eggs & peaks

Eggs are an ever-present ingredient in so many dessert recipes.  Eggs can be used as a binding agent and as a leavening agent in batters, all the while adding beautiful texture, richness and flavor.  Yolks help to create the thick, velvety texture in custards and puddings.  Egg whites help to create the light, fluffy quality in meringues.

Here are a few little tips that I’ve found useful when it comes to working with eggs:

  • For the most part, large eggs are the most requested in baking recipes.  Unless specified differently, large eggs are generally what should be used when baking.
  • As a general rule of thumb in baking, all ingredients should normally be at room temperature when combining.  This includes eggs!  When gathering ingredients before starting a recipe, set eggs out to come to room temperature.
  • This being said, separating eggs is most easily done when the eggs are cold.  When separating eggs, set up three bowls: one for yolks, one for whites, and one small bowl to separate each individual egg before adding to the other two bowls.  Crack each egg and let the white fall into the small bowl before transferring it into the main bowl.  This way, if an egg turns out to be bad, or if the yolk breaks into the white of the egg, the entire mixture isn’t ruined. –Sidenote: Before I started using this “three-bowl method,” I was once following a recipe that called for 10 egg whites.  I separated each egg white into the same bowl and upon separating the tenth egg, I accidentally broke the yolk into the bowl of whites.  I had to throw away the whole bowl of egg whites…almost an entire box of eggs.  I’ve used three bowls ever since.
  • Egg whites even stiffen up much more easily when at room temperature or slightly warm.  It is not uncommon for people to set their egg whites out overnight, or in the case of many meringues or macarons, a few nights.  Also, even just the slightest touch of egg yolk residue can keep egg whites from stiffening to their maximum volume.  Make sure and separate eggs in three separate bowls (as described above) and discard any whites that have come in contact with a broken yolk.

    Stiff peaks

When a recipe calls for soft peaks or stiff peaks, it is referring to the consistency and point to which the mixture should be beaten to.  While beating, occasionally turn off the mixer and pull the beaters out of the mixture and examine them:

  • Once soft peaks have been achieved, the mixture will pull straight up, out of the end of the beaters, and then fall slightly over into a curl.
  • Once stiff peaks have been achieved, the peaks will sit up stiffly without any curl.  It is said that once egg white peaks have reached this point, you should be able to turn the bowl of whites upside-down over your head without any fear of them falling : )

2 Responses to “eggs & peaks”

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