Be a baking master and learn all about what eggs do in baking and the 6 major things they effect!
The science behind recipe development is so interesting. In my opinion, after understanding flour, knowing what eggs do in baking helps give you a solid base for making your own recipes. Not only do they effect flavor, texture, and nutritional value, but they also impact things like structure and moisture. Some things that eggs effect depend greatly on the whole of the recipe, others are fairly consistent across the board. Today we’ll discuss six effects that can be counted on in almost any recipe. Whether you want to know how to start dreaming up your own recipes, or how to tweak one to your liking, knowing what eggs do in baking will help you become an expert recipe manipulator.
What Eggs Do In Baking
#1. How Eggs Effect Structure
Similar to gluten, eggs provide structure to what you’re baking. As their proteins coagulate, it helps provide an alternative glue that will help provide shape and form. While most things don’t rely on eggs for their structure, eggs become super important when making cakes and baked goods that use light flours, like pastry or cake flour. Not balancing it with proper tenderizers, like fat and sugar however, can end up giving you a tough and chewy treat.
The proper ratio of flour to fat to sugar to eggs when baking a cake is 1:1:1:1 by weight.
Another way eggs impact structure is as a thickener. In dishes like bread pudding, custard, and pumpkin pie the eggs determine firmness as well as whether or not the dish holds it’s shape. When there are more eggs in it, it will hold still and be firm. The fewer number of eggs added may mean needing to serve your dish on a plate to prevent a mess. Eggs can be thickeners for almost anything you dream of – baking or not.
#2. How Eggs Effect Emulsification
A few months ago we went over the creaming method and talked about how important it is to actually follow the instructions and add in your eggs one at a time. That step is there to help create an emulsion of fat and water, two things that normally can’t combine. The eggs naturally hold together the batter by keeping the fats and liquids combined, and helps create a smooth batter that creates volume and texture. For more information on emulsions and how they work, check out this post here.
#3. How Eggs Effect Leavening
As you beat an egg, it naturally incorporates air into the egg. After the air gets trapped, the heat of cooking causes it to expand, providing leavening, which yeilds a lighter, fluffier texture. Most people only think of whipped egg whites as a way of using eggs to effect leavening. However, the entire egg is capable of this, but the white are easier to whip in general. Just remember, if you do whip your eggs separately of your batter, make sure to fold the eggs or egg white in so as not to crush the air you just worked so hard to whip up.
#4. How Eggs Effect Shortening Action
This one may be a bit more technical than what you are after, but the fat in the eggs aids shortening. In cooking terms, shortening is adding fat to make something tender and flaky (verb: to shorten). While this isn’t necessary to use eggs for shortening most baked goods, it can be extremely useful when making one that is light on solid fats, like butter. This is why you’ll sometimes see recipes that call for lots of egg yolks, but not a lot of egg whites.
#5. How Eggs Effect Moisture
Did you know that eggs are made of mostly water? In fact, a whole egg is made of around 70%-75% water and different parts of the egg can give you more moisture than others. For example, an egg white is about 85% water while adding an egg yolk is only about 50%. Most recipes will just call for a whole egg, but if you feel it’s a bit dry, try adding in an extra egg white next time.
The moisture amounts from eggs also effect the texture of your pastry. Eggs yolks make for a richer and softer baked good, while egg whites will give you a lighter and airier product.
#6. How Eggs Effect Color
In general, eggs help provide that beautiful brown color that we attribute to a delicate and delicious baked good. They brown very easily, which helps give you that desired color even if it isn’t in the oven very long. However, browning occurs as a result of sugar caramelization and chemical changes caused by heat. Eggs only help increase browning, they don’t cause it. They also provide a yellowish tinge to the batter, which is often associated with quality and richness.
Eggs can also lend color without being part of the mixture, like in an egg wash. When used this way, the egg (or part of it) is whisked together with another liquid like milk or water. It is then brushed on top of a dough (like pie, or bread) before baking. As the dough bakes, the egg browns and gives the crust a beautiful hue that in inviting and enticing.
Practice Makes Perfect
I bet you’ve been building up a sweet tooth while reading all about what eggs do in baking. If you want to try out some recipes, here are some I recommend:
- Chocolate Chip & Toasted Coconut Pancakes
- Fresh Jasmine & Tahitian Vanilla Cream Scones
- Blood Orange & Edible Flowers Pound Cake
- White Peach & Rose Curd Tart
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Did you know that eggs could effect what you’re baking in so many ways? What was the most surprising to you about what eggs do in baking? Tell me about it in the comments, or show me on social media – @foodabovegold. If you used this post to help you become a baking champion, make sure to tag it with #CallMeMichelin so everyone can see your mad skills!
Happy Cooking! 🙂3