With so many egg choices available in the grocery store, it's difficult to know which type of egg to buy.
Eggs come in many categories: organic, free range, cage free, natural, minimally processed, omega 3 enriched, low cholesterol and the regular (and cheapest) type.
A quality, fresh, nutrient rich egg (from any category of eggs) will have whites that are thick plus yolks that are plump and orange in color. The shells will be firm so you have to tap pretty hard to crack them. Once cracked, quality eggs should be fresh smelling - almost without fragrance.
The better quality the egg, the better the result you will have with your baking.
If you know someone who raises chickens, that's the best egg to get. Here in Fauquier County, Virginia, you'll see signs on road sides everywhere offering eggs. Local, farm fresh eggs are prized and there for purchased long before they've had a chance to break down with age.
Small producers almost never cage their birds or use antibiotics. It's just not profitable for them to take such extreme, factory chicken methods. Plus people who raise chickens often raise them for their own families then sell off the extras and they want to be sure their families have quality food. So, while they're not necessarily certified "organic", you can bet they probably are.
While I am a strong supporter of natural and organic foods, when it comes to eggs, I'm sorry to say that the grocery store speciality eggs I tested over a period of many months were all below average when it came to freshness and taste.
The whites were watery. The yolks were flat and yellow rather than orange. The shells were so thin I could bearly get the eggs out of the carton without breaking. (A thin shell means the chicken had a diet very low in calcium. The resulting egg would therefore also be low in calcium.)
I tested organic, free range, cage free, natural, minimally processed, omega 3 enriched and low cholesterol eggs all with similar results.
My guess is that the expensive price tags of speciality eggs kept them on the shelves longer than the regular eggs.
Time after time, the regular store brand eggs had thicker whites, plumper yolks and fresher smells with prices a fraction of the speciality eggs.
So what about antibiotics and the humane treatment of chickens?
This is frustrating question. Again, I recommend local, farm eggs but that isn't always possible.
Large egg producers are going to great length to assure consumers that eggs are humainely produced and free or within safe levels of anti-biotics.
An organization called The United Egg Producers has set up a very informative web site to answer all your questions: http://www.uepcertified.com/ about mass produced eggs.
As of this writing, I have not found a speciality egg that's worth the high price tag.
For holiday baking, regular eggs will be very competively priced and are often rock bottom cheap. Plus they sell so fast this time of year that you'll be assured of fresh eggs for baking.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Great the day it's made - better the next
Makes 1 (9 X 5) inch loaf
1/2 cup oil
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1-3/4 cups all purpose (white) flour
1-1/2 cups baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Position oven rack so loaf will bake in center. Preheat to 350 degrees. Grease pan or coat with baking spray.
In one bowl whisk together oil, sugar,eggs, pumpkin and milk. In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Stir both bowls together.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Bread is done when a cake tester comes out clean and bread pulls away slightly from pan sides. Remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes before attempting to remove from pan.
Check back tomorrow as we count the days till Thanksgiving with scrumptious recipes for festive fall fare.
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