Types & Sizes of Eggs Used in Baking
The USDA grades eggs using a three-grade scale of AA, A and B. Each grade differs in the appearance of the shell, yolk, egg white and the overall egg as it "breaks out" (spreads onto a surface after cracking), as well as its best usage.
While grade B eggs are considered the poorest quality of the three, they are actually more than suitable for baking. This is because most of the varying factors among eggs are appearance-related and so will never come into play in serving a baked good. After all, the eggs are mixed into the batter with a bunch of other ingredients. With grade B eggs costing considerably less than top-choice Grade AA eggs, this is one easy way to save money on baked good ingredients.
Eggs come in a range of sizes from Pee-Wee (15 ounces per dozen) to Jumbo (30 ounces per dozen). In between are standard Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large sizes. When using only 1 or 2 eggs in a recipe, the size differences won't produce too great a difference in the qualities and characteristics of the finished product. Once you start using 3-5 eggs or more in a recipe, you may have to add an egg or two if using a size smaller than those called for in the recipe.
Tips for Using Eggs in Baking
When you buy your eggs, make sure the shells are clean and not cracked or broken. Check for the "sell by" date stamped onto the carton to ensure you buy the freshest eggs. Naturally, the farther away the "sell by" date, the fresher the eggs.
Refrigerate eggs until use, ideally from 33-45º F, and only take them out when you're ready to use them. Never freeze eggs. Avoid eggs that have been sitting out at room temperature uncooked for longer than an hour.
Always wash your hands before handling eggs (or doing any baking or cooking, for that matter), and utilize only cleaned and sanitized cooking equipment and utensils.
When separating eggs, take care to crack the shell gently and break it apart evenly in two halves, tipping them open as you do so in order to retain the egg inside one of the halves. Then carefully pass the egg from one half to the other, back and forth. As you do so, the whites will spill out into the container beneath your hands, leaving the yolk behind, contained in one of the shell halves in your hand. There are also egg separator kitchen gadgets that make this process easier.
How to Beat Egg Whites
Make sure to use a clean container and clean equipment to beat your egg whites, as oil, grease or egg yolk can impede proper beating. Always start at a low speed, building up slowly as foaming begins. The more you beat egg whites the stiffer they will get, so stop as soon as they take on the desired texture.
How to Mix Eggs into a Hot Batter
To add eggs or egg yolks into a hot batter without instantly cooking the eggs (and thereby making them impossible to mix in):
- Beat the egg (or egg yolk) in a separate bowl.
- Then add just a spoonful of the hot batter, which will allow the egg to get used to the temperature gradually, without cooking.
- Finally, add that mixture to the rest of the batter.
The taste, texture and appearance most people associate with their favorite baked goods can often be attributed to eggs, so thanks, eggs!