Every romantic loves the idea of 'pastured chicken eggs'; daily picked fresh from your own backyard or purchased by the dozen from local farms. They're so lovely with their speckles, odd shapes, sizes and brightly colored yolks! There's nothing quite like cooking up fresh, pastured eggs in the morning for breakfast. But when it comes to baking with pastured eggs, there are a few things that you need to consider if you want to get the best performance out of your recipes.
Eggs are, like flour, considered to be 'structural' ingredients in baking. Meaning that they are included in recipes not only for their flavor, but also because they play a critical role in both binding together the ingredients and providing volume to the baked goods as well.
Nutritionally speaking, eggs are the same regardless of color, be it white, brown, speckled or beige, while the size of the egg is often determined by the age of the hen. Store bought eggs are graded according to freshness and quality, specifically the firmness of the yolk and thickness of the white. Then they are sorted according to size, ranging from small to medium, large, x-large and even jumbo!!!
So when you're purchasing 'pastured' eggs, you can most often assume that they are non-graded and non-size sorted eggs. Basically, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, weights and quality. This can present a few problems when it comes to replicating your favorite recipe. Not to mention that if you are creating a recipe that you want others to be able to replicate, it may not always be best to just say how many 'pastured eggs' are needed, without also communicating the amount of actual 'egg volume' you are really intending that recipe to have in it.
As a general rule, "large" chicken eggs are the standard in professional recipes unless otherwise specified by the creator of the recipe. Since commercial eggs are sorted by size you can assume that when a recipe says "4 eggs", the volume of egg that is produced will be fairly consistent across the board. When using pastured eggs, because of the wide range of sizes that you might get in a given dozen, you can't always simply replace egg for egg and expect to get the same results when baking. In smaller recipes this effect may be less significant, but the more a recipe relies on eggs as a key ingredient, the quicker the margin for error goes up, making it difficult to get consistent results. To adjust to this, we have to begin thinking of eggs in terms of volume/weight instead of count, meaning, "how many ounces of egg" rather than simply, "how many individual eggs". Most professional chefs use this 'weighing' method for ALL their baking and cooking. This is why they get such tasty and consistent results.
Weights and measurements will also be quite handy for you if you are using other non-chicken eggs, such as duck or pheasant eggs. I would also say quail eggs....but then I'm imagining you cracking a thousand tiny little eggs for one recipe. But hey, whatever works for you, works for me! Here at the Urban Poser...we don't judge! So....
Here is the approximate weight/volume) break down for a standard large egg. I have included measurements by the tablespoon as well, to make things a little easier for you (although 'weighing' would still be the most accurate choice).
In shell: 2 -2.4 ounces, 57 grams, or about 3 tablespoons out of shell.
White Only: slightly over one ounce (1.06 ounces), 28 grams, or about 2 1/4 tablespoons
Yolk Only: 0.6 ounces, 18 grams, or about 1 tablespoon
For 1/2 a shelled large egg, just lightly beat one (large) egg and measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons.
Note: If you have your own hens, it is possible to get a feel for the size of eggs they will lay. But remember, as the hens get older the eggs will likely get larger and the younger they are, the smaller the eggs will be.