Egg is one of the basic ingredient in baking, although people are slowly leaning into healthy baking, there’s still a lot of people who prefer to do traditional baking which uses regular baking ingredients like egg, butter, sugar, milk. Let’s get to know Eggs a little bit more and understand the role it plays into baking.
I want to make this as simple as possible. I am going to share with you interesting stuff about eggs that I find out while doing my research and online classes. The information I am going to share with you are from different sources, which I will try to explain the way that I understand it. Hopefully this will help you too that way that it helped me. Let’s get started!
What’s In an Egg?
This is an easy one, and you probably know the answer to this. Yolk is the yellow portion of the egg and this is full of nutrients, vitamins and Fats. Those who are watching their diet normally avoid the egg yolk because of the fat contents. Then we have the White which is packed with protein and water, the healthy part of the egg. Have you noticed, there is a white strand floating somewhere in the mix? I thought before this is part of the egg white, but it seems this is actually part of what makes up the egg. This is called the chalazae. It anchors the yolk to the white and to the inside of the shell, keeping the yolk suspended.
What Eggs Do in Baking Recipes?
This is one interesting basic question with a very interesting explanation. Eggs play a major and important role in baking depending on how you use it. Generally, eggs creates structure and stability within a batter, they add moisture to cakes and other baked products, they help thicken and emulsify sauces like custards, they provide flavor, they affects the color of the baked products, and can even act as a glue or glaze like when use it in pie or tarts.
The function and purpose of egg yolk, egg white or the whole egg can vary from recipe to recipe depending on how it is use. Some recipe calls for using only egg yolks, some only egg whites, and some requires using the entire egg. When you see instructions like these, it is required to be that way for a reason. And what that maybe, is something that we would explore a little bit more.
Egg yolk in baking: Fat and Emulsifying Agent
Have you ever wondered why some recipes requires you to use only the egg yolk? For starter, we already know that egg yolk contains fats and that egg yolk has emulsifying abilities. These two makes it the basic reason why some recipe uses only egg yolk. Recipes that requires fat to make the baked product creamy and rich in flavor, or bake products that aims for velvety smooth texture will normally requires egg yolk. This can be products like caramel custard, cake, ice cream (Yes, ice cream have egg yolk in it!), pastry cream or crème brûlée.
How about the emulsifying abilities then? Egg yolk has a unique ability to bind liquid and fats together (like water and oil which normally do not mix together for a long time). Try to pour water in a small cup, then put a drop of oil in it. You will noticed that the oil will be suspended on top, it will not blend in or mix with the water. Try whisking them together, for a short while you will noticed them mixing together, and become suspended within each other. This is an emulsion. But, this will not last long. Soon enough, the oil will separate again and float on top of the water. So how do we make them stay happy together? We need an emulsifying agent, this is where the egg yolk comes in. The egg yolk becomes the bridge that will bind the water and oil together, so that they stay together. Just like when you make cakes, you add oil, water and egg.
Egg whites in baking: Foam for volume
If you have asked the question why use only egg yolk, then you must have asked the question why use only egg white? Egg white on its own when use in baking provides a different function as to when you only use egg yolk. Some common bake products that calls the use of egg whites are frosting, soufflé, meringue, Macarons, sponge cakes, chiffon cakes any some other delicate and soft cakes. Did you noticed what they have in common? Most of these baked products have soft and airy texture with a fluffy appearance, and some of these doesn’t even use baking powder or baking soda. Egg whites when whipped can act as a leavening agent for products like soufflé or even sponge cake. So how does it work? When we whipped egg whites, we are incorporating millions of air bubbles within the white thus making it look like a soft fluffy foam. When whipped egg whites are folded into the batter or even on its own, and put into the oven, the heat of the oven will make the air trapped in the foam to start to expand, causing the recipe to rise slowly until it hold its form and structure. Important thing to mention, sometimes, more is not always good when it comes to baking. Whipping the egg whites more will not make the bake product more “airy” or “light”. Too much whipping can make the egg whites clump together. This will make it difficult to mix with the batter and will also dry out the cake. So pay attention to the instruction to know if you are aiming for soft peaks or stiff peaks, then stop immediately when you reach the stage.
Whole Egg in baking: Both world of egg white and egg yolk
When using whole egg in baking, you get the benefits of both egg yolk and egg whites. Make sense, right? Whole egg is also an excellent binding agents, but not as good as when you only use the yolk. Whole egg also gives structure to baked products because it solidify when heated. At the same time, eggs make baked goods more tender, creating light textures and soft breads.
Whole eggs when mixed with sugar can give the bake product lightness and a lift like in cookies or cakes. This is because egg helps trap air when you beat it with egg, resulting to a fluffy and airy bake goods.
What’s Important to Know About Egg Temperature?
I’ve seen a lot of recipes calling for eggs to be at room temperature, most commonly in cakes. I used to ignore this when I was new at baking because I never knew the importance of having the egg in room temperature. When I got more and more into baking, I started doing research and that is when I realized I should be paying attention to instruction like this. Why so? Egg temperature is crucial to the success of baked products. Room temperature eggs binds liquid and fats easily, thus creating a smooth batter. A cake batter that uses cold egg will have thicker consistency, it will not fall down as fluid and smooth as the cake batter that uses room temperature egg. For me, the easiest way to imagine this is using cold egg is like adding gel like ingredient in the batter, and using a room temperature egg is like using more liquid into the batter. More liquid means the consistency is more fluid, smooth and velvety. In case of whipping egg white, egg white whipped better when egg is at room temperature.
If you need to separate egg white from egg yolk, it is always easier to do it while the egg is still cold, if coming from the fridge. There is a smaller chance of breaking the egg yolk while you are separating it. Also, if you do not have time to wait for the egg to be at room temperature, simply submerge the egg in warm water for 5-10 minutes and leave it there while you are preparing the rest of your ingredients.
Better Safe than Sorry: Cook it to at least 160F
Egg is commonly associated with Salmonella which is dangerous to everyone’s health, so you must know how to handle eggs properly. Make sure to cook egg thoroughly, least 160F as general rule.
You might be having information overload right now, so take time to read this few times until you absorb the information. Understanding the role of egg is crucial to baking, it could make or break your baked products. This could mean a fluffy, soft and moist cake or a dense or dry cake.