I’m going to start with a series called the building blocks of baking and I’m going to begin with eggs. They are without a doubt my favourite ingredient. Not only are they essential for voluminous cakes and pillowy chewy meringues they are also my favourite tea of poached eggs on toast.
Eggs and Environmental Health
I use my own free range eggs in my cakes that I sell. I checked with environmental health (UK) and it is perfectly ok to use free range eggs in baked cakes to sell. Once they eggs are baked they pose no risk. You only need to worry about using lion stamped pasteurised eggs if you bake something that needs raw eggs – like royal icing. However if you are not selling it, then you can use your own eggs to your hearts content. It only becomes an issue when selling to a customer.
I am totally bias about eggs. I cannot have supermarket ones, it’s been built into me since a young age, even though nowadays you can get free range in the supermarket. I don’t know how anyone can buy battery eggs. It must be the price? There is no reason that free range eggs are mega expensive. The whole organic food being mega expensive makes me cross. All we ate when we were young was organic because that’s what we grew or bought in the farm shop. A friend on my market sells his free range eggs to supermarkets and his hens are as happy as pigs in muck. So for the sake of the chickens I use free range only.
I have three chickens now as one passed away, and they provide me with some eggs but not enough. So I go to my neighbour who has hundreds of hens, chickens and ducks of every variety thinkable! I buy massive trays from him and most of them are double yokers! I’m hoping it’s bringing me luck. So if you can hunt out a local farmer who sells his excess eggs do so. They will be much cheaper and delicious!
Duck Eggs v Hen’s Eggs
Duck eggs are very much richer than hen’s eggs and bigger. For me they are perfect for baking cakes that call for large eggs. Duck eggs make the best cakes. They are rich, large and give the cake a lovely texture. I don’t tend to poach duck eggs or eat them as they are a little rich for me. So if you can, use free range duck eggs for your baking. They are amazing.
I’ve also had some geese eggs and by golly they are big! I don’t bake with them but make special fried rice of omelettes with them. They are very very rich! If you can get some of these beauties they are amazing.
Painting egg shells
Not about baking but if you have children this is a wonderful activity. Punch a little hole in both ends of any eggs carefully with a pin and blow out the insides. I would recommend giving the eggs a little wash. Remember where they come from ! Then you have a gorgeous eggshell that your children can paint and colour in. This works wonderfully for show and tell and you look like such a yummy mummy!
If you have lots of eggs you can easily freeze them. Alot of chefs do this for ease of making pavlovas or omelettes. Find an airtight container and break your eggs into it. If you want to have two containers you can then separate the eggs ready for freezing. Good if you make allot of meringues. Then you can keep the yolks for scrambled egg. You can even beat it and then freeze it! I have also seen friends beat the eggs and pour them into ice cubes. Defrost slowly in the fridge until defrosted. This would be a brilliant idea for weaning children. You can just defrost and cook one little cube at a time.
How do you know if an egg is fresh or stale? Easy peasy although sometimes I struggle with the size of the container I use and the refracted light issue! Place the egg in it’s shell in a glass or bowl of water. If it sinks and lies on it’s side it is fresh. If it stands on it’s end upright it is ok but better for cooking with, as it’s starting to go. If it floats it’s a bad egg, as willy wonka once said. This works due to the air within the egg. A stale egg is full of air so floats.
Baking with eggs
Don’t keep your eggs in the fridge. Keep them at room temperature and you will get the best from them. Always bake with eggs at room temperature. Indeed you will get a much better back result of all the ingredients are the same temperature. When making a sponge whisk your eggs lightly together and add VERY slowly and gradually to the mixture. It’s taken me years to develop the patience to actually do this. If it curdles add a spoonful of your flour. Don’t panic if the cake mix curdles. It won’t be ruined and no one will ever know.
Get some chickens?
No matter what size your garden most people could keep a chicken or two. There are all sorts of homes for them to live in. They don’t need tonnes of attention or a cuddle. Although you can if you want! Some fresh water every day, warmed water in the winter months, and lots of yummy grain. This is what keeps them nice and warm. They are happy outside and mine live in my hedge at the back of the house. They have a nice house but don’t want to go into it. This is what they would do in the wild to avoid foxes so it makes sense.
Flour – I will talk about flour. What really is the best flour and does value flour really make any difference to a cake? The difference in self raising flour and plain flour and everything in between.
Sugar – whats the difference in sugar – icing sugar, brown sugar, light brown sugar, corn syrup – there is so many and do we really have to worry to much about the type we use. Plus I will look at the differences in sugar descriptions from our Atlantic cousins.
Butter – Why unsalted butter? What’s the best type of butter? Can’t we just use spread. I’ll be researching the best advice on butter and sharing it here.