When it comes to eggs, it seems that white is becoming the new black. Possibly in response to the obesity-epidemic or as a result of required calorie-counts on menus, many fast-food chains are now serving “lighter option” egg white products. McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Jack-in-the-box, Starbucks, and Sonic have all started supplying their stores with egg white menu items. Even the frozen food section is now showcasing frozen egg white breakfast sandwiches from major producers like Hillshire Farm and Kelloggs.
With all these big name food companies using egg whites it should be no surprise that we have hit an egg white crisis. Since 2013, egg white prices have soared to record-breaking highs of over $8 per lb. Dried egg white stocks have also been reported to be at startling lows, which leaves farmers and egg suppliers to “force molt” chickens in order to keep up with the demand.
But as a health conscious cook, I’m at a stand-still. It’s nice to see these healthier options available, but even I’m starting to grow tired of the high protein/low carb trend. Like a second coming of the Atkins diet, protein is becoming the macronutrient of choice for most dieters once again. Although it is true that egg whites are high in protein and contain zero fat and cholesterol, I’m a yolk kind of girl. Cholesterol-raising irrationalities aside, egg yolks are extremely nutritious – in my opinion, more so than egg whites. Egg yolks do contain fat, but it is vitamin-packed fat. Protein in no way, shape, or form is lacking from the American diet, but many fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, and other vital micronutrients are. Not to mention egg yolks taste way better.
From a practical standpoint, it is good to know how to use up spare egg yolks too. If there is one cooking value my mother passed down, it’s not to waste a thing. I may not be eating a lot of egg white omelettes, but as a baker, I find myself needing a lot of egg white foams, and not nearly as many yolks, so egg yolk-only recipes are handy to have in my kitchen arsenal. But just as egg whites play important structural and chemical roles in cooking, so do egg yolks.
Egg yolks are emulsifiers that help bind fatty ingredients with more liquid ones in dishes like a classic Caesar dressing, or my aioli recipe below. Like a punched-up mayonnaise, aioli is a smooth mixture of fat and water that works well as a spread or dip.
In babka, a traditional Polish sweet bread, egg yolks help to create a moist and tender dough. With a healthy addition of butter and egg yolks, this bread’s dough shines and bakes to form a springy and delicious bread.
In custards, yolks play a different role, creating structure and density. In zabaglione, a velvety, thick Italian custard flavored with marsala wine, egg yolks help to add the right amount of body and contribute to the smoothness of this exquisite dessert.
I hope these recipes inspire you to ditch pricey egg whites and go for gold. Egg yolks are just about as nutritious, and just about as versatile in the kitchen. From spreads to breads and even custards, egg yolks are valuable ingredients that shouldn’t be overshadowed during this egg white craze.
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
This spread is slightly sweet, garlicky, and has a little kick too. It’s the perfect spread to put on any sandwich, but my favorite is spreading it on some bread for a jazzed-up BLT.
1 large red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 egg yolks
¾ cup olive oil
Begin by roasting the peppers in a sheet pan at 400°F for 30 minutes or until the peppers have blackened and shriveled. Immediately place them in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil until completely cooled, about 40 minutes. Once cooled, remove stems and inner seeds. Roughly chop the peppers.
In a blender or food processor, add the garlic and spices and blend until well minced. Add the red peppers and egg yolks and blend again until smooth.
With the blade running, slow pour in the olive oil into the machine. The aioli is ready when it has slightly thickened and the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. If desired, finish with a small squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve on sandwiches or wraps or as a substitute for mayonnaise, or as a dip.
Babka is a traditional Polish dessert bread that is usually served around Easter. The word “babka” in Polish means grandmother or old woman and the wrinkles from rolling the dough are supposed to represent the wrinkles of an old woman. Making this bread really brings me back to my childhood when my mother would take me to the church fundraiser to buy babkas from the babkas. The filling is really versatile from cheese to fruit and even chocolate. Here is my version with cinnamon and a hint of orange. It’s my Polish version of a cinnamon bun.
For the babka:
3 egg yolks
1 ¼ stick of butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus scant ¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
For the filling:
1 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg white
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and then gradually add the butter, orange zest, and vanilla. Add the sugar and salt and stir. Heat the milk until lukewarm and stir in the yeast to dissolve.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the egg mixture and milk. Stir continuously until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Begin to gently knead the dough. Cover in plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
Knead the dough more thoroughly this time after it has risen. Knead it until the dough is shiny and your hands remain clean. Let sit covered by a damp dish cloth for one hour.
To make the filling, beat all ingredients besides the walnuts in a bowl until well combined. Stir in the walnuts.
Roll the dough out into a rectangular shape about ¼ inch thick. Spread the prepared filling on top of the dough, reserving about ¼ cup. Fold the longer ends about 1-inch into the middle. Then begin rolling the dough from one short end to the opposite short end. Once a log is formed, spread the remaining filling on top and then fold the dough in half. Gently twist the log and then place in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the top with an egg wash.
Bake at 350°F for 40–45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Let loaf cool completely before removing from pan.
From Bake by Edward Gee
Zabaglione with Strawberries and Asian Pears
Zabaglione is a delicate dessert so it must be served fairly soon after being made. Be sure to not let your double boiler get too hot otherwise the eggs will scramble.
For the custard:
8 egg yolks at room temperature
½ cup dry marsala
½ cup sugar
For the fruit topping:
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 asian pear, diced
juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
In a double boiler set on low heat, whisk the yolks, sugar, and marsala until the yolks have thickened and formed ribbons, about 5-8 minutes.
Add the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to a small saucepan and stir gently. Keep the mixture over medium-low heat until it starts to gently bubble. Turn the heat down until mixture has thickened and let cool.
Layer zabaglione with strawberry-pear mixture and serve.
If you are preparing the zabaglione ahead of time, add ½ cup whipped cream to cool zabaglione to maintain its structure.
Photos by Rachel Wisniewski