Runny yolk sauce: experiment #1 post-mortem

Boy did that not work.

I attempted to make the fake egg sauce from my last post, according to the recipe. That recipe calls for 1 cup water, 4 tsp. corn starch, 3/4 tsp. black salt (kala namak), 2 tsp. nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp. neutrally-flavored oil, and 1/4 tsp. turmeric. The mixture is heated to reduce it and cause the corn starch to thicken it up.

Overall I made two batches, and made an adjustment to the second batch, for three sub-experiments. None of them were completely successful, but I believe they’re on the right track. The texture was absolutely perfect, but I found flavor to be the sticking point. (Mind you I read a lot of reviews of the original recipe claiming this tasted just like egg yolk, but for me it fell too far short. Apparently going vegan ruins your taste buds.)

Experiment #1a:

For my first attempt, I mixed the ingredients as directed, but I substituted 2 tbsp. duck fat for the oil. In place of turmeric, I added 6 drops of yellow food coloring. Then I did something stupid and added a drop of red, which was way too much. Lesson learned: no more red. The yellow looked good.

The smell of the mixture while reducing was strange, and unfortunately that quality made its way into the final taste. There was an unpleasant “overcooked” flavor to the mix, which came entirely from the nutritional yeast. I tasted some of the yeast plain, and it has a sort of cereal-like flavor; it was good, but not necessarily suited to an egg yolk substitute. Whether that overcooked flavor was always there entirely or whether it was brought out more by heating the mixture, I’m not sure, but it was unsubtle and off-putting. However, underneath it there was a solid savory note that did work.

Worse, though, the sulfur flavor from the black salt was absolutely overpowering. Clearly 3/4 tsp. is way too much.

Experiment #1b:

I started over and dropped the black salt to a mere 1/4 tsp. In addition to the nutritional yeast, I added 1/8 tsp. of MSG, hoping it would round out the flavor and soften the harsh edges of the yeast. This time I also used some light-flavored olive oil, because I wasn’t about to waste more of my good duck fat.

At first I thought this was too little black salt, but the more obvious problem was that although the MSG helped, the yeast’s overcooked flavor came out stronger than before.

Experiment #1c:

At this point I added more water, another 1/4 tsp. of black salt, and another 1/8 tsp. of MSG. This was to simulate using less nutritional yeast while keeping everything else roughly the same as when I started the batch.

This didn’t work at all. If anything the black salt was too strong again, but the yeast flavor was not improved.

Final thoughts

It’s clear to me now that the big problem here is nutritional yeast. It could be the brand I’m using, but honestly I really doubt that. More likely, any brand will have that same background flavor. Using turmeric as directed could not have helped this. Adding an earthy, almost dirt-like flavor would only compound the problem.

Since the point of the nutritional yeast is for the strong umami flavoring, I think this recipe would benefit by replacing it with something else. MSG was part of the solution but I don’t think it can do all the heavy lifting on its own. My thinking is, either a mushroom powder or actual Parmesan cheese would fix this: perhaps a blend of both.

Black salt is incredibly strong stuff, too. The smell of it hung in the air long afterward, which I have to say was fairly undesirable. But it could simply be because I used so much of it, and that the bottle was freshly opened.

I’m still impressed with the texture of the recipe. When dripping from a whisk it looked just like the real thing. It did tend to congeal after a few minutes, so it would benefit from an emulsifier.

As it stands I don’t think I’ll revisit this before the new year, and therefore won’t be trying again to get it right for my special after-Christmas sandwich. But I don’t want to simply end the experiments. This recipe showed me considerable promise, so I believe replacing the nutritional yeast outright with some mixture of MSG and other savory powders will get close enough to taste right. For now though, further experiments are on hold.

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Runny yolk sauce part 2: the vegan subversion

Back in the summer, when I was first literally knocked off my feet by debilitating pain, I saw a video about pasteurizing egg yolks and turning them into a runny yolk sauce. I thought: that’s way too much work and it’ll never be a good option for me. It only keeps a couple of weeks and you have to store it in the fridge, and heating it up nicely is likely not to work. So I got the idea at that time of using powdered egg yolk instead, only to realize after more research that it wouldn’t work out at all. Powdered yolks can reproduce the properties of egg yolk for baking but they won’t reproduce the flavor I want.

What I really want is a runny egg yolk sauce that I can store for long periods and easily warm up, or mix up from something like a powder in small batches, so I can enjoy it on an as-desired basis.

This is something I care about accomplishing soon, though, because I think it’d be an amazing thing to add to my favorite after-Christmas cube steak sandwich. A fried egg in its entirety would be a bit too much of a mess, plus the added difficulty of trying to get that ready on top of everything else would be too much.

Recently, however, I got an idea. For a while YouTube has been recommending videos by Sauce Stache, a channel where lately he seems to exclusively be doing vegan recipes, and his main shtick lately is making fake foods out of vegan ingredients. In one of those videos he tried to make his own egg replacer to make an omelet, and that’s where inspiration struck: the vegans might have an answer for this that would be acceptable. The thing is, I don’t really care if the egg yolk sauce is actually made of egg yolks; I only care about the flavor and texture, and of course that it’s nice and warm when I apply it. Perhaps I can exploit the vegans for their food science!

I managed to find one link that led me to a vegan sunny-side-up egg, but their yolk recipe was overly complicated and involved extra ingredients like masked potato flakes (WTF?) and also the addition of some egg replacer, which seemed like overkill. The basic formula will obviously include black salt, which supposedly has a very sulfurous eggy flavor, and nutritional yeast which is kind of cheesy and savory. So I kept looking, and last night I found a different recipe for a vegan toast dipping sauce that simulates egg yolk. Not only is that recipe much simpler, but I never even thought about the idea of a toast dipping sauce and now I can’t think of anything else.

As a result, I’ve gone ahead and ordered black salt and nutritional yeast from Amazon. I checked Wegmans first, since I had an errand there today, but I couldn’t find black salt. I know they carry “nooch” but I figured I’d just buy these two main ingredients from Amazon.

Of course I’m going to alter the recipe, which calls for black salt, nutritional yeast, water, corn starch, light-flavored oil, and turmeric. I might actually still need to get some light-tasting oil if I don’t have any handy, since my go-to kitchen fats are butter, bacon grease, margarine (which I don’t usually use for baking, just grilled cheese and a few other things), and occasionally duck fat. Duck fat might actually work here considering I’m trying to simulate a chicken egg, and might give it the right extra oomph of unctuousness, so I might just try that. And in the future if I find this recipe works, I’ll eventually work out how to sub out the corn starch for xanthan gum in case I ever want it low-carb.

But the biggest change of all is that I’m gonna ditch the turmeric in favor of good old-fashioned artificial food coloring, because ‘MURICA! Actually the real reason is that I find the dirt-like flavor of turmeric overly strong. I tried a small amount of the stuff in a “flu bomb” toddy the last time I got sick, and nothing really covered it up. No way am I gonna tinge my fake egg with that crap, when I can use a few drops of yellow food coloring and maybe a little red. And I know the turmeric is only in that recipe for color. I’ll continue to take my turmeric in capsule form instead.

The ingredients I need should arrive Friday, and after that I should have a chance to do a little experiment Sunday. If successful, I see no reason not to save the finished product and use it later in the month because it ought to keep just fine in the fridge if it’s in a sealed container. At least in theory I would expect it to keep awhile. But if it doesn’t, it seems easy to make again.

The great irony is that if this works, not only am I likely to deveganize the recipe with duck fat, but I’ll be using this sauce on a sandwich whose other components are beef, cheese, bacon, more cheese, and mushrooms that were sauteed in butter.

What a time to be alive.

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Let’s blog a parade 2019!

All right: I’ve got one of my mom’s pumpkin muffins, a bottle of Mountain Dew, holiday spirit, and a full tank of snark. I think I’m ready to go. As every year, this is a live-blog of the Macy’s parade, so keep refreshing and I’ll keep updating. Let’s get started!

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Christmas memories

In my last post I thought it’d be fun to look back on all the things I loved most about Christmases past, so I feel like diving in with a long post. If you want some good old-fashioned seasonal joy, here’s the place. I’d love to hear your own take on the season as well.

(If you’re not down for a trip down memory lane, just come back Thursday morning for the live blog of the parade.)

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T minus 2(ish)

Since physical therapy ended (provisionally) Thursday I’ve had a few odd twinges. Friday night my second toe on my left foot was killing me, and I think it was because one of the bones in the foot was out of place again—something the therapist caught right away on my first visit. Could be that the exercises I did Thursday inflamed things a bit. Since then I’ve kind of felt like I was on the edge of something worse on and off, but it hasn’t gotten serious and I very much hope it won’t. I suspect the orthopedist was right all along that this is primarily a mechanical issue. So I keep up with my stretches and exercises, although I think I ought to be stretching more often.

It’s crazy to think that Thanksgiving is a little over 48 hours away. As usual I’ll be live-blogging the Macy’s parade because I enjoy doing so—and from time to time I read the old blogs to remember parades past, just for fun.

Sometime soon I need to put the tree up. I have a sneaky thought that maybe I should try to do it tomorrow (Tuesday) because waiting till the weekend is just way too late considering Thanksgiving comes late this year, and besides which the tree-raising ends up eating the weekend somehow. I think I can work that in around my work schedule. Instead of putting on a movie (usually White Christmas, because a lot of it makes for good background viewing) I might just put on some music.

The other day I was reminiscing about some of the Christmases I’ve enjoyed so much in the past, what I really loved about the holiday and the season, and it occurred to me that while the day itself has always been special, it’s really the season that pulls my heartstrings. I think I’ll run through a list of favorite memories and aspects of the season sometime soon, because that’ll be a fun post—and a long one. I have a lot of memories to be grateful for.

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Update and planning ahead for Black Friday

Things have been going pretty well with the whole foot/ankle pain issue. Walking long distances still sucks, so a trip to Wegmans or Walmart can wear me out, but it’s at least doable. I’ve been doing physical therapy, which began with stretches for my Achilles tendons but now also includes some strengthening and balance exercises. My stretches are asymmetrical, focusing different ones more on different legs, because of the two calf muscles that connect to the Achilles, different muscles are tight on different legs.

The new exercises are tiring, but I’ve kept at them. I’m supposed to work up to twice a day but so far have stuck to once. A lot of this is because of the time everything takes and my weird nocturnal schedule, but I do want to get to the point where I’m doing this twice a day.

I won’t be baking pumpkin bread this year; my mom will do all the baking. While I can stand to cook, I’d still prefer to take it easy on my feet and not stress things out unduly. This also means some of the experiments I conceived of over the summer are still on hold as well. Anyway I should be supplied with fresh muffins soon and stocked up for next week when I do my annual parade live blog. (I don’t really know if anyone reads those. But I enjoy writing them, so there’s that.)

In writing, I’m still trying to spin back up on The Pembroke Engine. I’m really happy with everything I wrote so far, but I still need a good idea of where things are going and that hasn’t come to me yet. I think the only solution is to really focus and sit down and hammer stuff out.

That however is harder now because I just had another birthday, and since everyone’s always pressuring me to put more stuff on my wish list once November comes around, I loaded up with a bunch of games I had been meaning to check out. So far I’ve received one such game, a title from a few years ago, and it’s amazing. Incidentally this same game is part of a PS4 bundle coming up for Black Friday, and it’s an insanely good deal: from what I’m seeing, you can get the PS4 and three great games for $200. If you don’t have a PS4 yet, this is your excuse to buy one.

Speaking of Black Friday, the full shopping experience just isn’t gonna happen. I can’t do that much sustained walking. Normally I go out with my mom in the mid-to-late morning and we hit up Macy’s, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble (that one’s not in the mall, because there hasn’t really been a steady bookstore in the mall since my beloved Borders closed) and a few other places. This year we’ll still do Best Buy, but maybe not Macy’s, definitely not much else in the mall, and we’ll probably still check out Barnes & Noble. (The nice thing about my sister being a bibliophile is she often has a decent wish list, and I try to get her shopping done early because if I don’t her husband buys everything else first.)

We have a Lego store now too. If they have Black Friday deals that’s a very very dangerous thing for me.

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No NaNo for me

After the success I had in 2017, last year I ambitiously thought I was going to do NaNoWriMo every year and pump out a new Paranormal Curio novel each time.

Unfortunately, last year I got stuck. The Pembroke Engine remains in progress, unfinished, although I did succeed in hitting my word count goal. I was planning to try to get back to it this summer when illness/injury intervened, and here we are. But I want to return to it shortly and finish it properly. That means this year, I’m laying off NaNoWriMo and I’ll try to get to proper writing as I can. Of course I also have major work stuff going on, so we’ll see how that goes. Not that I wasn’t crazy busy when I wrote The Affix, but that took a toll of its own.

In the meantime, I also need to get a decent cover for Gray Area, which is ready to go. I honestly have no idea how that book will be received, because it’s the sort of book intended to elicit questions about right and wrong and make the reader a little uncomfortable doing so. But it’s going to need a better cover than the one I had for it, regardless.

And to catch you up on my health issues, I saw an orthopedist last week who told me my Achilles tendons are extremely tight, and he believes that’s a large part of why I developed (literally) crippling pain in the first place; if there’s an autoimmune component, or if low potassium and magnesium were contributing factors, those are separate questions. But he thinks with a little physical therapy to teach me how to exercise them, followed by me doing said exercises three times a day for three months, I should be able to loosen them up. We’ll see; I’m determined to do what I need to do. And I’m now officially done with the diuretic I was taking, so hopefully my electrolytes will stabilize properly.

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