I don’t know about you, but I’m getting ready for holiday baking. Every year I look forward to warm goodies coming out of my oven, and to bake quick breads, cookies, and/or cakes successfully, you need to do a little planning. Aside from getting all your ingredients together and measured, you need to make sure things are the right temperature—especially softened butter and room-temperature eggs.
Eggs are finicky and marvelous little miracles; properly handled, they can add aerated volume, act as an emulsifier to bind ingredients together, or simply impart some yolk-y richness. But behind that demure and charming oval shell lies a veritable chemistry lab. I’ll spare you (and myself) all the bits about albumen, long-chain amino acids, electrostatic forces, and the all-towering Maillard reaction. Just know that there’s a lot going on in that deceptively humble egg; respect its many powers.
For baking however, at least part of what you need to know is pretty simple. Make sure to use them at room-temperature. They beat up lighter, fluffier, and mix better with your other ingredients. Cold eggs will cool your butter and make it harder to beat into smooth, supple submission.
Of course remembering to pull the eggs from the fridge an hour or two ahead is fine and easy - if you have the foresight to plan your baking ahead. But what if you want to indulge in, say, some spontaneous, 10 pm post child bedtime brownie baking? Well, then you don't have an hour to wait for your eggs to come up to temperature. (At least I don't if I want to be awake for said baking binge.)
Do not, as I have done, try just putting your eggs on the stovetop while the oven preheats. You will cook the whites while the yolks still remains cold. No good. I know from experience.
Instead, to bring straight-from-the-fridge eggs to a nice, ambient temperature quickly, submerge them in a bath of warm (not hot) tap water for about 15 minutes. They’ll warm up in a flash and you’ll wind up with perfectly tempered, affable eggs ready and willing to do your bidding. And if your bidding happens to be an impulsive batch of gooey, homemade brownies, try these from my book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. You won't regret it!
Kate's Impossibly Fudgy Brownies with Chili and Sea Salt
Time: 45 minutes
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Maldon salt, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a rimmed 9 by 13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a microwave or in the top bowl of a double boiler, melt together the butter and chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, combine the flour, kosher salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl.
3. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
4. Fold in the dry ingredients and continue folding until no lumps remain.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted into the middle of the brownie comes out clean.
6. Allow the brownie to cool completely in the pan before cutting into 2 by 2-inch squares.
Makes 24 (2-inch) squares