In the test kitchen, we are not easily swayed from eating things that taste good, and we are not easily convinced that more healthful food substitutes can taste as good as the real thing. However, we realize that there are many people out there who pass on eggs for a fat free, cholesterol free "real egg product." These egg replacements are made with up to 99% egg whites combined with a mixture of vegetable gums, dairy products, water, and coloring. What do they taste like? We went into the test kitchen to find out.
Fifteen tasters tasted both refrigerated and frozen egg substitutes and real, whole eggs scrambled plain. Not surprisingly, the real eggs were runaway winners. Only one brand could ever be considered an alternative; despite an unnaturally bright yellow color and slightly spongy texture, this substitute had decent flavor that tasters found acceptable. All others either tasted disturbingly artificial or had a texture more akin to watery cottage cheese. Potent additions can mask flavor shortcomings, but soggy, spongy textures remain.
We then turned to baking applications, using our acceptable brand in place of real eggs in three recipes: yellow cake, peanut butter cookies, and custard pie filling.
The verdict? In all cases, tasters found the substitute eggs to be a reasonable substitute. The yellow cake made with engineered eggs didn't brown or rise quite as well as the one made with real eggs and had a slightly gummy top, but it was still acceptable, especially once the cake was frosted. Both our substitute brand and the real eggs turned out equally good results in the peanut butter cookies and the custard pie filling. (In fact, some tasters actually preferred the custard made with the egg substitute for its "less-eggy" flavor.)
While we still prefer real whole eggs to additive-laden egg substitutes, the vegetable gums in this brand do a good job of mimicking the texture of real yolks and will work just fine in most recipes.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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