The Science of Eggs

Eggs as emulsifier

Making mayonnaise from scratch rewards not only in flavour but also in what it can teach you about the magic of emulsification — combining two things that don’t normally blend (oil and water) into one. This process thickens and stabilizes the mixture so it doesn’t separate later. Once you understand how to emulsify, sauce-making becomes practically child’s play. Non-pros may find a blender, food processor or a mixer with a whisk attachment handy — less tiring, quicker and the sheer power and speed of the machine breaks the oil into smaller droplets, creating a more stable emulsion.

Be sure to have both your egg yolks and oil at room temperature before starting. Refrigerate egg-based sauces immediately and keep cold. Making mayonnaise may fall into the why-bother-when-there’s-Hellman’s category, but it’s a good way to learn technique and sharpen skills in the kitchen. Do it once, anyway, just to say you did.

Basic mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ c canola oil

Combine egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Process briefly to blend. With the motor running slowly, add the oil in a thin, steady stream. If the mayo gets too stiff, add 1-2 teaspoons of cold water to thin it. Refrigerate immediately.


Rémoulade (aka tartar sauce)

  • 1 T Dijon
  • ¼ c finely chopped cornichons
  • 1 T chopped capers
  • 1 finely chopped anchovy fillet
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 1 t chopped fresh chervil
  • 1 t chopped fresh tarragon (approximately)
  • 2 c mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together. Serve with fish.


Make rémoulade but omit the anchovies and add 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs.


Fold in ½ c of whipped cream into mayonnaise just before serving.


Make a basic mayonnaise, but omit the mustard and add 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons water, 2 cloves crushed garlic. Slowly incorporate ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil by hand.

Hollandaise sauce

Master hollandaise and you’ll never be a slave to a package of pseudo-hollandaise again!

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 T cold water
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 c (2 sticks) clarified unsalted butter
  • fine sea salt and white pepper

Combine egg yolks with water in a double boiler, or in a bowl set on top of a pot filled with water (have a bowl of iced water on the side). Remove from heat and whisk until fluffy. Return to medium heat and whisk continuously until thickened. It will froth up and subside, but keep whisking. If the egg mixture breaks (appears lumpy or starts to separate), dip the bowl into the bowl of iced water and keep whisking to bring it back. Carefully continue over heat. The mixture has thickened enough when you can see the bottom of the pan between strokes. Remove from heat and quickly and thoroughly whisk in the clarified butter 1 tablespoon at a time. After all the butter has been added, whisk in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Keep sauce warm. Makes about 1¼ cups. Serves 6.

Hollandaise Variations

Blender hollandaise

It won’t have the same airy creaminess but it will do in a pinch. Heat the butter to 165ºF. Blend the eggs and water in a blender, adding melted butter in a thin stream until emulsified. Pour into a bowl then whisk in the lemon juice and season.


  • 1/3 c white wine vinegar
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 5 crushed black peppercorns
  • 3 tarragon sprigs.

Combine ingredients and simmer until reduced to about 2 tablespoons of liquid. Strain, then whisk into the hollandaise instead of lemon juice.

Choron sauce (tomato béarnaise)

The classic way to make this sauce is with a tomato coulis, essentially crushed ripe tomatoes. Cook about ½ cup until reduced by half, then whisk into the béarnaise. If nice, fresh tomatoes are not an option, I’ve had good results with crushed tomatoes in a jar sold at the Italian Centre. You can also use tomato paste, but it won’t taste as good.

Maltaise sauce (orange hollandaise)

Zest ¼ orange and blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water. Drain. Strain the juice from the orange into a saucepan, add the blanched zest and boil until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Whisk into finished hollandaise instead of the lemon juice.

Eggs as leavener

Whipping egg whites causes them to capture air by creating a stable mass of air bubbles (foam) which creates lightness in a dish. Add heat and the foam becomes permanent. Add fat to the equation — like in a quiche, soufflé or curd — and you have both air bubbles and emulsification working their magic. Start with quiche, then meringue and move on to three classics from the French canon — cheese soufflé, lemon soufflé and a decadent chocolate mousse.

Duchess Bakeshop wild boar bacon and mushroom quiche

The Duchess quiche is a mile high and absolutely airy, even though it’s loaded with toothsome bacon and mushrooms and has tons of cream like a good quiche should.

  • 1 pre-baked pie/quiche crust
  • 1 c crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 6 pieces wild boar bacon
  • 400 ml (approx. 1¾ c) heavy cream
  • ½ c whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 t sea salt
  • ½ t pepper
  • ½ t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Chop bacon into 1-inch pieces and sauté in a pan until cooked, rendered and crispy. Add chopped mushrooms and cook until softened. Season to taste. Set aside.

Whisk together cream, eggs and milk in a bowl until well combined.

Add flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg to egg mixture. Whisk until there are no lumps. Fill the pre-baked pie/quiche shell ¾ full with egg mixture. Sprinkle the cooked bacon and mushrooms over top. Bake quiche for approximately 40-50 minutes or until centre of the quiche is firm and does not wiggle.


Meringue are an excellent way to use up leftover egg whites and make a delicious dessert to boot. Make them in any size — you can even pipe small decorative ones called rocher, as they look like little rock piles. Add some cocoa or espresso powder, citrus zest or even toasted coconut. They keep well in a cookie tin at room temperature.

Basic meringue

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1½ c berry sugar
  • 1½ t cornstarch
  • 1 t white wine vinegar
  • ½ t vanilla
  • 1¼ c boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a baking sheet with oiled foil, shiny side up. Put the egg whites, sugar, vinegar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a hand mixer) outfitted with a whisk attachment and beat until combined. Add the boiling water and whisk on high for about 5 minutes, until stiff glossy peaks form. Spoon onto a 9 -10 inch round on the baking sheet. Cook in the centre of the oven for about ten minutes, then turn down to 200°F and cook for about 40 minutes more, until semi-crisp and just starting to colour. Do not overcook. Cool in the oven for one hour, or overnight. Store in an airtight container.

Lemon pavlova with white chocolate and hazelnuts

  • 1 basic meringue recipe (above)
  • lemon curd (recipe below)
  • 1 piece white chocolate (about 1 ounce), chilled
  • ¼ c hazelnuts, rough chopped
  • lemon curd
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ c freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 stick (½ c) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • zest of ½ lemon, grated

Combine yolks, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of the wooden spoon, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth. Stir in zest. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, placed directly on the surface of the curd to keep a skin from forming.

Cool and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Store, refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Makes about 2 cups.

To serve: Spoon lemon curd over the meringue. Shave the white chocolate over and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Serve immediately.

Note: Can’t find hazelnuts and forgot to buy the white chocolate? A Ritter Sport white chocolate hazelnut bar available at most grocery stores will work in a pinch.

Variation: Canadian pavlova

Cook sliced, skin-on Macintosh or Honey Crisp apples in butter with 2 T good rye whiskey and a spritz of fresh lemon juice until soft. Whip cream with a small glug of maple syrup. Gently layer the apple mixture over the meringue, followed by the whiskey whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve with chilled Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider.

Julia Child’s cheese soufflé

A cheese soufflé is a spectacular brunch, lunch or first course. Making soufflé is a bit like making risotto; once you master the technique it’s easy, but you have to pay attention and use best quality ingredients. The egg yolk mixture can be prepped ahead of time, leaving only the egg white step before popping the soufflé in the oven.

  • 2 T finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 2½ T unsalted butter
  • 3 T unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ t paprika
  • ½ t salt
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 c (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (approx 4 ounces)

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400°F.

Butter a 6-cup (1½-quart) soufflé dish. Add Parmesan and tilt dish to coat bottom and sides evenly. Or, prepare 6 ramekins.

Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam and loses raw taste, about 3 minutes. Do not brown. Remove roux from heat; let stand 1 minute.

Meanwhile, warm milk in heavy, small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. Do not boil. Pour warm milk into roux whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt and nutmeg. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Cover and let stand at room temperature for up to two hours.

Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Gently fold 1/4 of whites into the soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions while gradually sprinkling in Gruyère cheese. Transfer batter to prepared dish or ramekins on a cookie sheet. Place in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 375°F.

Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and centre moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.

Lemon soufflé

Serve a simple main, then finish with a spectacular dessert, not that scary to make after all. Tip: When buttering the ramekins use upward strokes to help the egg mixture rise easily.

  • 2 T unsalted butter, plus more, room temperature, for dishes
  • ½ c sugar, plus more for dishes
  • 8 large egg yolks plus 10 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • ¼ c plus 2 T fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 T finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 c whole milk
  • icing sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter six 12-ounce ramekins, and dust with sugar. Whisk together yolks, flour, zest and 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Slowly pour milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent yolks from cooking. Return mixture to pan and whisk until thick like a pudding, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain and whisk in butter and lemon juice.

Beat whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir a third of the whites into the yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites using a rubber spatula.

Fill each ramekin to the top, and smooth. Run a clean cloth around the edges to remove any batter from rims. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and place in the centre of the oven. Bake until soufflés rise and are golden, about 16 minutes. Do not open the door. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

David Leibovitz’s chocolate mousse

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf), Julia Child.

Oh la la. Chocolate pudding, meet your most glamourous cousin. Restaurants in France often have several desserts on offer to pick and choose from, along with a cheese board and, always it seems, a humongous bowl of mousse au chocolat. I have a dim memory of a birthday dinner in Avignon where the waiter playfully handed the entire bowl to me as a present. I didn’t want to give it back.

  • 6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces (170 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ c (60 ml) dark-brewed coffee
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 c (170 g), plus 1 T sugar
  • 2 T (30 ml) dark rum
  • 1 T (15 ml) water
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ t vanilla extract

Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water. In a bowl set on top of the saucepan, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee and stir over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

Or do the same in a microwave, very carefully in 30-second bursts, stirring after every burst until there are still a few chunks. Let the heat of the chocolate mixture melt these.

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk (by hand or with an electric mixer) the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is like runny mayonnaise.

Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.

Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated. Don’t overdo it or the mousse will drop.

Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (until firm). Serves 6-8.

Mousse au chocolat can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Eggs as binder

The most everyday example of kitchen science and eggs is their seemingly effortless ability to bind disparate elements. From the most humble meatloaf to crab cakes dressed up for Sunday dinner, an egg in the mixture keeps all ingredients together and creates a richer texture. In a rich eggy pancake such as pannekoek,the egg binds the starch and fat just enough to allow for some spread and loft.Eggs helps create a moist environment. Veal Milanese or schnitzel’s flour/egg/bead crumb coating creates a barrier, and allows the meat to stream slightly. On the outside, the coating crisps in the fat creating another texture to increase delciousness.

Salmon cakes with mustard herb sauce

You can use any fish including leftover cooked fish. The key to a nice fish cake is to not mash the fish into a paste nor have a heavy hand with the mixing or the shaping.

  • 1 lg can salmon, drained (or equivalent cooked)
  • ¾ c panko crumbs (or fresh bread crumbs)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped fine
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • squeeze of lemon juice (¼ large, ½ small), about 1 T
  • more panko for coating
  • sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly mash bones of the canned salmon if necessary and place in a bowl with the beaten egg and bread crumbs. Stir to combine. Add chopped red pepper, onion, parsley and lemon juice. Season. Cook a bit of the mixture in a pan to check for seasoning. Shape the fish mixture into four cakes/patties and coat with more panko to make a nice crispy outer layer. Bake at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes or until they start to brown. Serve with mustard sauce.

Mustard Sauce Beat 1 spoonful Dijon mustard into 1 tablespoon mayo and 2 tablespoons plain yogurt. Add chopped parsley, squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste.