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Egg-sactly What We Were Looking For

Well, this had to happen too, though we did not expect it for at least another couple of weeks. We’ve got hens now – pullets to be sure (the technical term for what might pass as a chicken in the 8th grade, hanging around the lockers in the hallways, flirting with the boys), but definitely coming into her own. She can lay eggs, but they are really quite small. And if you read Joel Salatin’s book on raising pastured poultry, Pastured Poultry
you don’t want to hatch those eggs or buy chicks that have been hatched from them – any chick hatched out from a pullet egg is going to be, by definition, much smaller than an egg laid by a mature hen and prone to physical problems, weakness and disease.

Small? On the scale of “Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, Jumbo and OOOOO, That Hurts”, this particular egg did not even register as a Pee Wee. Pee Wee Eggs need to be 1.25 ounces. This one weighed 1 ounce. Flat.

Fertile? Maybe – possibly – but not necessarily likely as at this early date – a pullet’s reproductive system is still getting organized in terms of putting the eggs together, putting a membrane around it and putting a shell around it. Sometimes things get all mixed up and you can get eggs-within-eggs, eggs without yolks and so on. Odd Eggs

One of the things that occurred to me when I was looking up the weights on egg grades (and if you want to know more about eggs than perhaps you EVER wanted to know, go
USDA Egg Manual
is this: the weight of an egg is really sort of indicative of how much actual liquefied stuff is resident inside that shell. I realize that sounds sort of like an agricultural ‘No, duh” but for those of us who bake, the size of an egg – the sheer amount of liquid that it adds to a recipe – makes a huge amount of difference in terms of the end product. The more liquid in the recipe, the more dried ingredients you need to balance it off. Here’s a basic chart:

Egg Size………..Weight Per Egg in Ounces
Jumbo…………..2.5
Extra Lge………2.25
Large……………2
Medium……….1.75
Small……………1.5
PeeWee……….1.25

Now, let’s just look at that for a second. If your cake recipe calls for 2-3 large eggs (and there are a whole lot of cake recipes that do call for that – we’re not talking chiffon cakes or pound cake or anything like that) that is between 4 and 6 ounces of liquefied stuff. It occupies a certain amount of space in the batter. For the sake of argument, let’s say that your spousal unit went to the farmers market and thinking he’d do you a good deed, he bought Extra Large eggs instead of Large. If you use 2-3 Extra Large eggs, you are putting between 4.5 ounces and 6.75 ounces of liquefied stuff into your cake batter instead of the 4 ounces which would have been contributed by 2 Large eggs.

Better to hedge your bets and only put in 2 Extra large eggs (4.5 ounces), see how the batter handles that and if it is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (such as the light olive oil made for sautéing and baking).

Why not just add another Extra Large egg? Because if you do that, then you have to balance that off with more flour and in a cake (especially if you have already added the flour and have beaten it up and the protein in the flour, the gluten, has been worked a bit), this can frankly make the cake texture “tough” and the added flour may not combine as well as the rest and you will end up with little clumps of flour in the cake when it’s been baked.

Yuck.

Or, let’s look at the other side of things. Now, I sincerely doubt that you’d be able to find, in your local “super-marche” small or even medium size graded eggs. Just like, your chances of finding anything other than Grade A or Grade AA eggs are basically nonexistent. But at a farmers market, you just might be able to find mediums or even smalls. What do you do then? Well, if you know you have mediums right up front and know that you need 4-6 ounces of stuff, then you can do a little bit of figuring and and jigger the recipe right from the get-go. Take out your calculator and multiply the number of large eggs called for in the recipe by 2 ounces and then divide that by the number of ounces per egg that is in the size egg you’ve got.

Voila.

And, this little egg here – well, it is going to be joined by many many brother and sister eggs over the next several months. Once a hen gets her egg laying system going, they produce, on average, 2 eggs every 3 days. And we have 12 hens out there. That means for every hen, in a two week period, we’re going to get (on average again..all dependent on feed, light, warmth, etc.) 8 eggs.

And we’ve got 12 hens out there. That’s 96 eggs. Every two weeks.

You see how people end up in the egg business?

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3 Comments

  1. Darryl Wood says:

    Great information. Never realized the issues with egg liquid and flour ratios in baking.

  2. Aunt Toby says:

    IT’s what makes the difference between cookies that are cookies and cookies that are really ‘cakies’.

  3. Carolyn says:

    1. I’m pretty sure someone needs to write a “cakies” recipe book, if only for the name.

    2. This was really informative. I never thought about a chicken’s reproductive system in such detail. Imagining an egg REVERSING back up the shoot (yes, the shoot – I think that’s the technical name for it) to get covered with a second shell is crazy and cool.

    3. I miss you guys a lot.

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