Tag Archives: eggs

Crème caramel


Crème caramel – Serves 2
Caramel is used to make sweet dishes such as oranges in caramel and crème caramel which is a creamy custard cooked on top of a layer of caramel.
DO NOT TASTE THE CARAMEL AS IT IS SO HOT IT WILL BURN!

 

Ingredients
Caramel
50g sugar
2 tablespoons water
Custard
2 eggs
10g caster sugar – 2 teaspoons
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
200ml whole milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2. Use 2 ramekin dishes or 2 oven proof tea cups to cook the custard.
  2. Make the caramel. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until the sugar turns dark brown.
  3. Pour the caramel into each of the ramekin dishes and leave to cool. Take care as it is very hot!
  4. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract with a whisk until smooth. Beat in the milk.
    Strain into a measuring jug then pour into each of the ramekins.
  5. Put the ramekins in a roasting tin which is half filled with boiling water. This is called a bain marie.
  6. Cook for 20-30 minutes in the oven until the custard is set.
  7. Cool before serving. Chill in the fridge if possible. Loosen the edges of the custard, cover with a plate and tip out onto the plate with the caramel topping.

The science bit

Sugar turns brown as it is made into caramel which adds a strong flavour to the recipe.
During heating, the protein in the eggs and milk sets, coagulates and forms a matrix through the mixture which makes the soft custard.

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Meringues


Mini meringues – Makes 8
You can pipe or spoon the meringue shapes.

Ingredients
2 large egg whites or ready to use egg white
110g caster sugar
Filling – whipped cream, cream cheese, mascarpone or fromage frais and a little sugar
Decorate with chopped strawberries and sprinkle on icing sugar.

 

Method

  1. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat the oven 140°C/Gas 1.
  3. Crack the eggs to separate the whites from the yolks – or buy liquid egg white.
  4. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until the egg whites are fluffy.
  5. Slowly add the sugar. If you add the sugar too early it stops the egg proteins from extending to form the foam network. You need sugar to keep the foam stable when it cooks and becomes crisp.
  6. If you’ve beaten the egg whites too much, the foam breaks down, so whisk another egg white and stir into the mixture.
  7. Pile 8 heaped dessert spoons of the meringue onto the parchment paper or pipe as stars.
  8. Bake in the oven for time needed to crisp the meringue.
  9. You can whisk some whipping cream and make another foam to pile onto the meringue with fruit for decoration.

The science bit

The egg whites are beaten to form a foam.
The egg white protein, albumen, uncoils and forms a network trapping the air.
When the meringue cooks, the air expands and pushes up the protein which denatures, coagulates and sets, forming the crisp meringue.

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Lemon meringue


Lemon meringue – Serves 4
This lemon pudding is like lemon meringue pie with no pastry. It is lemon sauce with meringue topping. This means the recipe is more nutritious in my opinion – less fat!

Ingredients
1 very large lemon or 2 small lemons (180g weight)
150ml boiling water
15g cornflour
25g butter or margarine
40g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
Meringue
2 egg whites
60g caster sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven 170°C/Gas 3.
  2. Blend the cornflour with a little cold water and add the lemon juice and rind. Stir in the boiling water and put in a saucepan with the butter and sugar. Stir until the sauce thickens and become clearer. Remove from heat, leave to cool.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until softly stiff and add the sugar carefully.
  4. Stir the egg yolks into the lemon sauce and pour into ramekins or an ovenproof dish.
  5. Spoon the meringue over the lemon filling and lift into peaks.
  6. Put the ramekins in a roasting tin with a little hot water to protect the lemon sauce during cooking.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the meringue is crisp and slightly golden. Serve hot or cold.

The science bit

There’s a lot of science going on in this dish.
The starch in the cornflour swells, absorbs the water and gelatinises. This makes a smooth, thickened, clear sauce.
The protein in the egg yolks, when heated in the oven, denatures, coagulates and forms a network through the sauce which makes it thicken a bit more.
The egg whites are beaten to form a foam. The egg white protein, albumen, uncoils and forms a network trapping the air.
When the meringue cooks, the air expands and pushes up the protein which denatures, coagulates and sets, forming the crisp meringue.
The cornflour and water mixture is thick for a short time, but breaks down with further heating and water is forced out. This process is known as retrogradation.
When cold, starch sets the mixture by a process of gelation.

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Egg magic


Eggs are teaching magic. I can use my science knowledge to impress them – a little biology, some physics and a bit of birdwatching along the way.

The egg is the centre of my cooking world, the source of endless cheap dishes, and a good way to teach nutrition. ‘Go to work on an egg’ is an advert at the time, made famous by Fay Weldon. If I have an egg, I have a lesson, and even a breakfast to go to work on.

‘Gather round and stand in a circle – I’m going to show you a trick.’

I roll the egg gently on the floor. It curls, curves and circles back to me. They are so impressed, I do it again.

‘Look at that for magic – see how it rolls back to me. In nature it rolls back if it falls out the nest. That’s why seagulls have very pointed eggs, as they build nests on cliff edges and this way the egg rolls back in a very tight circle.’

My scientific brain questions this story, but they are intrigued and desperate to try rolling their eggs around the cookery room floor.  I’m thinking that seagull’s nests cling to the sides of cliffs and the egg would more likely drop over the cliff edge than stay near its nest, but I’ve got their attention and this stunning fact might stay with them for the day. Later I’ll tell them about the poor, bald battery chickens that lay most of the eggs that we buy in the seventies and never ever see a nest or daylight. Their eggs drop through the bars of their prison cages and down into collecting tubes. But we don’t care. It makes them cheap which is perfect for our cookery recipes.

Some of the eggs that I buy have a little red Lion symbol on them, from the Egg Marketing Board but there are no clues to show when the eggs have been laid. No date stamp, no worries about how old, but I know that there is a TEST.

‘How do you know if an egg is fresh Emily?’

I’m trying to give the girls more attention. I’ve been neglecting them as the boisterous boys shoot up their hands when I ask a question.

I wait for quiet, gentle Emily to give me an answer, but she’s surrounded by male cries of ‘Ask me, miss, ask me!’

I try to ignore the boy’s enthusiasm this time. My girls have equal importance in this thrusting, testosterone world, and I must give them a chance.

But Ray can’t contain himself any more.

‘Miss you can smell the egg – if it’s off it really pongs – a nasty smell but good for stink bombs.’

I give Ray a stern look. He’s right, an off egg has the disgusting smell of sulphur but it is the girl’s turn. They must not be bullied into silence.

‘OK Emily, come and help me with the egg test.’

Emily stands by the large jug of salty water on my demonstration table. I can see she is nervous as I hand her the three eggs. Two eggs have been bought recently and the other comes from the collection of old eggs that I keep hidden in the store cupboard to use for this age test.  Sometimes, I forget, and we use them anyway.

‘Emily, drop each egg carefully into a jug of salted water – the fresh eggs sink and the stale egg floats.’

One of the eggs bobs to the top of the water and the others hang somewhere in between.

‘See, this floating egg is stale so we don’t use it. Thankyou Emily for helping’

Miss, the Magician has done it again, and I’ve let the girls have a turn. This lesson is going well and I’ve got more egg tricks to share which will take this session into the stratosphere.

‘Did you know that whole eggs are passed over a light to see if they are clear inside with no bloody bits or chicks growing?

 

It’s called candling and you can do it with a candle. Emily, can you light the candle please?’

I hold an egg in front of the golden candle light. The eggs looks golden and the candle flame is bloody hot. This piece of magic is proving nothing. Just that the egg looks golden brown when I hold it in front of a candle, and that candle flames are hot. I’m no better at tricks than Tommy Cooper. It’s back to the lesson, before I lose my dignity.

I hand them each an egg and a saucer.

‘OK – you’ve each got an egg – go back to your places and crack your egg in the middle and then slide the contents of the egg onto the saucer. I’m going to give you a biology lesson.’

‘Aren’t we cooking today, miss? I hate theory.’

Dan struggles with his reading and writing. He’s small, neat and quiet for his age and he tells me that cooking is his favourite subject. He can ‘do’ cookery but he just gets bad marks in everything else and can’t do them.

‘Dan, we’ll cook when we’ve finished this bit.

‘Crack your eggs and look at the sac of air in the top of the shell. This is where the chick takes its first breath before it pecks its way out.’

The egg shell is lined with a thin, shiny white membrane and this air sac at the blunt end of the shell is one of nature’s mysteries.

‘Will we get a chick in our eggs then?’ Dan’s enthusiasm is returning.

Some of the girls look up from their shells with alarm. Once again, I forget these city kids think that milk comes from the milkman and fish fingers from the freezer in the supermarket. The rest of the food chain is unknown.

‘It’s OK – there are no chicks in these eggs. The hens have been reared in cages with no cockerels around.’

They stare back blankly. What have hens and cockerels got to do with chicks? Oh God, and I’ve got a sex education lesson next week with my form group.

They crack their eggs onto saucers and poke at the air sac in the shell.

‘Look at the egg you’ve cracked and on the yolk, can you see the germ, the tiny white circle where the chick grows?’

‘You said this egg won’t be a chick so how is it supposed to grow there?’

Dan is increasingly frustrated by my teaching methods and wants to get on with COOKING.

‘Look at the two chords which hold the yolk in place. And the thick and thin whites. ’

They peer at their saucers. What is the point in this?

‘Miss, what has this got to do with cooking?’

It’s Dan again. Frustrated Dan.

‘You might get asked to draw a cross section of an egg for the exam, so I’m showing you what it looks like.’

Here she goes again. The exam – everything is learnt to pass the exam.

Dan can hardly write but he’s still got to do the exam, and I’ll be judged on the grade that he gets.

Please try, Dan for both of us. If you get Unclassified because you only write your name on the exam paper, I’ll be blamed for poor teaching.

‘OK class, we’re ready to make Chocolate Mousse – it’s just raw egg and chocolate.’

These are the days before Edwina Currie’s egg and salmonella scare. By the 1980’s chocolate mousse made from raw eggs will be a pot of poison.

‘Scoop the yolk and put it into a glass. Then whisk the egg white until it is stiff.’

The room is busy with whirring rotary whisks.

‘When it’s ready you can turn the bowl upside down and the eggs whites stay in.’

This is the most stupid and wasteful test of all. If they turn the bowl over too early the whole lot plops on the floor, accompanied by screams of hilarity. The sticky, eggy mess which streams over the old, grimy wooden floor can’t be rescued and we must start again. Thank goodness eggs are cheap.

Chocolate mousse is easy to make. We use cheap cooking chocolate which is high in fat and low in chocolate and taste. But if it’s in the storeroom, I add it to my lunchtime speed nibbles of sultanas and angelica.

‘Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, stir in the yolk and then fold the melted chocolate gently into the whites – gently!’

Good mousses are light and fluffy. Bad mousses are just a runny mess which still taste delicious.

They pile the soft, brown mixture into glass dishes, top with a glacé cherry and bring to me for marking on a saucer with a frilly d’oyley. Someone should make Beryl Ware with an imprint of a frilly d’oyley. It would save so much time and exam marks.

This brown gloop does not leave the classroom. They must sit and eat it. I don’t want the local bus company complaining again of a strange stickiness spread over their bus seats after my cooking class has travelled home.

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