I don't usually write baking entries, but today I'm gonna go totally Bakerina and talk about eggs. Reading this article in the latest issue of Discover Magazine, I stumbled upon a scientific breakthrough in the age-old art of egg boiling. After extensive research, French molecular gastronomists have determined that there is a much better way to cook a boiled egg.
Apparently, there is a major drawback to the traditional method of immersing an egg for seven to ten minutes in boiling water. It's too hot. Different proteins firm up at different temperatures, and boiling makes the egg far tougher and rubbery in consistency than it needs to be. What you want is for the ovotransferrin in the white to solidify but not the ovalbumin. Ovotransferrin hardens at 142°F, and ovalbumin hardens at 184°F. So you've got to keep your egg somewhere in the middle. The French molecular gastronomists recommend 158°F, since that is the point at which most proteins in the yolk will solidify.
With a good cooking thermometer and plenty of water, perfection in egg cooking is easy to achieve. The process requires a minimum of one hour of cooking time but no maximum. Apparently, as long as the temperature stays at the required level, overcooking is impossible.
Fascinating as all this is, I doubt I would have found it blogworthy if not for one additional fact, which I found absolutely astounding. No water is necessary! That's right. You can actually bake these puppies. Just stick them in the oven. Not even a cookie sheet is necessary. For some reason I was always under the impression that baking raw unshelled eggs would cause them to explode. (Perhaps they do under higher temperatures.) But I tried the oven method and the eggs came out perfectly. I did find that they were hard to shell cleanly, but that sometimes happens even with normally boiled eggs.
So how were they? The were good. The biggest difference is that they didn't feel or taste as rubbery as regular boiled eggs. The white was a lot more tender while still holding its shape and had much more flavor to it. The yolk was also a bit softer and brighter in color without any greenish discoloration on its exterior. It was also evenly cooked. (In my experience most boiled eggs have slightly raw centers.)
I have to say I still enjoy regular boiled eggs. Their plasticky feel makes them fun to play with, which makes them fun to eat. (I like American cheese for the same reason.) But in terms of flavor and presentation, the French have definitely improved on an old classic. (It just doesn't bounce as well.)