The Role of Eggs in Baking
Standard culinary classes will teach you fundamental information about the roles of staple ingredients. Therefore, in one of these classes, you will naturally learn the role of eggs. Many dishes feature them cooked in various ways as the main ingredient, and recipes from cakes to sauces utilize it as an important element.
Therefore, although you can occasionally substitute other foods, egg plays an essential role in many recipes - especially in the world of pastry, where they are as essential as chocolate or butter. All in all, whether you're making cookies or breakfast, eggs are a staple element in any recipe.
Cracking Them Open
An egg is comprised of two main portions: the yolk - the yellow portion in the center - and the white - the proteins and water surrounding the yolk. Yolks contain the majority of fat, vitamins, minerals, and protein despite comprising roughly 1/3 of the total volume, whereas whites make up 2/3 of the volume with a fraction of the protein and calories. Both parts fulfill different but significant roles.
Why do Bakers Use Them?
Eggs are an important building block in many food recipes, which is why so many cuisine classes emphasize their importance. A recipe may call for yolks, whites, or the whole depending on its desired outcome.
- The Role of Yolks
Due to their high fat content, yolks add flavor and emulsifying power to any batter. Fatty yolks enrich the flavor of many pastries and create a velvety texture. Additionally, the yolk uniquely binds liquids and fats together through an emulsion process. In cremes or custards, yolks add thickening when warmed gently over low heat.
- The Role of Whites
Whites can be whipped to create a stable foam that is often used as a leavening agent in more delicate goods. Sponge cake, for example, uses whipped whites for a lift. Whites can also be whipped with sugar to make meringue.
- The Importance of Balance
The perfect cake requires a balance of elements. Excess flour, for example, causes dryness, and excess cocoa creates bitterness. Similarly, you must use caution when substituting yolk for white or vice verse. Too much yolk can overwhelm a dish with "eggy" flavor, and their tenderizing function weakens a cake's structure. Too much white, on the other hand, will create an awkward batter and a dry cake.
- The Perfect Combination
Using the whole egg gives you the best of both worlds. They carry many of the emulsifying properties of yolks and act as excellent binding agents in batters. Additionally, they combine with starchy elements like flour to coagulate and form the structure of baked goods, and they contribute to the wonderful golden brown color and moist texture of many pastries.
How to Learn More
Signing up for a quality cooking class is the best way to further your culinary education. An introductory course will introduce a number of fundamental concepts like standard techniques as well as ingredient purpose and versatility.
For more information, please refer to the following pages:
- What happens if you put too many eggs in a cake?
Although eggs are an essential ingredient in cake baking, adding too many of them can make for a baking disaster. In baking a cake, eggs are primarily used for two purposes—emulsification and structure. Egg yolks contain proteins called emulsifiers that mix with both fats and liquids, so egg yolks play an important role in ensuring your batter is smooth and well-mixed. Eggs also contain a variety of proteins that create the structure of a cake, and when beaten, they can act as a leavening agent by adding air to the cake batter.
However, if you add too many eggs to your cake batter, then your end result could be spongy, rubbery, or dense. Like flour, eggs build structure in a cake, so they make a cake batter more bonded and dense. When eggs are balanced with liquids and fats like water, oil, and butter, they ensure that your cake doesn’t turn into a soupy mess, but adding too many of them adds too much structure, leaving you with a cake that’s rubbery and dense.
- What happens if you bake a cake without eggs?
If you bake a cake without eggs, then you lose an important structure-building component, so you may end up with a cake that is flat and dense yet falls apart easily. The proteins found in eggs create bonds between fats and liquids to create a more cohesive batter, and they also provide structure as a leavening agent—especially when they are beaten. By removing this structure-building ingredient, you make the cake less structurally sound, so it becomes less fluffy and more likely to fall apart. Additionally, eggs also add to the cake’s flavor profile, so cakes without eggs may taste too sugary.
If you must forego eggs in your cake for dietary reasons, then you should find a substitute that suits your recipe. Certain substitutes, such as apple sauce and peanut butter, may be effective, but they will heavily impact the flavor profile of your cake. Chia seeds and soy protein mixed with water can also be a good substitution that does not impact your cake’s flavor as heavily. You can also use commercial egg substitutions to achieve the same effect.
- Why do we separate eggs in cakes?
Not all recipes will require you to separate your egg whites and yolks, but sometimes, you must separate them due to the different ways that each component impacts the end result. Egg whites are primarily comprised of proteins, so they play an important role in creating the structure of a cake. Egg yolks, on the other hand, mainly contain fat, so they add to the flavor of the cake and help create a smoother batter through emulsification. Therefore, bakers will often separate eggs to enhance the properties of both the yolks and the whites. For example, a baker looking to add a light, airy texture to a cake or meringue may whip egg whites to add more structure and leavening to the batter, or a baker looking to emulsify a batter may add egg yolks separately into the batter. Separating eggs therefore allows bakers to utilize certain important properties of the eggs.
- Does egg size matter in baking?
Yes, egg size does matter in baking. While no two eggs are exactly the same, they are sorted and sold by size to give cooks and bakers a reference for how much egg they are adding to a particular recipe. For instance, a medium egg has a lower volume than a large egg, so if you add a medium egg to a batter, you are adding less egg than if you used a large egg.
While some recipes, such as scrambled eggs, may not require you to use a certain egg size, many baking recipes do. Baking is an exact science, and recipes often contain exact proportions that you must use to achieve your desired result. So, if you use four extra-large eggs instead of four large eggs, you will add too much egg to a batter, which could result in a product that tastes eggy and is spongy and dense.
- Why is egg wash so popular in making pastry?
If you read pastry recipes, you’ll quickly find that many of them call for an egg wash. An egg wash is a mixture of beaten eggs and, in some cases, milk or water that is brushed onto the outside of a pastry before it is placed in an oven. This egg wash is a popular step in many pastry recipes because it helps pastries achieve an appealing golden brown color. The protein in the egg helps make the pastry brown while the fat in the egg yolk gives the pastry shine, and any added liquid will help make the mixture smoother and easier to brush on. So, if you choose to do an egg wash with only egg whites, your pastry will not be as shiny without the fat from the yolk. In addition to this browning effect, an egg wash can also act as a binding agent to allow toppings to stick to a pastry or to keep pastry parts together.
- How do you whip eggs to make perfect meringue?
One of the most difficult baked goods to master is meringue. While whipping egg whites seems relatively simple, it is actually a refined technique, and small mistakes can make your egg whites unusable. So, to correctly whip eggs to make the perfect meringue, you must begin by ensuring that your egg whites are completely separated and at room temperature. Eggs are easier to separate when cold, but they will whip better at room temperature. Next, you will place your egg whites in a clean metal bowl, and you will begin to beat your eggs. Once the eggs begin foaming, you may add a pinch of cream of tartar. While the whites are whipping, you should begin to make your sugared syrup, but you must be careful to not over-whip your whites before adding it. Pre-sugared whipped eggs should have a thick consistency before you add the sugar. Finally, when you add the syrup, you should pour it down the side of the bowl, and you will continue whipping until the mixture is fully cooled.
- How can you replace eggs in a cake recipe?
Although most cakes rely on eggs for their light, fluffy texture, you can use a variety of techniques and substitutes to bake without eggs. Eggs primarily emulsify the ingredients in a cake and add structure to the batter, so egg substitutes must accomplish that purpose. Many vegan recipes employ mashed bananas, applesauce, vegan yogurt, baking soda and vinegar, or oil in lieu of eggs to emulsify and add structure to the batter. Baking soda and vinegar, for instance, instigate a chemical reaction that leavens the cake batter. Additionally, techniques like whipping oil and sugar or folding in dry ingredients will help create texture without eggs, and baking with a pressure cooker is a creative way to make a light, fluffy vegan cake. Eggless cakes can thus be tricky to make, but with the proper ingredients and baking methods, you can make a delicious cake without eggs.
- Can you use only egg whites in baking?
Many people opt to eat only egg whites or egg substitute because they are less calorie-rich than whole eggs, but in baking, replacing whole eggs with egg whites can be tricky. You can replace some eggs in a cake or cookie recipe with egg whites at a ratio of 2 egg whites per whole egg. Packaged cake mixes, for instance, have ingredients that mimic the emulsifying properties of egg yolks, so you will likely have little difficulty substituting egg whites in those recipes. When baking from scratch, however, totally replacing whole eggs with egg whites can be trickier since egg yolks play an important role in mixing ingredients and forming the structure of the cake. In general, most bakers advise that you substitute eggs as little as possible, but you can use a handful of techniques to successfully incorporate them into your batter. Using egg whites at room temperature, for instance, allows them to more easily mix into the batter.