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Coddling Your Eggs Is Good for Them

As a kid, cracking the shell of a soft-boiled egg in my pink porcelain egg cup was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. In high school, making a near-perfect crème brûlée in cooking class was one of my standout moments. In college, they were a cheap source of protein to fortify those bowls of chicken-flavored ramen. And as a full-blown adult, they’re the most versatile ingredients in my kitchen.

But in this lifelong amour d’oeufs, I’d never made or even eaten a coddled egg. I’d come across some stuffy porcelain coddlers collecting dust on antique store shelves, but when Katy Andersen, the Lot18 Gourmet Curator, showed me the Jenaer Glas coddlers design by Bauhaus master Wilhelm Wagenfeld, I suddenly became very intrigued.

Though I’m usually hesitant to bring ultra-specialized devices into my kitchen, function aside, they were just gorgeous objects. And because they’re clear, they wouldn’t require the same blind faith in the kitchen timer that those porcelain numbers would. I invited several friends over to sample my eggy experiments, and got coddling.

Though it might sound otherwise, coddling your eggs does not involve emotionally suffocating them. Or even being overly gentle with them. At its most basic, you break an egg into a well-buttered container, put it in a pot of simmering water without fully submerging it, and basically double boil the thing. It turns out, it’s a little more foolproof than poaching with a bit of practice.

 

Experiment 1: The 8-Minute Egg

I liberally butter the inside of the coddlers, break an egg into each, pop the tops on, snap on the handy metal closures and put them into a pot filled with simmering water that reaches just above the line of the eggs.

After 8 minutes, they’re still looking soft on top.

But after running a knife around the edge of the eggs to loosen them and plating, it turns out I’ve effectively made funny-shaped hard-boiled eggs. When I cut them open to check the yolk consistency, I end up with two rubbery Pac Men. My companions eat them, begrudgingly.

Experiment 2: The 5 ½-Minute Egg

After giving the coddlers a thorough washing, I re-butter and break some new test subjects into them. After submerging for 5 ½ minutes, the eggs are still looking suspiciously jiggly on top. But in the interest of science, I decide to stop the cooking and test them out.

After removing the eggs from the coddlers, as it turns out, these are just amazing. The yolks are a perfect just-slightly-warmed runny, and the portions of the white that were in contact with the glass have crisped in the butter. My companions forgive me as they scarf these down.

Experiment 3: Cured Cheese and Strawberry Soufflé

These coddlers came with several “not just for coddling anymore!” recipes, including this one. Reading “cured” (aged) cheese in the ingredients list, I was nervous, and briefly considered defecting to crème fraiche. But I had some delicious Spanish Mahón from La Tienda left at home, which seemed like as good a crapshoot as any for this test.

I followed the recipe with a few tweaks: I overdid it a bit with the lemon zest, made some strawberry sauce from scratch with frozen strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, and opted to microplane the cheese to make sure it integrated well.

I buttered the coddlers and sprinkled them with sugar, then added the fresh strawberries and the hot syrup to the bottom.

Then, after spooning in the meringue-sugar-yolk-cinnamon-lemon-zest mixture, I put them into a pot containing about an inch of hot water. I then popped it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for exactly 15 minutes.

As I’d never made a soufflé before and had heard little about them other than how impossible they are to get right and just how often they fall, I was nervous. But after working through the directions and taking them out of the oven, these little guys were INCREDIBLE. Rich, citrusy, densely flavorful but fluffy-textured, my kitchen companions were raving with each bite. They didn’t last long. And now, I’ve found yet another place for eggs in my kitchen.

Photos by Caitlin Sherman