Cracking into the world of eggs

Eggs have been for many generations a household staple.

Eggs are protean as they have the ability to change shape and consistency. From a light and fluffy to a dense, binding, the uses for eggs are endless. Eggs provide body, structure, substance and nutritious goodies to a range of things from soups, breads, pastas, sauces, mayonnaise and cakes. But eggs can also hold their own as an omelette for example. Eggs don't just provide a helping hand in the kitchen they are also packed with all 8 essential amino acids as well as B12, linoleic acid, most vitamins, and the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin.

The colour of the eggs shell is determined by the hens genetic background, colours range from white with yellow spots to brown or a combination of two. There's even a rare breed that lay blue eggs. The colour of the egg has no effect on the taste or the nutrition of the egg. Happy and healthy hens make for great eggs.

Ever wondered why some egg yolks are pale yellow while others are deep orange? Well, the answer lies in the hens feed. The yolk is given its colour by the pigments found in the food the hen eats. A diet rich in corn or alfalfa makes for a deeper shade of yellow. The yolk carries about three-quarters of the calories and most of the iron, thiamin, and vitamins found in the whole egg. Although the white of an egg accounts for nearly two-thirds of the eggs shelled weight, it is roughly 90% water. The other 10% is made up of proteins.

Proteins are made of long chains of amino acids that are tightly coiled and held by weak bonds. When they are heated or when air is beaten into the egg whites, these proteins unwind and stretch out to form an elastic web. The egg whites can expand up to eight times their volume by trapping air bubbles within the web. This provides volume and structure to dishes like pavlova and meringues.

Egg-cellent Tips:

  • Try scrambling eggs in butter rather, to get lighter, fluffier eggs. When the butter is heated it releases moisture creating steam, which is what increases the fluffiness of the eggs.
  • Beat egg whites at room temperature and add an acid (e.g. cream of tartar, vinegar, lemon juice) to help to strengthen and stabilize the foam.
  • Try the float test to check the freshness of an egg. As the shell of an egg is porous and over time the air cell at the wider end of an egg expands as the contents inside get smaller. Simply place the egg in a glass of water and if the egg sinks, the egg is fresh. If it sinks but is tilting upward, the egg is still good to eat and if it floats at the top, throw out the egg as it is old.
  • To minimize the greening effect around the yolk in your hard-boiled eggs, cook the eggs in hot but not boiling water, then cool immediately after cooking.

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