Photo credit: Kelly Neil
Beneath that delicate shell, lies eggceptional power. Eggs serve a multitude of purposes when it comes to baking. They act as leaveners as well as add moisture, structure, colour, and flavour to muffins, cakes, cookies, and quick and enriched breads. But are all eggs are created equally?
Size does matter
Contrary to the popular, cheeky phrase, the size of your egg really does matter when it comes to baking. Unless otherwise specified, you should always use large eggs in baked good recipe because they take into account a particular amount of liquid in the overall equation. For example, large eggs measure in at about 56 grams or 3 ¼ tablespoons of liquid egg.
If using eggs of a different size, you’re either decreasing or increasing the liquid in the batter. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal. But when the recipe calls for multiple eggs, subbing in the wrong size can have a negative impact on the end result. No large eggs on hand? Simply weigh out the eggs to get the proper amount (e.g. 2 eggs = 112g, 4 eggs = 224g, etc.), then mix them together before adding the mixture to your batter.
Take it slow
Most recipes will either have you (a) add the eggs in one at a time mixing well in between each addition or (b) mix the eggs together before slowly adding them to the batter. The simple reason behind this is, science! And no, I’m not being sassy. Eggs are liquid–made up partly of water–and typically, they’re added to a fat mixture, e.g., butter and sugar/oil and sugar. Adding eggs in one at a time gives the liquid time to emulsify with the fat creating more uniformity.
Emulsification occurs when minute droplets of one liquid are evenly dispersed into another liquid in which it is not soluble, as in the case with oil and vinegar. See? Science.When eggs are added correctly, the cake will have a light springy texture, hold an even crumb, and have great flavour. If not properly emulsified, the cake can turn out dense, flat, uneven, and taste kind of blah.
Do my eggs needs to be at room temperature?
It has often been said that eggs need to be at room temperature, but in recent years there’s been some debate about this. Several years ago, America’s Test Kitchen asked this very question; and when they tested two cakes side-by-side, the cold eggs didn’t made a discernable difference in the baking. So can you pull your eggs straight out of the fridge and crack them directly into your batter? Let’s not get crazy here.
If a recipe specifies that the eggs must be at room temperature, then please abide. For recipes that require beating eggs or egg whites into a more stable structure like meringues, soufflés, and angel food cakes, adding cold eggs is a no no. This is because when eggs have had a chance to warm up a little, they whip up to a greater volume.
If you’re not well-planned and decide to bake up an impromptu batch of these lemon basil meringues, simply place your cold eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water while you gather and prep the remaining ingredients. By the time you’re ready to start, your eggs should be at room temperature.
Some recipes call for separating the whites from the yolks. This is an important step because eggwhites play an entirely different role from their sunshiney counterparts. High protein whites act as a leavener while the more flavourful yolks (loaded with fat and nutrients) play the role of thickening and strengthening agent, also adding colour and richness to recipes. This is most evidently seen in recipes like brioche, curd, and ice cream.
Hey good lookin’!
The beautiful sheen you see on baked goods like danishes and cinnamon buns can be credited to the magic of egg wash. Egg wash is a combination of beaten egg, a splash of liquid like milk or water, and sometimes salt. When its brushed onto bread or pastries before they go into the oven, it brightens everything up and gives it an overall glow.
Large drips of egg wash on your pastry can lead to over-browning in some areas which can give it an uneven look and even cause burning. For a more polished finish, gently dip your pastry brush into the wash and brush it on the inside of the bowl to remove any excess. Then brush delicately and evenly over the pastry.
What if I don’t eat eggs?
If you can’t or choose not to eat eggs, fear not! There are many options available for when you want to bake delicious treats. Depending on the recipe, flax or chia, aquafaba, applesauce, bananas, and even tofu can be substituted for eggs. We’ll delve into those options more in another post!