Every New Year brings a fresh food trend to chefs, recipe developers, and foodies everywhere. These trends enjoy several months of celebrity status before they are either embraced by home cooks everywhere or totally forgotten about. You might recognize some of these past trends:
- Salted caramel
- Chipotle peppers in everything
- Bacon in desserts
You get the idea.
This year a food trend that has been building over the past five years or so is about to explode. It doesn’t require special equipment or rare ingredients. It’s a lowly duck egg.
Why Duck Eggs Are Better for Baking
Duck eggs are similar in many ways to chicken eggs but are almost always free range. The yolks vary in their golden orange color with the season and the feed used. They are invariably larger. Raw duck yolks are thick, rich, and custardy. Many pastry chefs feel that because of that the duck eggs are superior when making cream and custard fillings. They tend to be a bit higher in albumen and fat that their cackling cousins as well. This means that your baked goods will have a richer texture, stay moist longer, and rise higher than you ever imagined.
Here’s a tip – when baking gluten free use duck eggs. The added protein in the whites will help bind the gluten free ingredients better and cause the texture to be lighter, fluffier, and more like wheat based cakes and other baked goods.
The duck eggs have a grayish shell that is firm and thick. It can be a bit more challenging to crack than a chicken egg because of that healthy shell.
Into the Frying Pan
Making the change to duck eggs in baked goods is not really a big deal. They are mixed up with so many other ingredients that they have little impact on the actual flavor – but how do they work fried, boiled, or even scrambled?
Some people taste a difference in flavor. If you have been used to commercially produced eggs that you buy in the grocery store then you will probably feel that the duck eggs have a strong “eggy” flavor. If you eat fresh eggs from free range chickens you won’t notice much of a flavor difference.
The eggs fry up firmer than chicken eggs – again there is a slight difference in the texture that some people won’t like. Try them scrambled or in an omelet first. When you do fry them make sure that they are not overcooked. Duck eggs are less forgiving that chicken eggs and overcooking them will make them tough and rubbery.
If you really must have your egg fried then steam fry them by adding a tablespoon or so of water to the pan and covering it until the eggs are cooked to your preference. There are those that think duck eggs are the best things in the world while others describe them as oily and strong flavored.
Adapting Recipes to Duck Eggs
If you plan to use duck eggs to replace chicken eggs you’ll need to adjust the recipe to allow for the slightly larger egg. The easiest way to do this is to add the eggs by weight. A chicken egg is 2 to 2.5 ounces so you would measure that much on a food scale. It is easiest if you mix the egg and the yolk together before measuring so that you can get a more exact weight of both components. Other than that you can feel free to continue with the recipe as written.
Beating the egg whites can take tenacity. Keep at it – once they are frothy they beat into a meringue as quickly as chicken eggs. Always separate eggs cold and then beat the whites when they come to room temperature. It will make the job much easier.
Since there isn’t a huge market for duck eggs (yet) they are usually a seasonal item that can be found at farmers’ markets in the spring. Also check gourmet groceries and health food stores. If you really can’t find them nearby you aren’t destined to a life bereft of even one taste of this delicious food. DuckEggs.com carries the eggs all year but you will definitely pay the price. They are not cheap!
Recipes with Duck Eggs to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
So, you’ve decided to try duck eggs but don’t know where to start? Here are some recipes featuring duck eggs.
- Red Potato Salad with Bacon and Duck Eggs
- Smoked Bacon Hash with a Fried Duck Egg
- Mario Batali’s Duck Egg on Fontina and Toast
So, will duck eggs ride the wave successfully and be the poster-ingredient of 2014? It’s hard to say. Because of the high quality of the baked goods there will always be people who prefer baking with duck eggs. With the push for consumers to buy fresh, local ingredients duck eggs may very well find their niche in the home cook’s kitchen.
Like all of the other food fads, time will tell.