Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Many recipes call for something “at room temperature”. So what does that really mean and why does it make a difference?
The phrase room temperature means that food – usually eggs or butter – has been sitting out of the refrigerator long enough to affect how the food acts. For example in a cheesecake I will set the cream cheese and eggs out before I go to bed to use in the morning. This allows them to reach about 65 degrees +/-. While the temperature is not exact the results are. In a cheesecake the cream cheese has to be soft. If you add cold eggs to soft cream cheese, the mixture may form lumps. If the cream cheese is cold it will not cream and you will have lumps of cheese, not good! Likewise a soufflé or meringue will rise higher if the egg whites are not cold. It is basic chemistry the whites will allow more air to whip in if they are cold. Eggs sitting at room temperature should be used that day. So if you have some left over, make egg salad or hard boiled eggs.
The other thing to remember is that many of our classic recipes were created when refrigeration was not common or much different than today. Also the cooks then used fresh eggs and butter that most likely were not cooled. Don’t go overboard just be smart how you use the ingredients and you will have a better result.