Sea shells, tortoise shells, peanut shells–all cover something precious and good. But it’s the good old egg shell surrounding a golden dome of sunshine that is the key ingredient to great baking results.
The American Egg Board has touted the incredibility of the edible egg for years. I agree. It’s a high-protein little gem wrapped in its own protective shell package of white, brown, or even pastel blue, green or pink, depending upon the breed of chicken that laid the egg.
There’s no other ingredient used in baking that delivers the complete combination of richness, color, flavor, leavening, and structure boosting.
My chat with you today is not to continue to gloat on the beauty of eggs in baking but to discuss how those eggs are handled before that golden yolk and clear white albumen enter the mixing bowl.
Basically, I’m asking you, “How do you handle and crack your eggs?”
If you’re like many people, you purchase refrigerated eggs from the grocery store, a dozen at a time, in the easily recognizable cardboard or Styrofoam container and take them home.
Hmmm…before putting those cartons into your grocery cart, did you open the lid of the container and check for cracks in the eggs or even for broken eggs?
Usually, the grocery checker will check the eggs for you. I am always so grateful for that. Even though I always check my eggs before placing the containers into my grocery cart, I can sometimes miss a crack. A second pair of eyes is a good thing!
So, you say, “What’s all the ‘hoo-haw’ about a little crack in an egg?” Cracks are just the place where bacteria can lodge and gain access to what is inside the shell. Why purchase what could be a potential food hazard?
According to Mr. Randy Watts, Bureau Chief at the Iowa Department of Agriculture, eggs are washed and sanitized before packaging. Did you know that? Consumers: That’s done for our safety.
The refrigerator is a great invention in the protection of food-borne illness. Even though some refrigerators offer a place to hold eggs inside the door, it really is best to store the eggs in their own protective cardboard or Styrofoam container inside the body of the refrigerator, itself. Why? Because it’s cooler at that refrigerator location, and the carton ensures that the eggs remain fresher for a longer period of time since they are not exposed to air.
When I called the Iowa State University Extension Hotline, an expert reinforced the fact that eggs need to be refrigerated but can be brought to room temperature before using in order to get the most volume from the egg when used in baking.
Now, if you need those eggs to be room temperature at a hippity-hop speed, just run them under warm water for a brief period of time.
Eggs can also be removed from the refrigerator and sit at room temperature, but please, please not for more than two hours. Otherwise, one risks the beginnings of bacterial growth as a potential food hazard.
Now, a big concern of mine, dear reader, is how the egg is handled once you are ready to crack it open. Far too often, I see professional chefs, bakers, and television personalities tap the shell of the egg on the side of the mixing bowl and add the egg to the batter that is in that same bowl. Perhaps, you crack your eggs this way, too. However, for the sake of food safety, let me tell you a safer way to crack eggs.
1. Gently crack the egg on the counter.
2. Open the shell and put the egg into a small clean dish. (I use a custard cup.) Does the egg smell fresh? Is the yolk dome shaped (preferred) or flat? Is the albumen clear (preferred) or “foggy”?
3. Check for bits of shell that might have fallen into the dish and spots of red within the egg. Spots of red would indicate blood within the egg and would not be encouraged to be used.
4. If there is shell in the egg, use a larger piece of shell to attract and remove the smaller piece of shell that might have dropped into the dish with the egg. Have you ever played, Chase-the-Shell when trying to use your finger or a spoon to remove egg shells from the egg? Frustrating, isn’t it? By using a bigger piece of egg shell, the task is so much quicker and easier!
5. Then add this inspected egg into the batter.
That’s all there is to it! Easy. Safe. No extra crunch in your baked product due to a lost piece of egg shell that went swimming under-batter.
Until there is a recipe created that requires egg shells as an ingredient, please use this foolproof method of cracking eggs. It’s just one less thing to think about in obtaining a beautifully created baked product.
Now, let this little egg tutorial become an integral part of your every-day baking routine. The egg is incredible…even more so when handled safely.
Want to talk about baking? You can chat with Miss NiNi at firstname.lastname@example.org