Eggs are truly the backbone of most baked goods that we know so well, from bread to muffins to pies to cakes. They have been called the cement that holds together the entire castle of cuisine.
Eggs do many things in our baking recipes: They provide steam for leavening and also moisture for starches. Egg yolks assist in moisturizing fat and they help to better emulsify the batter. This is what gives the baked good such a smooth and creamy feel in many cases. The white of the egg also acts as a strengthener.
While you can put in substitutes for eggs in many recipes, keep in mind that it will always alter the taste and texture of the recipe substantially.
The yolk of the egg is the key to the egg’s emulsifying properties, due to the fat and the lecithin that is in them. Both of these greatly contribute to the very fine texture of baked good that bring the fat and water together in the recipe to make for a much smoother texture. The yolk is especially important for making creamy sauces and for most baking. Note that you can beat yolks with sugar until they actually ribbon, and this is very important for many cake recipes and other pastries.
The egg white is called albumen and it accounts for most of the weight of the egg. Note that you can use dried egg white powder in place of recipes that call for egg whites and the end result will be similar as will regular egg whites.
When you remove the egg yolk from the egg, the egg white can then foam and greatly increase in volume when it is beaten. Egg foam is so important to make soufflés, meringues and angel food cake. Eggs help to emulsify mayo, salad dressings and Hollandaise sauce. They often are used for glazes to coat bread and many types of cookies. They also are used in soups and coffee, believe it or not!
Note that the size of the egg does indeed matter in baking. Most of the eggs called for in most recipes call for an egg that is about 50 grams in weight. A grade A egg usually weighs in at about 50 grams.
If you are using eggs for baking, it is important to make sure that the eggs have been fully cooked in a recipe that calls for a raw egg. You can make them safe for consumption by mixing together the eggs, sugar, water or other liquid from your recipe in a sauce pan. You should cook them over low heat and stir them constantly. You should cook your egg mixture until it coats a metal spoon with a very thin film, or is about 160 degrees. Then let the mixture cool. At that point, the eggs are safe to use in a recipe.
If you are using egg yolks in your recipes, you want to make sure they are cooked when you use them for mayo, Hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing and anything else that calls for raw egg yolks.
So, in a heavy saucepan, you should stir in the yolks and the liquid from your recipe. Cook them over VERY low heat, and stir all the time. Cook until the mixture is about 160 degrees or coats a metal spoon with a thin film. Place the pan in ice water and wait for it to cool. Then, you may proceed with your recipe.
Make sure that you follow these important safety tips any time that you are cooking with egg whites or egg yolks.
Lauren Hill loves everything about cooking and writes for Hamilton Beach, a kitchen appliance company.