Baking Basic 101 Series: Let’s Talk About Eggs

Egg is one of the basic ingredient in baking. One could argue, not really! Yes, we know that it is possible to bake an egg free baked products, but for me nothing still beats using the real thing (don’t shoot me, I am just expressing my opinion). Egg is one thing that I cannot simply let go. I use egg not only for baking, but also for breakfast, snacks and even breakfast for dinner (do you do that as well? Egg for dinner?) This is one dairy ingredient that I cannot leave without. So I say, it is worth having a separate topic discussing why egg is so important in baking and what role it play.

All About Eggs

While I had been baking for awhile now, Sometimes, I still feel like a beginner. There is always so much to learn to refresh my memory or just to brush up my skills. I’ve decided to share with you my baking learning journey, and I hope this will benefit you as much as it helped me. I had been meaning to create more baking basics series but I had always been side track with recipe and travel post. I’ll be documenting things that I had learned and will share with you my experiences in baking, baking basics is not just my journey, it is our journey to making ourselves a better baker, especially if you cannot afford to go to a culinary school for whatever reason. I started on my own, learned everything on my own by reading and researching, by watching videos and by listening to advice and feedback. I feel it’s time to give back and share what I’ve learned.

Today’s Lesson: Why Use Egg?

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. 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!

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What’s In an Egg?

Egg Yolk, Egg White & Chalazae

This is an easy one, and you probably know the answer to this. The egg Yolk is the yellow portion of the egg and this is full of nutrients, vitamins and fats. I would say this is the delicious part of the egg which makes the baked goods creamy. Because this part of the egg is high in fat, people who are watching their diet normally avoid eating the egg yolk. Then we have the egg White which is packed with protein and water, the healthy part of the egg. Not as delicious as the egg yolk, but equally important in baking. Now, you might think, that’s it! Hold On! there is one more which is probably not familiar to most (including me). Have you noticed, there is a white strand floating somewhere in the egg when you open it? 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.

How Much Does an Egg Weight?

This is just an estimate as the size of the egg could vary from country to country, and even from brand to brand.

In Shell57 grams
Without Shell50 grams
White Only30 grams
Yolk Only18 grams

Eggs Nutritional Facts

  • Calories: 70
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Fat: 5g, 185 mg cholesterol
  • The Egg White: 3.5 g protein, 0.05g fat, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium
  • The Egg Yolk: 2.5 g protein, 4.5 g fat, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Phosphorus, Choline, Folate

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. 

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Tip on How to Easily Separate Egg White & Egg Yolk

If you need to separate egg white from egg yolk, it is always easier to do it while the egg is still cold, that is if it is coming from the refrigerator. Doing this while the egg is cold lessen the chance of breaking the egg yolk while you are separating it. You will be able to tell the difference when you try to separate a cold egg to a room temperature egg. The egg white of a cold egg is more compact while a warm egg will be more runny and fluid.

  • Use an egg separator, you can but this kitchen gadget in baking or kitchen section
  • You can use the shell itself to separate the egg white from the yolk. Crack the egg and transfer the egg between the shell until the egg white drips. The downside of this method is that if you are not careful enough, there could be sharp edges in the egg shell that could puncture the egg yolk. This works pretty much all the time for me.
  • for a more safer approach, use your hands. Yes, your hands is a free simple tool that you can use to separate the egg. Simply crack the egg and transfer it in your hands and slightly spread your fingers to allow the egg white to drip.

How to Store Egg

Refrigerate the egg for a longer shelf life. If you tend to buy a lot of egg and you transfer them in a new container, make sure to put a label for the expiration date. On average, refrigerated eggs could last up to a month, but it is always better to be safe when using egg so double check every egg you use. If you see any discoloration or smell some funky smell, do not think twice and throw it out.

You can also leave it on the kitchen counter but this could get a bit tricky especially with the fluctuation of kitchen temperature. Eggs have a natural coating to protect it from bacteria, but depending on where you are, this protective layer may be intact or not. Some country during the preparation of the egg in production, eggs are power washed. This removes the natural coating that protects the egg. It is advisable to keep the eggs below 40F to ward off potential food bourne pathogens. So really, to avoid the hassle of figuring things out, just refrigerate it if you have one.

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. Wipe clean your counter, utensils or anything that comes in contact with the egg that includes your hands.

Bottom Line

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. Up next, are the common egg substitute. Stay tune for that next week.

Eggs play important role in baking depending on what part of egg you use and how you use it. Knowing how we use the egg be it whole, only yolk or only white is key to maximizing its role in baking. Although there are now a lot of ways to substitute egg, nothing still beats using a real one.

Quote of the Day

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

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