Why are eggs used in baking?

I just made some Jiffy corn muffins, which required me to have an egg. What is provided by chicken eggs that couldn’t be separated out and pre-measured into the pre-packaged muffin mix? Could you use eggs from other birds if they had around the same volume? Using eggs when you make cookies from your own flour and baking soda and chips makes sense, but why are they also needed for pretty much every other pre-mixed baking product?

This is about cooking, so it’s starting in Cafe Society, but I’m looking for a more technical rather than artistic answer so maybe it would run better in GQ.

Not all baking items use eggs. I like Krusteaz brand fat-free muffin mixes because they don’t require me to have an egg on hand.

There IS powdered egg white in the ingredient list, tho.

I suspect a better-tasting and moister recipe (even though said muffins are delicious) depends on the full fat and protein of a full egg, yolk and white. I don’t think you can powder-ize that and re-constitute it without losing the properties that make eggs useful for baking.

My understanding is that eggs are pretty much the bras of baked goods–they lift and provide support by expanding as they cook and then setting into a solid protein matrix. I suppose you could put powdered eggs into a dry baking mix, but it seems like a lot more hassle than it would be worth, given how ubiquitous the egg is in the average kitchen.

Well, they’re a one-stop shop for moisture, leavening, fat, binding, emulsification, and a few other things. Which is why they’re so important in baking, which perhaps you knew - I know you’re asking about mixes. You could, more or less, include your leavening ingredients in the dry mix and then just call for some fat and water to be added. In fact, I bet you could do this even with the pre-packaged mixes that call for egg, as long as leavening was already included. And I do think more and more cookie and cake mixes just call for some water and canola oil. I once read that the reason cakes mixes initially called for egg was to prevent housewives feel like they were “cheating” when using a mix, because hey look, you’re still cracking eggs! But I can’t even recall where I read that so grain of salt and all that.

And yes, I’ve subbed quail eggs, duck eggs, and goose eggs in cookies and cakes with no problems. An average North American chicken egg minus shell is 50 grams - 30 of white, 20 of yolk - and knowing that, it’s easy to switch out hen egg with another type.

I suspect the real reasons that box mixes call for powdered eggs is a combination of price and making mixes easy enough for people to throw together but complicated enough that you feel like you’re actually cooking something. From what I gather, powdered eggs will work very well in most baked goods.

And as far as chicken eggs versus other eggs - you’ll find that other eggs have slightly different percentages of yolk versus white (duck eggs, for example, have larger yolks), but not enough to affect baking too much. I use duck eggs in omelets and custards, and they’re delicious.

It could be in the mix. That was tried early on. But people wouldn’t buy it.

Remember that when pre-packaged baking mixes were introduced, the previous method was making it ‘from scratch’. Home bakers liked the convenience of the mixes, but felt a little guilty about not doing it ‘from scratch’ like their mothers did. And a mix with everything in it (‘just add water’) made them feel even more guilty, and they tended not to buy the mixes.

So the makers experimented with them, and discovered that mixes requiring adding water, oil and eggs were the right compromise between convenience and a feeling of ‘participating’ in the baking. Those mixes sold. So that became the standard for pre-mixed baking packages.

But do they separate? :smiley:

I don’t know if it’s true, but there used to be a marketing story that mixes with the egg already in them were not popular because the housewives who were the primary target demographic didn’t think they were really cooking if they just added water. Allowing the consumer to add an egg elevated it to baking.

Slight highjack:

I always keep Krutzeaz pancake mix around for a breakfast alternative in case I am out of eggs.
My SO calls it “Just Add Water”

Me: I’m out of eggs. What do you want for breakfast?
Him: Do we have any “just add water”?
Me: You want maple or blackberry syrup and bacon or sausage? :smiley:

Agreed with previous posters… I’ve always heard that baking mixes call for eggs so that you feel like you’ve made an effort.

If you’re baking from scratch, then again, previous posters have covered it.

Snopes has weighed in on this.

While there may be a grain of truth to the story, they conclude that the cake simply came out better with a fresh egg.