WATCH: The Surprising Thing You Should Be Doing When You Make Cookies
Baking is all about science. I'm not going to try to explain why ingredients react to make perfectly fluffy soufflés or horribly crunchy cookies, but it all goes back to science. Science is also why certain recipe directions seem odd or pointless. For example, some baking recipes call for room temperature eggs. You may have ignored those words, but they're more important than you think. Why? Science, of course!
Since I'm no expert baker and I'm certainly not a scientist, I reached out to one of our Southern Living Test Kitchen Pros, Sarah Epperson, to learn why room temperature eggs are important when baking cookies and other sweet treats.
In layman's terms that I could understand, "Room temperature eggs mix in a batter much better than a cold egg," Sarah said.
It makes sense. Room temperature or softened butter mixes in a batter better than cold, hard butter, too. When the ingredients are all room temperature, they'll blend easily to make a seamless, even batter. But there's a science-y reason behind it all.
Our friends at Real Simple explain it well: "At room temperature, eggs, butter, and milk bond and form an emulsion that traps air. During baking, the air expands, producing light, airy, evenly baked treats."
Room temperature eggs are extremely important in recipes that require whipping eggs or egg whites, like angel food cake. Cold eggs won't make your batch of cookies taste or look horrible, but taking a little extra time to bring them to room temperature will get you fluffier cookies.
If you have some time to kill before baking, simply let the eggs sit on the counter for no more than two hours. If you're in a hurry, there are still a few ways to bring your eggs to room temperature. If the recipe calls for whole eggs, place them in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes or until they're no longer chilled. Be sure the water isn't too hot—you don't want your eggs prematurely cooking.
If the recipe calls for separated yolks and whites, separate them in two small bowls like you normally would for the recipe. They'll separate more cleanly while still cold, so do this first. Then, set the small bowls in larger bowls or pans that are filled with warm water. If your recipe calls for whole eggs, you can still use this method rather than placing un-cracked eggs in water. As our friends at Food52 pointed out, stainless steel bowls are the best vessel for this method, as stainless steel heats up faster than glass but doesn't retain heat once you remove it from the warm water. That way, your eggs won't continue to warm up after you've removed them from the water.
If you ever think twice about whether or not recipe instructions will really make a difference in the final outcome, always assume they will. Although I don't understand the science behind baking, recipe developers like our Southern Living Test Kitchen Pros do. Whether you're making a simple batch of chocolate chip cookies or a fabulous coconut chiffon cake, letting the eggs come to room temperature will be worthwhile.