Fresh from the farm eggs – what could be more basic and simple than that? And delicious and nutritious to boot! When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the kitchen, i.e. eggs, milk, produce, this Farmer prefers a “from the farm to the table” direction. Now I may or may not personally know the farmer (little “f” appropriate here) who grew my kitchen basics, but I do know a Farmer (big “F” here) who’s farm brings us farm fresh eggs.
My father lives on a little farm down in Thomasville, Georgia…a portion of the state that conjures longleaf pines and quail plantations into my mind… so far down into Georgia, that Tallahassee, Florida is the next stop. This area of rich, sandy loam soil is part of the quintessential Deep South, and what better place to raise a bunch of crowing and clucking fowl? Daddy’s little farm has chickens, guineas, and ducks that keep a steady supply of eggs coming our way. Though we often find ourselves trying to find new and inventive egg dishes, the basic principles of eggs are always quite helpful in the kitchen. Keep these in mind for “egg”cellent success with eggs.
When baking, room temperature eggs are needed. The typical method of mixing a cake batter is to cream the butter and sugar, adding the eggs one at a time. This creates an emulsion, thus blending the fats and liquids in your batter. Naturally, fat and liquid are unmixable, so the purpose, the goal, of eggs in the batter is to create a “water-in-fat” emulsion. Cold eggs don’t create the correct chemistry needed to make a successful emulsion, in turn, they can make the batter lose air and cause the cake to fall or become grainy. A grainy batter and cake is proof of an ill-mixed batter.
Now the case for cold eggs…when making a meringue or a dish that calls for egg whites, you need cold eggs to separate the yolk from the albumen, or white. Egg whites are 7/8 water and 1/8 protein, with a few trace elements for good measure. The yolk is ½ water, 1/3 fat, and 1/6 protein – the remaining fractions are lecithin (the emulsifier) and vitamins A, D, and E. Several elements also find their home in the yolk as well. Since the yolk and albumen are thus so different in their fat make up, a cold egg will separate easily, whereas the fat has not had time to “melt.” Try spreading cold butter on bread as opposed to warm butter…same scenario…the fat is congealed when cold and soluble when warm.
Also, when separating the yolk from the white, be sure not to tint the whites with any yolk. The heavy nature of the yolk will prevent your whites from reaching their full, whipped volume. And since an egg white can more than triple its volume, be sure not to contaminate your whites. A good clean metal (copper or stainless steel with cream of tartar and sugar to stiffen) and whisk are keys to fluffy beaten egg whites. Egg whites beat better when at room temperature, so remember this tidbit of kitchen wisdom…Separate when cold, beat when warm.
Eggs should be kept refrigerated and may last up to a month in the fridge. To test whether an egg is still fresh, gently place the egg in some salty water. A fresh egg will sink and a bad egg will float. You may also shake the egg – fresh eggs do not slosh…a bad egg will.
Why use organic, free range eggs? Well, this Farmer believes you are what you eat, and I like to eat what I can see – water, sunlight, grass, etc. A chicken that has been allowed to roam and eat natural food will produce an egg with a yolk higher in Vitamin A, D, and E than one in a cooped up hen house. Plus, these eggs contain higher amounts of beta carotene (7 times more, mind you) and less cholesterol and fat. Besides, I firmly believe the taste is superior to a factory farm egg, and isn’t that what cooking is all about? The taste? Yes sir, yes ma’am! The same goes with milk, but that’s a topic for another post.
“Try this experiment: crack a free range egg in one bowl and a normal farm factory egg in another. Compare the appearances of the eggs to one another. The yolk of the free range egg is a deep vibrant yellow-orange color whereas the factory egg is a wimpy yellow color. The color differentiation is due to the high beta carotene content in the free range yolk – over six times more than factory eggs. Beta carotene, also known as vitamin A, is just one of many benefits free range eggs have to offer.” From .
So if you’re driving down the road and see a sign for farm fresh eggs, grab them! Most grocery stores carry free range eggs as well. Learn what you can about eggs and their nutritious benefits and kitchen prowess. From glazing to emulsifying to adding texture, moisture, leavening and flavor, eggs are staples in the kitchen. From this Farmer’s farm to your kitchen, have some fun with eggs!