Technique: How to temper eggs
Oct 12, 2011, Updated Mar 13, 2012
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When cooking with eggs for a pudding, like the rice pudding we are making this week, the method calls for adding the eggs to hot milk. If you did this without first tempering the eggs, you would end up with scrambled eggs in the milk. Too bad I didn’t quite understand this when I made scrambled egg brownies so many times growing up, adding cold egg to the hot chocolate mixture on the stove.
But that’s not going to happen to us with our rice pudding. Here’s the easy way to prevent ruin on the path to creamy pudding heaven: Whisk the eggs with the other ingredients, in this case it will be cornstarch, sugar, salt. Secure your bowl of eggs by setting it on a damp towel, or maybe you have one of those great skid-proof melamine bowls. Slowly pour some of the hot milk into the eggs—you can do this a spoonful at a time, or by pouring directly from the saucepan, but be careful not to let milk run down the side of the pan and all over your counter. Whisk constantly as the milk meets the eggs, to ease the two temperatures together. Now you are tempered. Or at least your eggs are, and when you then pour them into the remaining hot milk, the result will be a perfect union.
I wasn’t able to whisk while taking this shot because I’m doing this alone (Mom’s downstate) and needed one hand for the camera, and one to pour. The whole scene in my kitchen looked fairly ridiculous.