Eggs are a baking essential and play many different roles in our baking, whether you use them whole or just part of the egg. Today, we will learn how eggs affect our baking and how to use them effectively to get better results.
Eggs are the most versatile everyday ingredient in our kitchen. We eat them on their own as omelets, scrambled, poached, etc. And we also use them as an ingredient in other recipes.
When used in baking, eggs as an ingredient can do so much more in terms of structure, flavor, and texture. However, eggs behave differently with every method of baking. For example, you can use eggs to bake a moist cake. But if you whip these eggs, before adding them to your batter, they will make that cake light and airy.
So today, let's talk about how eggs affect our baking.
What eggs are best for baking?
While you can buy different types of eggs: chicken eggs, duck eggs, and quail eggs, we use only chicken eggs for baking. They have a neutral smell that works best for baking.
You also get different sizes of eggs: small, medium and large. Always use large eggs for baking, because most recipes will use large eggs as their standard. A large egg weighs about 50 to 60 grams or about 2 oz.
Egg whites and egg yolks
While we often use the egg as a whole, oftentimes we separate the egg white from the yolk making them two different products. Why?
The whole egg
Whole eggs add flavor, color, and richness to our baked goods. Whole eggs give us that yellow color from the egg yolks, and they also add an eggy taste. Too many eggs can also make a thick dense product. So, always follow the quantities in the recipe closely.
Whole eggs work perfectly when you want to bind ingredients. The protein in eggs holds together and gels up as you heat the mixture giving structure and strength to our baked goods.
You can also whip whole eggs. This aerates them and adds leavening to our baked goods. Eggs are high in water content, which produces steam when baking. The steam dries off leaving that air pocket which gives us a light and airy texture.
The whites of eggs when whipped aerates and create a white foam. This white foam can be added to cakes, cupcakes, souffle, and other baked goods to make them light and airy.
When whipped with sugar, eggs white become meringue, which is baked on its own to make meringue cookies and pavlovas.
Egg yolks are about 50% fat and 50% water, which makes our baked good richer and softer. Egg yolks help emulsify and thicken, such as in mayonnaise or custards. They also add color to baked goods. For example, when we use them as an egg wash.
What do eggs do to our baking?
1. Eggs affect moisture
Did you know that eggs contain 70 to 75% water? This moisture directly affects the texture of baked goods making pastries light and airy.
2. Eggs add structure
In baking, eggs play a huge role in providing structure. The protein in egg whites gels together holding things in place. This helps give our baked goods shape and form. Of course, eggs work in combination with other ingredients like fat, flour, and sugars to create a complete baked good.
3. Eggs thicken
If you've made custard or pudding, then you've seen the process of how eggs, when cooked, can thicken and hold ingredients together.
4. Eggs affect color
If you've used egg wash over pastries and bread then you've seen how eggs can add color to your baked goods making them look more desirable.
Most often, when you use eggs in a recipe, you will find the baked goods become golden brown in color. This is not only because of the eggs in the recipes, but the eggs also help with browning. Of course, if the recipes also contain sugar, there will be more browning or caramelization happening.
5. Eggs emulsify
We use eggs to help emulsify our cake batters all the time. When creaming a cake batter, the eggs hold all the ingredients together and make sure they combine well. If you've made mayonnaise, you've seen how eggs emulsify with the oil to create a thick creamy spreadable dressing.
Temperature and eggs
It is important to note that keeping eggs at room temperature works best when used in baking. Egg whites, when whipped warm, will reach their full potential compared to cold egg whites.
How to bring eggs to room temperature?
You can warm eggs very easily by simply leaving them on the counter for some time (30 minutes) until they reach room temperature. When you are in haste just place the eggs in warm water for 5 minutes before using them.
When making meringue, warm the egg whites with sugar over a double boiler because egg whites will form better when they are around 70 degrees F.
Have you ever had the creaming butter and sugar curdle as soon as you add eggs? That's because the eggs were cooler than the temperature of the butter. The butter seizes as soon as the cold eggs touch it. There is no need to throw this batter - all you need to do is add a 1 tablespoon of flour from the recipe. Alternatively, if flour is not in the recipe, just continue to beat until it's all homogenous again.
Separating an egg
While eggs are best used when warm, separating an egg white from its yolks is best done when the eggs are cold.
How to separate an egg
I always have extra eggs and four bowls with me when I am separating eggs. Why?
When a recipe calls for only eggs white, often it means you don't want any trace of egg yolks in there. So, I break my eggs in one bowl, if the yolk breaks when separating I do not use that egg. I save it for other purposes in my 4th bowl. Here's what I do:
- Whites in bowl 1
- Yolks in bowl 2
- Bowl 3 is my working bowl - I break my eggs over this bowl just in case the yolk breaks. That way, I do not mix the already separated egg whites.
- Bowl 4 is for the eggs I can't use. Save them for other purposes.
Egg substitutes for baking
One of the most common questions I get asked is how to substitute eggs in my recipe.
While I can give you a few options I am always hesitant. All my recipes are tested and tired but I have not tried these substitutes. So I will not be able to guide you or troubleshoot if necessary.
While there are many known egg substitutes here are a few that visitors on my site have tested with my recipes so far.
I will update as more feedback comes in. (see this is why your feedback is helpful - thank you)
- ¼ cup mashed banana per egg works great in cakes, cupcakes, and brownies.
- ¼ cup apple sauce per egg works great in cakes, cupcakes, and brownies
- and ¼ cup yogurt or buttermilk per egg works great for cakes, cupcakes, and brownies.
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoon water per egg - for baking cookies
- ¼ cup condensed milk per egg works for baked cookies
10 Tips when baking with eggs
- Always use room temperature eggs for baking.
- Use large eggs for baking.
- For lighter cakes, separate the eggs and whip them separately. Alternatively, you can also whip the egg whites separately.
- If the cake batter curdles when creaming, add a tablespoon of flour and continue mixing.
- When making meringue, ensure no egg yolks get into the whites. Any fat in the egg whites will prevent it from whipping.
- Similarly, use a grease-free bowl when whipping egg whites - any grease or oil in the bowl of beaters will prevent whipping the eggs.
- Eggs give the bread a rich flavor and color but also help with structure. When possible, use egg in bread baking.
- Eggs add structure and help as a binding agent in cookies and biscuits. They prevent them from becoming too crumbly and breaking apart. Use large eggs and don't substitute for the best results.
- More egg whites make baked goods light and airy. Sometimes, more whipped egg whites are recommended in cakes like angel food cake.
- More egg yolks make baked goods richer but also denser.
Now, that we have a better understanding of how eggs affect our baking, we can use this information toward baking better cakes, cupcakes, cookies, biscuits, meringues and other goods.
I hope you found this information useful. If you did don't forget to let me know in the comments below.
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