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Flour Girl: How the other half (of the egg) lives

Berry Pavlova With Passion Fruit Sauce. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

Easter gives center stage to the egg. This little ovum has been a food source for all time, and controversial for nearly as long. The all-in-one perfect food to some, a little cholesterol bomb to others.

As a baker and dessert fan, I see eggs as vital. I know there are plenty of vegan recipes out there that replace the egg, and I truly respect them -- when done well. But for the non-vegan cook seeking reliable results, there is nothing like the egg. It performs in ways no substitute can. The yolk thickens and emulsifies. The white leavens and provides structure. Together, they are one of nature's truly amazing ingredients.

Without making judgments about the nutritional value, I offer some of the recipes we've run that highlight the merits of each side.

In the egg-white corner, we have some classics:

Angel Food Cakes With Tangerines. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

Angel Food Cakes With Tangerines are a fat-phobic dieter's best friend, ethereal in texture while still sating the sweet tooth. Of course the fruit can be whatever is in season (or chocolate sauce).

My personal favorite are Meringues. I have memories of going to the bakery as a kid and choosing a perfectly white meringue nest. It was edible art. I am still amazed that a liquid food can morph into such a solid structure. They fill beautifully with berries (or chocolate mousse ... do you sense a theme?)

Speaking of berries, the Australians have gilded the proverbial lily by using meringue as a base for Berry Pavlova with Passion Fruit Sauce.

Some Chocolate Mousses are true to the name: light and airy, dependent on egg whites for their lofty nature, and can be served with fruit.

When it comes to the yolk, the dessert options are just as varied:

The first one that comes to mind is Creme Brulee. Most every restaurant served it in the '90s, and for good reason. The custard base makes the most of accompanying flavors. Vanilla is enhanced by the creamy texture, and many other treatments such as coffee or hazelnut are equally successful.

Zabaglione Semifreddi With Vin Santo and Crushed Amaretti. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

Zabaglione is a yolk-based sauce that incorporates air and a touch of wine for its decadent yet light results. In Domenica Marchetti's hands, it becomes a delectable semifreddo, garnished with amaretti.

And for a down-home classic that uses the yolks in one piece of the dish and the whites in another, try Warm Banana Pudding Pie. Nothing beats it for a comfort dessert.

Both parts of the egg are capable of wondrous things. So, next time you have a recipe that calls for only one half of this great food, don't toss the other half. Freeze it. (Whites freeze beautifully as is, while egg yolks need 1/8 teaspoon of salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar for every four yolks to prevent gumminess.) Once you defrost, you can honor the other side with its very own dish.

-- Leigh Lambert

By Leigh Lambert  |  April 1, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, baking  
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