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Separating eggs

Following on from our mini disaster in separating eggs for the chocolate mousse, I thought I would look into easy ways of doing it. And immediately I came across this video, so, in a way, there is nothing more to say. She does this video so well - there are around four or five ways of doing it in this one. I'm guessing there are lots of other videos out there doing the same thing, but why go on searching when this one is perfectly fine? So watch this video.

But this is my blog and I really ought to say something more than just " watch this video".

Interestingly she didn't show the somewhat antiquated method that I generally use. And it was difficult to find a picture of it too, which means that I have been out of date for years and years. This is the only one I could see. My method is to break the egg into a cup or a glass, then insert the edge of a dessertspoon carefully under the yolk and gradually tip the cup or glass so that the white pours into a bowl, whilst the yolk is held back in the cup. In this picture, the cook is holding the yolk against the rim of the bowl. If you are doing more than one, you need to separate the white into a new cup each time you break the egg, so that if you break the yolk you have only got to discard one egg. I think this is how I was shown to do it by my mother, or maybe it was how I was shown in my school cooking lessons, and I still do it this way, but like many things, here I am at the age of 77 discovering that there are so many other much easier ways of doing it.

And it's not just that modern technology has found a new way. Virtually all of the methods shown in that video could have been done in ancient times - well before spoons. So let me go through them one by one with my thoughts on each of them.

So first, what could be called the 'classic' method.

The one with the shell seems to be the one that most chefs use. You certainly see them doing it, tossing yolks with abandon from one egg shell to another. Delia, in her How to Cook series of books only tells you about this one. But even here there are two, even three variations. In one you simply break open the egg, so that it is all held in one half of the shell, and then gently tilt the half so that the egg white slides out. In the second one the halves are held close together with the yolk balanced in the middle whilst the white drips through. Much too close to jagged edges it seems to me. In the third one, they sort of almost toss the yolk backwards and forwards between the two halves with the white tipping out every time. Now to me this seems to be a method fraught with disaster because of the jagged edges of the shell just waiting to pierce the yolk. I have never tried it for that reason. I must admit watching my son do this on Saturday, when they were down to their last two eggs with my heart in my mouth. So all praise to him for succeeding. Anyway it might look classy, easy and nonchalant, but I personally think this is even more dangerous than my method. I think it's just chefs showing off.

Then there is the one that I tried to use on Saturday without a lot of success - straining it through the fingers. My white just wouldn't separate from the yolk, it just hung on. And there are two versions of this too. In the first you break the egg into your hand - which is actually pretty tricky. I couldn't find a picture, but the video clearly shows how. I have done it, but if you want one hand to hold the yolk it's a bit tricky breaking the egg - I need two hands for that, and then getting the egg, unbroken into the other hand. All those jagged shell edges are alarming again. An easier way to do it - sort of shown here - is that you break all your eggs into a bowl without breaking the yolks of course, and then you gently slide your hand underneath a yolk and lift it out so that the white runs through the fingers into the bowl. And now that I see this I think that this is probably the way to go. Yes you get a bit messy but that's no problem. And it's probably the way the did it for centuries.

However, there is perhaps an even easier way - or two. Instead of your hands, use a slotted spoon - a nifty trick. You can perch your spoon over a small bowl or a cup, break your egg into it and let the white run through, or else scoop the yolk out with the spoon. You can also buy various gadgets which serve the same purpose, although I'm not sure I have ever seen one. I'm sure they vary a bit, but fundamentally they would be a small sieve shape with a sort of cup in the bottom and slots at the side for the whites to run through, or else a sieve with big holes I suppose. That would work too.

And finally there's the suction method. Break your eggs into a bowl. Get a plastic bottle and squeeze it in the middle so that some of the air goes out, hold it over the yolk, release the squeezed bit and the yolk is sucked up. You can then drop it in another bowl. I suspect kids would love this method. And you can get little rubber sucking up things too. Make sure you wash it between uses though. This one must be a fairly recent innovation because of the plastic bottle that is required.

Well all of those - except the tossing between shells - are easier than what I have been doing all my life, so next time I have to do this I think I shall be breaking an egg into a bowl and then scooping the yolk out, either with a slotted spoon or my hand. The lady on the video also thought that this was best, particularly if you have lot of eggs to do. Nigella agreed, although she did it the trick way, by breaking the egg into her hand.

By the way, Delia thinks its best done with fresh eggs as there is less danger of breaking the yolk, and she also said that it's best done with cold eggs. Aldi probably has those gadgets for straining the white from the yolk every now and then. Must keep my eyes open.


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