Eggs are as nutritious as they are versatile

Just in time for spring celebration menus, it looks like many of us can drop the worry about eating a few eggs – yolks and all.

Although the new dietary guidelines won’t be published until much later in the year, the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee suggests that the advice for heart healthy diets may shift from decreasing dietary cholesterol to decreasing saturated fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates.

This isn’t really very new thinking – it is the painful, slow process of discovering that accepted scientific thought is incorrect and then changing the advice given to the public. The advice to limit cholesterol intake has been around since the 1960s but more recent research has shown that for most people, eating high-cholesterol, low-fat foods like eggs doesn’t increase heart disease or raise blood cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that that there are some individuals who are genetically more sensitive to eating cholesterol and this should be discussed with your medical provider if you have diabetes or if you have been advised to lower cholesterol intake.

Nutritional power

Eggs contain about 200 milligrams of cholesterol, almost the whole amount that was previously recommended for a day. So, limiting eggs has always been one of the biggest ways to reduce daily cholesterol intake. With the new advice, we can remember some of their other qualities. Eggs are a source of high quality protein, choline (good for the brain), Vitamin D, iron and lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration.

Eggs and doughs

In addition to the great nutrient package, eggs provide a delicious and versatile ingredient found in cuisines throughout the world. I can’t say that I have a favorite preparation because there are just too many ways to use an egg (poached, crepes, strata, frittata) but I have always loved the color and texture in the classic braided Challah Bread or the richer German Kugelhopf, Russian Kulich, Babka (recipe below) or Italian Pannetone. All incorporate eggs into a slightly sweet, soft yeast dough that rises beautifully and yields a fragrant, cake-like texture.

The rich dough can be shaped in a bundt cake pan and drizzled with frosting after baking – not too sweet, not too much cholesterol and very satisfying.

Cardamom Lemon Babka

1 cup scalded milk

½ tsp salt

¼ cup warm water (110 F°)

6 cups flour

1 pkg dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

¾ cup golden raisins

8 oz sour cream

¾ cup dried cherries

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup dried cranberries

3 whole eggs

peel of one lemon

1 egg yolk

¾ tsp ground cardamom

4 tbl butter, softened

1 tbl lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

powdered sugar

½ tsp almond extract

Place warm water in a small bowl, add yeast and 1 tsp of sugar. Allow yeast to soften and become foamy. Scald milk and let cool to room temperature. Whisk sour cream into the milk.

Place eggs, yolk and granulated sugar into the bowl of a sturdy mixer and beat on high speed until thick and pale. Add yeast mixture, vanilla, almond extract, cardamom, lemon peel and salt and mix briefly.

If you have a dough hook for your mixer, change to the dough hook and begin adding flour – add about 4 cups of flour and softened butter cut into pieces mix for a few minutes until a soft dough forms (if you don’t have a dough hook, mix flour in with a wooden spoon.)

Remove dough from mixing bowl, place on a floured surface and knead until a soft, smooth but still damp dough has formed – add the rest of the flour gradually as you knead the dough. Place your dough into an oiled or buttered bowl – lightly oil or butter the surface of the dough and cover with a towel. Place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in bulk. After rising, punch dough down and let it rest for a few minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

Place dough back on a very lightly floured surface and gently knead in the dried fruit. Shape into a ring and place inside a buttered 10 – 12 cup bundt pan. Oil/butter surface of dough, cover and let the dough rise until doubled.

Uncover the pan and place in the center of pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes or until the “loaf” sounds hollow. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to cooling rack.

In a small bowl, mix 2 cups of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and just enough water to create a slightly runny frosting. Place the warm cake on a plate and drizzle frosting over the cake. Cool completely before serving.

Leslie Shallcross is a registered dietitian and associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in Anchorage. Call her at 786-6313.

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