With the holiday season about to begin, I’m guessing you’ll be cranking up the oven and pulling out your mixer. Even die-hard “non-bakers” tend to get into the spirit, and soon enough everyone’s kitchens are enveloped in the aromas of cookies, cakes and pies in the oven.
And why not? There are so many occasions to celebrate, and a home-baked dessert is always something special and appreciated.
Since most baked goods contain eggs, I’d like to share with you my tried-and-true tips for working with eggs in cakes, cookies and tea loaves. Baking is a bit more particular than cooking – where a “dash of this” and a “pinch of that” are acceptable – and these small steps can actually make a big difference in the overall task – as well as the end results.
So let’s talk “eggs”!
Eggs 101: Tips and Tricks for Cakes, Cookies and More! 1 of 12
Eggs are a staple in most baked goods — but beyond just cracking the shell and whisking them in, there are a few tricks to make your cakes and cookies even better!
Separating Eggs 2 of 12
When a recipe calls for separating eggs, remember this rule: Separate them cold, whisk them warm.
Eggs are easiest to separate straight from the fridge but whisk up best at room temperature. My favorite way to separate? Using the shells!
Use the Shells to Separate Your Eggs 3 of 12
Working over a small bowl, pour the yolk gently (so that it stays intact) from one shell to the other. Let the whites drip down into the bowl, and go back and forth till just the yolk remains.
Ready to Use! 4 of 12
Your whites and yolks are now ready to use! Again, this will be easiest when the eggs are cold, as the yolks will stay firm and intact.
Note: if your recipe calls for only the yolks, don't discard the whites. Read here for my favorite way to freeze egg whites!
How to Catch a Bit of Shell! 5 of 12
One of the more annoying tasks in baking is having to retrieve a bit of egg shell that has gone rogue. After years of trying spoons, little cups and my fingers, I discovered the best tool of all: an egg shell! Simply use an empty half (or larger piece) to catch that little piece! It works like a charm!
No More "Yolk Burn" 6 of 12
Have you ever added sugar to eggs, only to wind up with tiny clumps of yolk in your mixture? This is called "yolk burn" (yes, it's totally a thing), and it's easy to avoid. When a recipe calls for eggs and sugar to be whisked together, always whisk the eggs first. You don't have to whisk a lot, just enough to emulsify the whites and yolks.
Now Add the Sugar 7 of 12
While continuing to whisk, add the sugar in a steady stream (I like to stabilize the bowl with a damp dish towel, to free up both hands). You'll end up with a thick, smooth and "clump-free" mixture, ready to add to your recipe!
How to Add Eggs 8 of 12
As a rule, I never add eggs directly to my batter. Instead, I always break them into a separate bowl. If there's an egg that's questionable I can discard it, and if a bit of shell breaks free, it's much easier to retrieve.
Adding Eggs "One at a Time" 9 of 12
Breaking the eggs into a separate bowl also makes it easier when the recipe calls for adding eggs to the batter "one at a time." With the mixer on low speed, you can easily pour each egg individually into your batter, with no mess (and no bits of shell!).
Beating Egg Whites! 10 of 12
Ahh, beating egg whites. A task that causes anxiety in even the most confident bakers. Here are some tips to help you achieve success:
Again, separate the eggs while they're cold, but always let them come to room temperature before beating for the best results. Next, start on a low speed and patiently wait for the surface of the whites to be covered in uniform, tiny bubbles. You'll end up with a nice strong base that won't deflate when you add your sugar and raise the mixer speed.
"Firm Peaks" 11 of 12
Some recipes call for beating your whites to "firm peaks." Others call for "stiff peaks." What's the difference? Firm peaks will look — well, firm and sturdy. But the tip will still bend over when the whisk is raised.
"Stiff Peaks" 12 of 12
"Stiff peaks" are very glossy and stiff, and the tip doesn't move or bend when the whisk is raised. This is most commonly called for when making meringues.