed packets to drink extra water when including them in your diet. I have been known to sprinkle the seeds on porridge when I am feeling particularly worthy and we sometimes add them to bread. 

My main interest in it however is as an egg replacement in baking. They are one option if you are catering for vegans or egg allergies and helpful to have in the freezer if you have ever found yourself out of eggs and in need of cake. High temperature baking, I imagine, will destroy many of the good fats in the seed, however the protein, fibre and minerals will remain intact.

I had thought that I would be saving serious money if I bought whole seed to grind at home as ground flax was extortionate when I purchased it a few years ago. A quick Google search suggests that I saved pennies this time around, not pounds, as its super-food status has made it more widely available. I did however save a long walk to the health food shop, I bought these seeds in my local greengrocer.When I opened the pack, I wasn't particularly convinced, having only ever bought them in ground form. They look and smell soapy, bitter and nutty - not nice. Ground they are transformed, they are sweet and nutty. I set to work with the stick blender. It took a little longer than I thought, about 5 minutes of pulsing and stirring. The image above is about two thirds of the way through the grinding process. The finer the resulting powder, the more effective 'eggs' they will make. It is recommended that the ground product is stored in the freezer as it oxidizes quickly.

To make a single flax 'egg', mix 1 rounded tablespoon of flax with three tablespoons of cold water and set aside. If they can be made half an hour in advance and chilled, the consistency will be even thicker and will bind and support the rise of your baking. Flax 'eggs' cannot be substituted into just any recipe, however most recipes can be adapted. Anything that requires over 2-3 eggs will not work, nor will whipped egg sponges. They have a sweet nutty taste and I have substituted them successfully into numerous muffin recipes and cookie recipes without any trouble. They also make quite wholesome tasting pancakes.  I have seen warnings not to put them with chocolate, however I made a chocolate sponge that rose well with no hint of flax taste. The rule seems to be that they can be used in anything as long as they form a small proportion of the overall mix and the mix is richly flavored, or their flavour can be used to advantage in 'healthy' style muffins ad baked goods. Oh - and don't try to make omlettes with them!