Easy as boiling an egg

Who came up with that expression, anyway?  Whoever they were must have been talking about hard-boiled eggs, which I agree are pretty straightforward.  Well, relatively straightforward – hardboiling them is not too tricky, provided you don’t crack the shell by putting a fridge-cold egg into boiling water, and provided you know the mystical incantations that prevent it from cracking anyway. (Everyone, knows the mystical incantations, right?  I don’t need to repeat them here?)

I mean, it’s difficult to overboil an egg, so you have a lot of leeway.  And if you are feeling creative, you can always draw on them with wax candles or crayons, or tie them tightly into a stocking with some ferns and small flowers, and then boil them in dye to make pretty patterns.  Or you can simmer them slowly with tea and spices to make Chinese Tea eggs.

I have done all of these things.

You can also try boiling them in the microwave without pricking a hole in them, just to see what happens.  I have not done this, but I gather the results are spectacular, if you don’t mind cleaning your microwave afterwards.

What I have not done successfully, O my readers, is soft boil an egg.

In my defense, I can make a soufflé. Then again, people tend to write detailed recipes for soufflés.  And even when you get a recipe telling you how to boil an egg, it generally doesn’t tell you things like at what point you should consider the water to be sufficiently boiling for you to start the timer (I mean, I know what a rolling boil looks like, and I think I know what a simmer is, but there is a lot of room between those points), or whether you should turn the heat down while the egg cooks, or how much.  Trust me, if you mostly learned to cook from cookbooks, this stuff is *not* intuitive.

Anyway, the point is that I keep missing, and as far as I know, there is no way to check whether the egg is done right without removing it from its shell (I’m pretty sure the spinning test only works on hard boiled eggs.) – and once you do that, it’s too late.  If you’re lucky, you have hard- or medium-boiled eggs (rats!),  If you’re less lucky, the white is still loose and half cooked and completely revolting.

I actually got pretty close today.  I’m off work sick with some kind of bug, and decided that toasted sourdough with a soft boiled egg might be just the thing.  It might be, too, but I’ll never know, because it was medium-boiled.  But… on the underdone side of medium-boiled.  Almost soft-boiled.  Close enough that I am tempted to try doing another one later, though that is probably the way of madness.

Still, there was a Christopher Robinish sort of comfortingness in sitting there in my flannel pajamas, eating toast with a boiled egg on the one hand and toast with marmalade – which wasn’t so bad after all – on the other.  All I need is some lovely rice pudding for dinner tonight, and I’m sure that by tomorrow my sneazles and meazles will have vanished away…

(I think Andrew would probably object to the rice pudding, which is a pity, because I’ve never tried it, and suddenly I have the strongest urge to do so.)

… One of these days, I *will* sit down and experiment with boiling eggs until I get it right, and then I will write it up here in the sort of excruciating detail that will make you all astonished that I have ever cooked anything successfully at all, but I tell you, soft-boiled eggs are much harder than they are cracked up to be.  So to speak.  That really was awful, but since it was unintentional, I’m going to leave it be.  Anyway, today is not the day for eggish experimentation, because me and my flannel pajamas are going right back to bed to sleep off this lurgy.  See you in the morning!

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12 comments for “Easy as boiling an egg

  1. Megan
    June 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    You’ve never tried rice pudding? Oh my! It’s one of my favourite things!

    I’m with you on the soft-boiled eggs, though – I can reliably make *almost* perfect ones, but perfect eludes me.

    • June 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Well, I used to hate rice, you see. And now that I don’t, Andrew isn’t too keen on it, so I haven’t bothered trying it.

      But I’m suddenly craving it!

      • Andrew McLean
        July 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

        Just to clarify, I’ve always liked rice in a non-dessert context. And as it turned out, I wasn’t as opposed to rice pudding as you feared 🙂

  2. Lirion
    June 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Why bother soft boiling the egg when you can poach it? 🙂
    Nom! And no fussing to get it out of it’s shell!
    (Poached is my favourite egg way – that sounds…dubious)

    As for less than helpful cooking instructions, yesterday I came across “Warm the milk to roughly baby bottle temperature, not any hotter”, in reference to adding the sugar and yeast for home made hot cross buns (it wasn’t mentioned that the reason you don’t want it hotter is because it will effect the yeast). As someone who doesn’t have children, I found this instruction…less than enlightening shall we say *rolls eyes*

    As for rice pudding, why not make Chinese black/purple sticky dessert rice with coconut instead? 🙂

    I hope you’re feeling better. I too have some sort of lurgy and it’s awful.

    • June 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      I’ve never tried to poach an egg! It’s on my list of things to learn (though I think my current batch of eggs are not quite fresh enough for optimum poaching).

      As for the milk thing, how utterly useless! In case you didn’t know, the good thing about yeast is that you can add water that is as cold as you like, and all it will do is slow the yeast down, so erring towards cold rather than warm is pretty safe.

      And purple rice, eh? Clearly, you know me well!

  3. treeandleaf
    June 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Rice pudding is lovely eaten with jam (or perhaps with marmalade? *g*)

    • June 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      Actually, I have some really luscious fresh raisins that I feel belong in such a dish…

  4. June 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Boiled eggs are my nemesis – I never made one until recently when Sylvia developed a taste for them and I find that too many of mine are soft boiled because she only likes the yolk hard – this probably means if I ever try to do soft boiled it will be hard boiled – life is like that!

    As for rice pudding, I wasn’t so keen on my mum’s but realise I was a fool when I recently made it – it is great comfort food – I have a basic rice pudding on my blog but also a chocolate rice pudding that I highly recommend, if you want some suggestions

    • June 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Glad it’s not just me!

      I’ll definitely check out your recipe. My brain was pondering a chocolate and marmalade rice pudding, which may be missing the point of the exercise, but would still be yummy…

  5. NancyB
    June 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    I’m so with you on soft-boiled eggs. I tried several times under the influence of various English children’s books with descriptions of nursery teas, soft -boiled eggs not having been a part of my (Southern US) upbringing. Unset whites or almost-hard eggs resulted. Bought a gage that boils with the egg…not much help.

    I concluded this would take regular experimentation to get the egg size, starting egg temp, water temp, and timing down, and went back to my cheater poached eggs using a little egg cup over boiling water. Life is too short…

    • June 28, 2011 at 9:19 am

      I’m pretty sure mum made them a few times. I just never learned.

      I’m seriously considering the experimentation.

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