Ingredient Insights

Free Range Eggs and their Effect on Baking

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.

20140919_081444
Free range eggs of all shapes and sizes.

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.

A double yolk from a really big egg.
A double yolk from a really big egg.

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.

Large and extra, extra large eggs!
Large and extra, extra large eggs!
Baking - General, Ingredient Insights

Walking on Eggshells

Well, not really walking on eggshells, it just sounded like such a catchy title. This post is about eggshells, but actually about removing those pesky shards that fall into your bowl that make you cringe at the thought of biting into one in your final product.

eggshellsIn one of the baking classes I took at King Arthur Flour I remember the instructor saying that the best way to get an eggshell out of your batter is with – wait for it – an eggshell!

I had always meticulously tried to get those bits out with a pointy knife or a spoon, usually with great frustration. I tried it with an eggshell once after hearing her say that and could not believe how easy it was to get that tiny, white shard out of the bowl. It was like a magnetic attraction.

So the next time you are baking and accidentally lose a piece of shell into your bowl, put the rest of the shell to use and give it a try. I’m sure you’ll be as amazed, and relieved, as I was!

Baking - Breads, Festivals/Events, Recipe

Pancake Day!

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday; also known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), or as I know it, Pancake Tuesday. In Christian tradition it is the last day before Lent, which is the season of reflection leading up to Easter. Not growing up in a Catholic tradition, I don’t remember as much significance being placed on giving something up for Lent, but I do remember Pancake Tuesday. I eventually learned that Shrove Tuesday was the day to use up all the rich foods in your house – such as milk, eggs and sugar – in preparation for living more simply throughout Lent. And one of the easiest ways to use up milk, eggs, and sugar is to make pancakes!

In honour of this occasion, I decided to find a pancake recipe that would truly reflect the richness of the day. I have a great bread cookbook that has many pancake recipes, and I found one with this description: “These cakes share the luxury of a full cup of sour cream and four eggs. They are outstanding!” So really, I felt an obligation to try this rich recipe, to make sure it was worthy of sharing with you here for your own Pancake Day. And it is most definitely worthy. I hope you will enjoy them!

Sour-Cream Pancakes

Sift together and set aside:

  • 1 c unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 c all-pupose and 1/2 c whole wheat)
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

In a large bowl, beat:

  • 4 eggs

Blend into beaten eggs:

  • 1 c sour cream
  • ¼ c milk

Add dry ingredients to the sour-cream mixture, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be lumpy; it is all right. Bake on a lightly greased preheated griddle at 375F, turning only once. Serve warm with butter and cinnamon sugar. Makes 12 4-inch pancakes.

We had ours with bananas, homemade strawberry sauce, and ginger syrup. Yum!