Ovatarian Ovation! Yay Eggs!

Ok, so I have always wondered, what makes an egg so special anyway? What magical properties make it such a key ingredient in so many of my favorite recipes? I even have a recipe book that focuses solely on the egg, and I’m just smitten. Want a quick breakfast break two open into a frying pan. Lunch? No prob, whisk em with some cheese and veggies, voila! Quiche! Dinner? Pasta alla carbonara (egg noodles of course!) and souffle for dessert! Yay eggs!

Store bought (left) vs. Free Range Eggs (right)

I personally have 4 chickens who lay eggs every day. I love Free Range Eggs because as a young girl, I witnessed an egg farm first hand. The chickens were stuffed into a small cage where they barely saw the light of day from their enclosure. The place smelled awful and I couldn’t imagine the life of those poor hens. My hens have a pretty nice life and you can see it in the quality of the eggs we gather. The yolks are an amazing gold yellow vs the pale sad yellow of those store bought eggs.

Now they have “free range egg farms”, where the chickens live in a large enclosure and get to spread their wings. While PETA hates any animal keeping facility, I have to say these places have to be the second best humane way to get your eggs aside from going to a local small farm. The small farm will definitely have the most humanely raised birds, plus the eggs will have a better taste and color, overall, but if you must buy from the store, cage free/free range is the better option.You can even look for SPCA approved farms on the labels. Just in case you’re not already running to your local farmers market for some free range, farm fresh eggs, the fact that they are 4 times higher in omega-3s and 6 times higher in beta carotene than eggs from “caged hens” should make you go get some right now.  They also have HALF the cholesterol. What are you waiting for?

So here are some great tips on using those oval pearls of goodness:

  • Older eggs are better for boiling. They will peel much easier than a fresh egg.
  • Cold eggs are easier separate
  • Let your egg whites get to room temperature  before you whip them. They will peak faster and better. Make sure there is no yolk in the whites.
  • When it doesn’t state the size to use, go with a large egg.
  • To test the freshness of your eggs, especially for boiling, place your egg in a bowl of water mixed with a bit of salt. If it’s fresh it will sink, if it floats, it’s a bad egg. Toss it.
  • You can also tell when you crack the egg open. The perkier the yolk, the fresher it is. The flatter the yolk lays, the older the egg.
  • Use a copper bowl to beat your eggs, second best is stainless steel, followed by glass. Stay away from plastic. The eggs will stick to the sides. Use cream of tartar and sugar in stainless steel to get the peaks you are looking for in meringue. Start beating the egg whites at low speed, gradually increasing the speed to medium-high.  If you start at high speed the air bubbles created will be less stable as they are too large.  Adding cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon for each white) and sugar will help stabilize the beaten egg whites.  Cream of tartar should be added once the whites are foamy.  Continue beating the whites and once they have reached the soft peak stage, gradually add the sugar (this ensures that the sugar fully dissolves into the foam).  The egg whites should be beaten until you have moist stiff shiny pointed peaks when the beaters are raised.
    Perfectly beaten egg whites produce a baked good that has good volume and texture.  The foam needs to have a stable structure so it maintains its volume until the batter sets in the oven.  Always use the beaten egg whites right away as they start loosing volume immediately.  If you accidentally over-beat the egg whites, add one unbeaten white and whip again until stiff peaks form.  Remove 1/4 cup of egg white.Perfectly beaten egg whites produce a baked good that has good volume and texture.  The foam needs to have a stable structure so it maintains its volume until the batter sets in the oven.  Always use the beaten egg whites right away as they start loosing volume immediately.  If you accidentally over-beat the egg whites, add one unbeaten white and whip again until stiff peaks form.  Remove 1/4 cup of egg white. (*1)

Note:  Cream of Tartar – Lining the inside of wine caskets after fermentation is a white sediment (tartaric acid).  This sediment is removed, purified and then ground to produce a fine white powder which we call cream of tartar.   It is added when beating egg whites to stabilize the whites and give them volume and strength.  Cream of tartar can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores and should be stored in a cool dry place.

So get out there and get your egg on! My next entry will be my crustless quiche recipe. It’s savory and lower fat alternative to the crusted quiche. It’s super simple and makes a perfect lunch. You can toss together a quick salad and it covers all your bases. To curb the fat and cholesterol I take out the yolks in half of my eggs, and since I use fresh eggs, the flavor remains pretty much the same. I will load it up tomorrow. Hope this post gave you a bit more insight into eggs.

What’s an ingredient that you enjoy cooking with? Why?

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