Yes, size does matter when it comes to baking with eggs
Published in Entertaining
(Editor's Note: This story was originally published April 10, 2019.)
Many of the chicken eggs Americans will consume this Easter season will be hard boiled and colored for egg hunts and baskets, while others will be baked into cakes or cooked into rich custards for a dessert following a holiday dinner.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies egg size by the weight of the entire carton and not the individual eggs. The most common sizes found in stores are medium, large, extra-large and jumbo, and this leaves some wondering: Does size really matter when it comes to baking or cooking? The answer is yes — and no.
First, the no. If you’re simply hard boiling them to make deviled eggs or egg salad, eggs are all pretty much interchangeable, unless you’re counting calories or trying to pack in the most protein. According to the USDA, an egg that is large, which is the most popular size and is the standard used in most recipes, has about 72 calories and 6 1/2 grams of protein, while an extra-large has slightly more and a medium egg has slightly less.
Size also does not come into play in non-baking recipes that use up to three eggs — say, an omelet or frittata, or as a coating for fried chicken or pork where you can make a one-to-one substitution for medium, large and extra-large eggs with no worries.
It’s when you’re incorporating eggs into a batter to be baked or whipping them into a meringue that things get kind of tricky.
Eggs play several different roles in baking, says Casey Renee, the former pastry chef at Whitfield at Ace Hotel in Pittsburgh who now runs her own catering business, Confections. Along with richness, flavor and color, eggs add moisture to cakes and other baked goods. More importantly, they act as a leavening agent. By adding air to the batter, they allow a cake to rise.
If you add too much egg, she says, it makes the dough really wet and also more dense, which will weigh down the recipe. Using eggs that are too small, conversely, will make your cake dry and decrease its leavening power.
One way to guarantee good results when using eggs that are too small or large is to measure the volume of your substitute eggs by first scrambling them in a bowl, and then using the amount equivalent to what the large eggs would have yielded.
Generally speaking, a large egg yields 3 1/4 tablespoons of yolk and white, while an extra-large has four tablespoons and a medium egg, two tablespoons.