There has been some recent discussion on the Home Cooking Forum regarding cracking eggs and broken shell bits, so I decided to write a longer article about eggs.
According to the Joy of Cooking, my favorite stand-by, eggs used for breakfast or for making mayonnaise, glazing pastry dough, and various other uses, should be very fresh. However, the Joy goes on to say, when you use eggs for baking or hard-boiling, only use eggs that are at least 3 days old! Irma Rombauer explains that “hard cooked eggs will turn greenish (if too fresh) and become difficult to peel, and cakes may fail to rise properly because the (fresh) eggs will not beat to the proper volume.” Isn’t that fascinating?!
For best results, it is good to use eggs at room temperature for baking. If you have forgotten to remove eggs from the fridge soon enough, you can speed the process by setting them in a bowl of hot water for about 15 minutes. (The water will cool sufficiently that the eggs will not cook.)
Eggs will separate most easily when they are at room temperature. I find that rapping an egg gently yet sharply on the edge of pan or bowl is the best and cleanest way to break them open. The harder one raps the shell, the more likely it is that broken shell will fall into the bowl. If any little bits of shell do land in the bowl, use the remaining half shell to scoop out the broken bits. One can also tap the egg with the edge of a table knife; just be sure to give a swift, sharp tap so the shell does not smash.
In order to separate eggs, have 3 bowls ready. Separate each egg over the smallest bowl, so that if any yolk gets into the whites, you can set that egg aside and go on to the next, without contaminating the rest of the whites. After separating the white from the yolk, put each white into the biggest bowl, and the yolks into a medium sized bowl. Then proceed to follow whatever recipe you’re using.
To separate eggs, gently tip the half of the shell which holds the egg over the bowl, just enough to let the white slide out, without the yolk following. You can use the other half of the shell to prevent the yolk from slipping out. Tip the egg back and forth between the shell halves until all the white lands in the small bowl. Then drop the yolk into the bowl of yolks, and transfer the white to the largest bowl.
Note: if you're whipping the whites to stiffness, no yolk should get into the whites. However, it's OK to have some white in with the yolks.
I have witnessed a couple of chefs who were able to separate eggs using just one hand–to save time, I guess–but I never mastered that technique! I do not encourage you to try it at home!
If you’re blowing eggs to dye them for Easter, they also blow out with much greater ease if you bring them to room temperature first. To make hollow eggs, pierce a hole into each end of the shell. The larger end should have a slightly larger hole; blow from the narrow end. Then rinse thoroughly, and let dry before dying or painting the shells.
Now I need to go cook up all those eggs I cracked….
Last week I was baking a cake from the book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, which required butter cream frosting—only I did not have an electric beater! Heavens! I imagined that it would take ages to make the butter cream, using just a flat wire whisk, and that my arms would be like spaghetti when I finished. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could easily whisk together the egg yolks with the hot sugar syrup, and when it came time to add the softened butter, it whisked right in quite easily. The whole recipe was no more taxing than making vinaigrette!
The butter cream was delicious, too! The only problem was, it did not firm up properly, probably because I used Agave syrup in place of corn syrup. Hmm. Perhaps I need to cook the Agave longer. I’ll have to try again. The frosting did firm up once chilled, so it spread on the cake quite nicely, just before serving. I’ll let you know if I can improve the recipe!
Tip of the day: Save all your empty jam and other Mason-type jars; they make great storage containers for flour, sugar, nuts, raisins, rolled oats, rice and other bulk grains. Just wash the jar and dry thoroughly before filling. Jars keep ingredients fresher, and keep bugs out.
You can also store flour, nuts, and grains in your freezer.
Enjoy great food!
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