Having free-range chooks is one of life's simple pleasures. You put in veggie scraps and a handful of chook pellets every day, plus lots of fresh water to drink, and you get perfect little protein-and-vitamin-filled gifts in return. Plus, in case you didn't know this, chooks have personalities all of their own. So they are productive and interesting pets!
I have been a chook owner in the past, but since we last moved house, we've not as yet had the time to set up a new chook enclosure. In the mean time, I have been vicariously (and, okay, enviously) enjoying my friend Mandie's new chook ownership stories. Mandie's girls started laying in dribs and drabs, but now that they are a bit older and spring is approaching, she is becoming 'ova-run' with eggy goodness.
Mandie rang me a while ago, wanting a bit of advice about how many eggs to use in a flourless orange cake she was making. She had been saving up some eggs, but given they were not standard sizes, she needed to know how many eggs to add to match the recipe's specified egg count.
Mandie thought it was a good topic to share on the blog today. So let's discuss Egg Conversions.
Why are Eggs So Darned Good?First of all, eggs play an important role in baking. They bind, add structure, act as rising agents, and affect the moisture level of your baked goods. They can be separated and the parts within used for different purposes, eg. whites for meringues, royal icing, marshmallows, macaron shells, white cakes and Swiss Meringue Butter Cream, and the yolks for making custards, hollandaise and bernaise sauces, creme patissiere and enriching brioches and many rich cake batters. And of course, eggs can be used whole (without the shell, of course!)
Commercial Egg Standard WeightsWhen you buy eggs from the supermarket, you will have noticed that egg cartons have a weight listed. In Australia, 600g eggs are classed as "large", 700g are "extra large" and 800g are "jumbo" sized (and often double yolkers!) These stated weights refer to the minimum total weight of all 12 eggs in the carton, including the shells.
Unless specified otherwise, Australian standard recipes generally call for the use of eggs with an average weight of 60 grams each. Often, recipes state these are "large eggs", when in fact, 60 gram eggs are classed as "extra large".
If you have your own laying chooks in the backyard, how can you make sure you have the right amount of eggs for your recipe?
Beautiful home-grown eggs - aren't chooks brilliant?
Gauging the Sizes of Your Chooks' EggsThis is where having a set of scales becomes important. Anyone who likes to bake should invest in a good quality set of digital scales, as relying on volumetric or unit measurements never really yields as perfect a result as weighing your ingredients.
So, the first thing you can do, is weigh your own chook eggs. An "extra-large" egg (remember, those that come in a 700gram carton) will have a MINIMUM weight of 58.3 grams each - with their shells on. But let's use an average weight of 60 grams.
Mandie's cake recipe called for six eggs, meaning six eggs with an average weight of 60 grams each, which is a total weight of 360 grams. Mandie therefore needed to weigh her various free-range homegrown eggs to reach a total weight of 360 grams.
What if you have some bantams and/or really big bongo-sized egg-laying chooks?You may need to adjust your egg numbers to make up the required total weight. Recipes will call for a number of eggs, so it helps to calculate the total weight of the required eggs, remembering the standard as 60 grams per egg, and adjust your egg quantity as necessary.
What happens if you need less than a whole egg to make up the weight required? Simply break an egg into a cup, whisk it gently, and pour the mixed egg to make up the total required weight.
What are the relative weights of shell, egg white, and yolk?Many recipes will call for the use of egg white, or yolks. Simpler, small-scale recipes will call for a number of whites, or yolks. Larger-scale bakery/patisserie recipes will often call for a weight in grams for egg whites or egg yolks.
Once again we need to first consider the standard egg size as 60 grams. Then, we can consider the ratios of the egg components.
According to Pace Farms, the ratio is 11% shell, 58% white and 31% yolk.
An extra-large (60 gram) egg will have a shell weight of 7 grams, a white weight of around 35 grams, and a yolk weight of around 18 grams.
So, the contents of six whole eggs would weigh 6 x (0.58 + 0.31) x 60 grams = 320 grams.
However, say Mandie's recipe said to use 6 egg whites, and she had a bunch of different-sized eggs. Six standard egg whites would average 6 x (0.58) x 60 grams = 209 grams.
Therefore, Mandie would need to crack and separate her eggs, adding whites to her bowl that is sitting on her scales (tared to zero), until the reading was 209 grams.
Knowing these percentages allows you to use your very own multi-sized chook eggs, and be assured you are putting the correct quantity of egg, egg white or egg yolk as is called for in the recipe. Best of all, you are making use of the absolute freshest and yummiest eggs you can get anywhere - those of your very own chooks.
One last tip: it is better to be a little bit over than a bit under when adding eggs to most recipes. So don't be too obsessed with hundredths of grams!
I will write about some more egg-related baking tips in a future post :-)