We recently started getting free range eggs from a local farm, Rotherfield Farms. As a baker it is very exciting to get fresh free range eggs. However, I was surprised to see just how different the eggs can be; small, large, enormous, single yolk and double yolk. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, eating eggs in everyday meals is made better by big eggs. But it can prove a bit more challenging to the baker.
You’ve probably noticed in the grocery store that you can buy different sizes of eggs, all uniform in their cartons: small, medium, large and extra large. Obviously different sized eggs have different weights and masses. Most baking recipes are based on eggs that are categorized as large, so if you use eggs that are smaller or larger your final product may not come out as you expect. Large eggs weigh, on average, 50 grams. As you can see from the photos in this post the odds of all these free range eggs being the same 50 grams is pretty slim. Out of curiosity I decided to weigh one of the large ones, which had a double yolk. It weighed 85 grams. That’s almost twice the size of a regular large egg, almost like using two eggs instead of one in a recipe! Even when I took one of the yolks out, it was still 70 grams, meaning there’s not just an extra yolk, there’s extra white as well. A few grams up or down probably wouldn’t make a big difference, but 35 extra grams of egg is going to change how things bake.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t use free range eggs for baking. Quite the opposite, I love using the free range eggs, they have a rich colour and flavour that store bought eggs lack. I am saying, though, that you might need to tweak recipes in order to make them work. If the egg is larger you might need to add a bit more flour to accommodate the extra moisture. In ‘professional’ recipes there are ingredient percentages listed so you can calculate the proportional amount of ingredients you need if one is increased (or decreased), but since most recipes in everyday baking don’t list these percentages you just have to wing it. With most common recipes the odds of your final product being totally ruined are pretty slim, it will still be tasty; a little extra egg is not going to affect the flavour in the same way as adding baking soda instead of baking powder (which will also affect how something rises), or salt instead of sugar. It will most likely affect the texture; a little more egg will give you a wetter, chewier final product, and it may need a bit more oven time, and a little less egg will give you a drier result.
My suggestion would be that if you are making something for an important occasion, don’t shy away from the free range egg. Like all natural, whole ingredients, they really do add a delicious flavour and rich colour. Just weigh the eggs first to ensure you have the right amount for the recipe, and that way you know the final product won’t give you any surprises.