Lessons 8-11: The Miracle of Eggs

I used to say a relationship, specifically the moment that two people feel exactly the same way about each other at exactly the same moment, is a miracle. After the past week, I’m beginning to think Chef Nicole may be on to something when she calls eggs a “miracle food.”

We spent one entire class just observing eggs like scientists, cracking dozens of them and separating the whites from the yolks. We put the yolks in dishes with sugar and without sugar and looked at them after one minute, after fifteen minutes and after thirty minutes.

Then we took our egg whites and whipped them, carefully timing the process as they went through various stages from froth to soft peak and finally to stiff peak. At different points in the process, we added sugar to get an understanding of how the variables of whites, sugar, speed, and timing all interacted.

Egg and sugar — the foundation for so many things we will do in pastry. “Tonight is going to change your life,” Chef Nicole said to us as we set out to make meringue. I was fascinated as the egg whites and sugar transformed into a soft, glossy cloud. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the inside of my mixer, trying to get a feel for the timing of when those whites had reached the perfect soft peak without over whipping them. It seems eggs, like relationships, are all about timing. This is particularly true in the case of soufflé. Chef Nicole said she has made approximately 400,000 soufflés in her lifetime.

My soufflé count is up to about 36 total. I’m hoping Chef Nicole’s first few were as challenging for her as they were for me. My partner for the week, Megan and I had to redo our flourless chocolate soufflé. It helped me to realize how just one seemingly tiny part of the process such as not buttering or sugaring your ramekin enough, over whipping your meringue a little or even folding the batter too much can greatly affect the end product. Like Goldilocks, you can’t fold too slowly, too quickly, too aggressively or too gently, you have to fold until it’s just right.

I guess I have several hundred more to make before I can do it with ease. Eggs are fragile and sensitive, stubborn and impactful, and although it is sometimes difficult to produce something perfect from them, it is truly miraculous (and delicious) when it is created, much like a relationship. Coming up next, our first quiz, gelatin-based desserts and a field trip to Bouchon Bakery. Yep, our Pastry & Baking Arts class is getting out of the kitchen for a day!

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