Two eggs, side by side. They are both the same length but one is a little fatter and weighs 10 grams more than the other. Does that matter? When does it matter and how much?
I’ve been cooking for a long time but it was not until we bought our Asheville Inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, that I started making the same dish often enough to notice variations in how it came out and to be able to experiment and find out why. A good example of this is my quiche recipe.
My original basic quiche recipe came from a friend of mine way back in the 1970’s: 4 eggs and a cup and a half of Half & Half. This makes a light and fluffy quiche which people love. I’ve used it for almost 40 years without fail. Until this summer at the inn. Suddenly the quiche became very unpredictable. It could take anywhere from 35 minutes to almost 50 minutes to cook and sometimes, but not always, it would be runny and wet on the bottom. It didn’t seem to matter what type of quiche I was making. Asparagus, Sweet Pepper, Butternut Squash, Tomato-Brie, Apple and Bacon, they all had developed a mind of their own.
What was going on? Same recipe, same ingredients. Or were they?
James buys our eggs in large quantity. They come in cartons of 18 and one can buy a single carton or a two-pack which is packaged together. How many eggs we go through in a week depends on how many people are here, how much baking we have to do and what we are serving for breakfast. Usually two two-packs will do but occasionally I will ask him to pick up a single as well, especially on a busy weekend. Before we had the inn, I did the shopping and I always bought extra-large eggs. No reason, really. I guess that’s what my mother bought so it must be right! This was when I noticed that the eggs in the two-pack were extra-large and the eggs in the single carton were large. A little internet research was no help at all in figuring out whether or not this was the issue. Recipes were all over the place. I even saw one which suggested a 1:2 ratio (eggs to dairy) which was great except she was using weight for the eggs and liquid volume for the dairy, an apples to oranges approach which I have my doubts about. I asked some other innkeepers and checked recipes on B&B sites and,as a rule, people were going for more eggs rather than fewer. I got an answer of up to 8 in a quiche. Given the way eggs perform in baking, eight eggs will insure a solid quiche, probably too solid!
So I decided to take a look at my large and extra large eggs and see just how great a difference there was.
First I made a visual inspection. Two eggs side by side. In the picture above the extra-large egg is on the left. Both eggs are approximately two inches long but the extra large egg is rounder in the middle. (It wanted to roll around on the counter whereas the large egg stayed where I put it).
Then I weighed the eggs. Five large eggs ranged in weight from 67 grams to 75, averaging 71.2 grams. Five extra-large eggs ranged in weight from 79 grams to 86, averaging 80.2 grams. So extra large egg is 11% bigger than the large egg. Not a huge number but enough to be possibly significant.
On to the important part (in my eyes): how much “egg” is in an egg?
Here is a picture of a single large egg in a glass measuring cup:
And here is a picture of a single extra large egg in a glass measuring cup:
It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, does it? But let’s see what happens when we go to the full amount needed for my quiche recipe. Here are four large eggs in a glass liquid measuring cup:
And here are four extra-large eggs in a glass liquid measuring cup:
That is starting to be a visible difference and if one extrapolates it into larger quantities it makes a big difference. Eight large eggs provide at least 1/4 cup less “egg” than eight extra-large eggs. Since the eggs are the binding ingredient in the quiche, and I want my quiche as light and fluffy as possible, I need to skate as close to the fewest possible number of eggs in my quiche which will still produce a dry crust. For now I am sticking with 4 extra large egg for one quiche and 9 extra large eggs for two. If I need to use large eggs I will go for 5 in a single quiche and 11 eggs for two. So far it’s been working!
Got a kitchen question? Send to me and I’ll see if I can find an answer!
(and I would share the basic quiche recipe but I think I already have: 4 extra large eggs to 1 1/2 cups half and half, salt and pepper. Prepare your filling, place in a unbaked tart shell and cook in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until set in the center. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting).