Last Updated on
Besides serving eggs for breakfast and late-night snacks, eggs are an extremely important part of baking, and even more important in gluten free baking. In baked goods, eggs provide flavor, texture, tenderness, color, and structure/stability. They even help leaven/rise cakes, breads, and more. Depending on how you use eggs in a recipe depends upon what they provide. In this lesson, you will learn about what eggs do, based upon what you do with them.
Whole Eggs in Recipes
You’ll find multiple recipes that call for whole eggs including:
Why Would You Add Eggs to This Recipe?
There are some gluten free recipes in which adding eggs is not traditional in its gluten counterpart. Eggs are often added to some recipes to improve their texture by increasing how tender they turn out and to increase the height that they rise. An example of this is:
Let’s go over some basics before we get started…
Most recipes nowadays call for large eggs, but even those come in various sizes. For that reason, the first time you make a recipe, measure the eggs in a glass measuring cup and make a note of the amount. This way, you will know exactly how much to use next time, no matter the brand or size eggs you have on hand.
A large egg, including its shell weighs about 2 ounces. The shell weighs about 1/3 of an ounce. An extra-large egg weighs about 2.25 ounces. When you are converting a gluten recipe to gluten free and the recipe calls for large eggs, consider using extra-large eggs instead. This is good to know if a recipe ever calls for whole eggs, yolks, or whites in weight and you don’t have a kitchen scale.
When a recipe calls for eggs in weight, note that the yolk accounts for one-third of the weight. The other two-thirds is the weight of the egg white. A large egg yolk measures almost 1 tablespoon and the white a little over 2 tablespoons.
There is no difference in taste or taste color between white or brown eggs, or even blue for that matter. The only difference between any eggs is its taste. You see, the yolks will taste a little different based upon the chicken’s feed.
The additional egg yolk will add moisture. It is similar to adding cream to a recipe because egg yolks are mainly made up fat, cholesterol, vitamins and about half of the egg’s protein. They also aid in browning and provide a rich flavor along with an “eggy” flavor when used in excess.
You may have seen the term “at room temperature” following the number of eggs listed in an ingredients list in my and many other recipes. Room temperature ingredients cook more evenly. However, it is more important to use room temperature eggs than any other ingredient. In this lesson, you will learn why you need room temperature yolks and whites.
If you’re ever in a hurry to bring whole eggs or egg whites to room temperature, you can try microwaving several in a glass cup or bowl for 5 to 10 seconds at a time, stirring in between intervals. The stirring is important as there will be hot spots in the eggs which left unstirred will cook them. Alternatively, you may fill your sink with hot water and add the eggs or egg yolks to a bowl. Set the bowl in the hot water stirring the eggs until they reach room temperature. Another alternative is to hold the eggs under warm/hot faucet water until the eggshell reaches room temperature. The raw egg won’t usually reach room temperature unless you go a little past the point of the egg shell being room temperature. Be careful not to cook the egg though. Practice makes perfect with all of these methods.
Also known as albumen, egg whites are made up of about 90% water and 10% protein. The whites provide a lot of structure to baked goods as well as create a higher rise. You know what boiled egg whites feel like, right? Well, imagine some of that same texture added to a cake. The cake would bend more easily, be moist, and have a soft texture/bite.
The Age of Eggs
Have you ever noticed sometimes your egg yolks break more easily than other times? As eggs age, the yolks absorb some of the water from the egg white. This causes the yolk to expand, which weakens its casing. So, when you need to separate eggs or cook fried eggs, reach for the freshest eggs you have.
The Role of Egg Yolks
If it weren’t for egg yolk, the batter for the Gluten Free Egg Rolls recipe would never brown enough. Without egg yolk, the hollandaise sauce used in Egg Benedict or Asparagus wouldn’t be rich. However, there are additional uses and benefits to egg yolks. Egg yolks help distribute liquid and the fat evenly throughout the batter. This is why egg yolks and whole eggs are used as an emulsifier.
Eggs Yolks as an Emulsifier
In the gluten-free world, you probably see the term “emulsifier” quite a bit. Gluten itself is an emulsifier. So, bakers are always looking for a good replacement. Eggs fulfill that need in some cases as eggs also work as an emulsifier. “Emulsify” is defined as combining two ingredients that don’t combine together on their own. In everyday baking, oil and water do not combine together. Egg yolks help them join. This is how cake batters become creamy and smooth.
Egg Yolks in Egg Wash
Egg yolks create wonderfully dark pie crust edges and bread crust. Combine egg yolk with water (or milk for additional browning, and with cream for a lot of browning) to make it easier to brush on any dough or pastry. A mixture of liquid and whole eggs, egg yolk, or egg whites is called “egg wash”. You just whisk 1 teaspoon liquid with one egg yolk to make egg wash. Brush on any crust (bread or pie) prior to baking or towards the end of baking, depending on how dark you desire the crust. Visit the Lemon Meringue Pie Crust Recipe page to learn about the different recipes for egg wash.
Egg Yolk Temperature
One thing to remember about egg yolks is to never overheat them. When egg yolks combine with hot liquid, they curdle, actually scramble in the liquid. This begins to occur at 140⁰F. So, you always add a little bit of warm, not hot, liquid to egg yolks or whole eggs, while constantly whisking. Then once the yolks warm up, they will combine easily with a larger amount of hot liquid. As an example, if you are making vanilla pudding and the recipe calls for whole eggs or egg yolk, you heat up the liquid ingredients and take about 1/2 cup of the liquid and slowly combine them with the whole eggs or egg yolks. Then, slowly whisk the egg-hot-liquid mixture back into the saucepan of hot liquid.
It is also important to use room temperature eggs when performing the above task. The drastic temperature of cold eggs and hot or warm liquid will surely result in scrambled eggs.
The Role of Egg Whites
You can use egg whites in numerous ways:
- Use egg whites to glue together two pieces of pastry dough. (You don’t want to use egg yolk or whole eggs because egg yolks brown too much. You don’t want to see the glue after it bakes should it ooze out of the seam.)
- Brush egg white on top of pie crust and bread to create a sheen and light brown color once baked.
- Mix egg whites with a little water (or milk for additional browning; cream for more browning) to make an egg wash to coat bread and pie crust to add a little shine and light golden color. Egg white also makes a softer crust. This is especially useful in bread baking. A little trick to break down the egg white is to add a tiny pinch of salt. Then, you can skip the liquid, if desired. Omitting liquid will result in additional browning.
- You can also beat egg whites until they are like soft, light clouds. There are two forms of beaten egg whites, soft and stiff peaks.
- Soft Peaks: Soft peaks are when the peak (as in a mountain’s peak/point) curls at the end and remains a curl without collapsing.
- Stiff Peaks: Stiff peaks are when no curl forms. The peak is straight up and down. (See image below. It’s almost a stiff peak. However, you don’t want to overbeat the egg whites. Overbeating can cause dry food because there are too many air bubbles.)
- Adding Stability to Peaks: You can provide your beaten egg whites with more structure/stability by combining them with an acidic component such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar. Depending upon how much stability you wish to add to the egg whites depends on how much you add. When using a less powerful electric mixer, which beats in less air, consider adding a higher amount of the acidic ingredient. Use the following as a guide, not a rule:
- Cream of Tartar: Beat up to 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar per egg white.
- Lemon Juice: Use up to 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice per large egg white.
- Vinegar: Add up to 1/2 teaspoon vinegar per egg white.
Instructions: Just add cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar to the egg whites prior to beating or once they begin stiffening.
- Egg whites create a spongy texture in baked goods. You’ll find that when egg whites in a cake or even meringue cookies are not fully baked and remove it from the oven, it will deflate. However, when you bake it a little longer, it inflates again. The magic of egg whites! (Note: There are other reasons a baked product deflates, collapses, or falls, but in this case, we are just looking at partially cooked egg whites. Other reasons for fallen baked goods include too much liquid, too much leavener (baking powder, baking soda, yeast), or not baked long enough.)
- Egg whites contain water. Water, whether it is in butter or milk, helps break down sugar. This is helpful to remember this when your sugar isn’t breaking down in a batter. This all helps to create light and fluffy batters.
Egg White Temperature
For egg whites to whip to soft or stiff peaks, you must have room temperature eggs. Otherwise, you’ll need to beat them for a very long time so that the beaters or whip attachment of your mixer begins to heat them up. In addition, if you find that your egg whites are not whipping up easily, you may need fresher eggs.
It is also important to have egg whites at room temperature when mixing with warm (never hot) liquids. If the egg whites are not room temperature, the drastic temperature of the warm liquid will begin to cook the whites prior to baking.
When combining a warm (never hot) liquid with egg whites or whole eggs, be sure to combine the liquid a tiny bit at a time with the egg whites. Just as egg yolks begin to cook (actually coagulate) at 140⁰F, egg whites do as well. The common method of combining hot liquid with egg whites is to add a little of the hot (preferably warm) liquid to the egg whites while constantly whisking. Then, add that mixture back to the remaining hot liquid while constantly whisking.
Which Recipes Use Beaten Egg Whites?
Beaten egg whites, whether beaten to soft or stiff peaks, are used in a number of different recipes. Add sweetened, stiff peaks to the top of a pie crust filled with lemon filling to make Lemon Meringue Pie, French Macarons (two meringue cookies made with almond flour or ground almonds sandwiched together by a filling), Pavlovas (cake-shaped meringue mound usually served with custard, fruit puree, etc.), and Meringue Cookies. Egg whites are also used to make Italian Buttercream (Frosting).
To make egg-free meringue or stiff beaten egg-like marshmallow fluff to top cupcakes, cakes, pies, and to make meringue cookies, and more, see the Gluten-Free Egg-Free Marshmallow Fluff – Meringue Recipe. This recipe makes wonderful meringue cookies.
Use soft peaks folded into batters like Sponge Cake to make cakes lighter and spongy.
The quantity of Egg Whites
While egg whites make baked goods light and airy, but there can be too much of a good thing. If you add too many whipped egg whites to a baked good, it can turn out dry, or at least cook extremely fast, which often makes cakes turn out dry if you haven’t shortened the baking time. If you add too many unbeaten egg whites, your baked good could turn out gummy because, well, think about the texture of hard-boiled eggs. That’s what you’re adding to your baked goods when you add egg white.
Role of Eggs in Gluten Free Bread Baking
I have found that egg yolks in homemade gluten free bread create crumbs and flavor. By crumbs, I mean that the texture is drier and can help create closer to gluten bread texture. However, the more egg yolks you use, the less fresh the bread stays. If you’re after a sandwich bread that you have to microwave to enjoy, your best bet is to use only egg whites. However, one egg yolk for added flavor and improvement in texture won’t really hurt. Egg yolks also add a light yellow color to bread.
Egg whites provide a pliable texture (bends more easily) and create white bread, depending upon the color of dry ingredients you use.
More on Bread Baking to come in Lessons 16 – 18.
Egg Alternatives for Egg Wash
Vegan: Those who are allergic to egg or are vegan may use water as an egg wash. While it lacks the shiny finish of an egg wash, it does result in a golden crust.
Traditional Alternatives: A milk wash darkens the crust more than water, and cream even more so. Apply melted butter, but not before baking. Brush it on either right before or right after you remove the bread from the oven. For a truly thick and chewy crust, omit the glaze altogether.
Whole Egg Alternatives
Learn more about egg substitutes on the Eggs Substitutes Page.
Food For Thought
Gluten free flour/mixes tend to make heavier gluten free baked goods compared to their gluten counterparts. While additional butter and eggs make these foods lighter and tender, sometimes they just require less flour. Keep that in mind next time you bake something and it doesn’t turn out quite what you were hoping for.
There is so much to learn about the use of eggs in baking. The best way to learn is to have the above knowledge and apply it as you bake. Even the experienced baker learns with every new recipe. The learning process never ends. So, try any of the above or below and notice something that you’ve learned.
Learn How to Use Beaten Egg Whites:
To learn how to whip egg whites, make one of the following recipes:
Sponge Cake (calls for superfine rice flour, specifically, Carla’s Gluten Free “Self-Rising Cake” Flour Blend)
Gluten Free Sponge Cake Using Copycat Betty Crocker Mix (This cake is heavier than usual, but works for those who cannot obtain superfine rice flour.)
Gluten Free Pizza Dough Recipe (Keep in mind that this pizza dough recipe contains the most eggs compared to all of my other Gluten Free Pizza Crust Recipes. While writing this lesson, it dawned on me that gluten free pizza crust recipes could be tenderer, yet remain chewy if they contained more egg whites. So, I left out all of the egg yolks. However, this Egg Free Pizza Crust is what helped me achieve my desired results.
Chiffon Cakes: Chocolate, Banana, Vanilla
Learn to Use Egg Yolks to Add Color:
Learn how eggs yolks add color to crust and batters by creating an egg wash using egg yolks or whole eggs on any oven-baked bread (not bread machine recipes – they brown on their own) or pie crust recipe. Alternatively, make the Gluten Free Egg Rolls and see how they make the battered crust brown. Note that not only the egg yolks add to the brown color in the egg rolls recipe but sugar aids browning as well.
Egg Yolk Richness:
While this has nothing to do with baking, if you’d like to learn how to make rich recipes using egg yolks, make one of the following recipes:
Pastry Cream (Use this method, though the website shows two other recipes. It guarantees lump-free pastry cream.)
Egg Yolk Flavor:
In the past, if you’ve made a recipe that tasted too eggy, try reducing the number of egg yolks and replace them with another fat such as heavy cream (or coconut oil for dairy-free – if the recipe can tolerate a coconut flavor).
Learn How Whole Egg Effect Recipes:
Cream Puffs (Pate a Choux)
Gluten Free Bread Recipes, Out of all of the bread recipes, choose one that contains either just egg whites or whole eggs. Note the number of eggs or egg whites, the texture it creates, and note how well it keeps at room temperature or a sandwich in your refrigerator. Perhaps you’ll notice that bread that contains egg yolks create a fine crumb and stale faster. However, you may also notice that whole eggs (egg yolks) add flavor.
Learn multiple ways of substituting eggs with other ingredients by clicking here. However, this is my favorite egg-free substitution:
Replace each egg yolk with 1 tablespoon fat of choice: heavy cream works wonders because it adds in browning just as yolks do. However, if you’re not dairy tolerant, use your favorite fat such as bacon grease, coconut oil (refined for no flavor). They even make organic refined coconut oil.
To replace the average 2 tablespoons of egg white in one egg, substitute equal amounts of liquid from a can of white beans. I like to use cannellini (white kidney) bean liquid. This liquid can even be whipped into meringue. It works that well!
You can always find previous lessons on the Course Syllabus page.