Imagine a cake that is made completely out of vegetal ingredients, yet in no way it is inferior to a cake that contains milk, butter and eggs. To food technologists this may sound impossible, but TOP has developed a chickpea-protein-based egg substitute that opens the door to a new generation of food products for the growing vegan market – and beyond.
“It is difficult to replace eggs in today’s food industry,” says Justus Veenemans, product developer for the company TOP bv. “In cake and similar food products egg proteins have three functions at once: they form a foam, they form a gel and they emulsify.”
The foaming characteristics of egg make it possible to form air bubbles, which in cake results in an airy mouthfeel. The gel-forming characteristics enhance the stability of the air bubbles, and the emulsifying characteristics make sure that the fat fraction does not ‘leak out of’ the product.
“In practice replacing eggs often comes down to finding a substitute for each function,” says Veenemans. “This would mean you need to find three different substitutes.”
This, however, was not necessary. Veenemans and his colleagues developed a process which made it possible to create chickpea protein with all the required characteristics. That in itself is a novelty. On top of that the process is relatively simple and it can be carried out with ingredients that are present in most household kitchens. Moreover, this process is applicable to other vegetal proteins, like soy protein.
The effectiveness of the process has already been proven. Veenemans and his colleagues were able to use the modified chickpea protein to make a cake with the same airy mouthfeel as a cake with eggs. “There were no off-flavours and no mealy mouthfeel.” says Veenemans. “The fat-binding characteristics of the modified protein are thus good that we could replace the butter with sunflower oil without any negative alterations to the flavour or mouthfeel.”
With this application bakers are able to make high quality vegan cakes and muffins, or just egg-free muffins and cakes with an aerated and fluffy texture and no off-flavours. “Eggs have become expensive, so perhaps there are manufacturers looking for equal alternatives,” says Veenemans. “Also, chickpea protein is sustainable.”