Thursday, April 02, 2009

What's up with eggs?

When some people learn that I use raw egg whites to make my royal icing, it sends a "salmonella shiver" (sounds like a dance!) down their spine. In fact, I have never used anything but raw egg whites, and I have no intention of changing that.

Let's look at the facts: Salmonella bacteria are found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and humans. Salmonella may be found on the outside of the egg shell before the egg is washed or it may be found inside the egg if the hen was infected. It is estimated that one egg in 20,000 eggs (some estimates are as low as 1 in 30,000) may contain Salmonella which is a 0.005% contamination rate. Eggs contain natural antimicrobial substances in the egg white, and all eggs are washed and sanitized before they are packed.

Salmonella is present in more than just eggs, of course, but eggs get a really bad rap for it. More likely, if you do get symptoms of food poisoning, it was from another source, and a pro-biotic will help clear up the issue within a few hours.

In fact, consumption of raw eggs is actually encouraged in many diet plans since eggs are an excellent source of protein and many other enzymes in their natural state. All the necessary ingredients are in an egg to make a baby chicken, but cooking an egg destroys many of those benefits (just so you know when you're chowing down on that scrumptious omlette).

Real egg whites make the best royal icing. It is creamy and very smooth, and meringue powder just can't match it in quality or texture.

To avoid salmonella in your kitchen, make certain you go through your refrigerator once per week and throw out any food items that have not been eaten (especially any leftovers with meat), and keep your counter tops, sink and equipment bleached down. Keeping your refrigerator cleaned out regularly also helps you to avoid contamination.

If you have pet birds, reptiles or amphibians, always wash your hands thoroughly after handling, and always keep their cages clean and sanitized. Turtles especially seem to carry salmonella bacteria, so if you have them as pets and have small children handling them, make sure your children thoroughly wash their hands afterwards.

Q: How do you make black royal icing?

Okay, believe it or not, I've been asked this a couple of times, even though the answer seems obvious - "with black food coloring," but it turns out some brands are better than others. In fact, there are more colors available in food coloring than you would think. I recently needed some fuchsia - and I couldn't get it locally, but there was a slot for it in the store!

The brand I use and recommend is AmeriColor. Their black is coal black and stays that way. If you can't find it locally in a cake or candy supply shop, you can always order it online from


Never buy the tiny little jars of Cream of Tartar that you find in the grocery store. Why? They are horribly over-priced and will run you broke. If you have a cookie business and are going through a lot of COT for your royal icing, buy it online in bulk at a fraction of the cost.

All the best,

Jenny Arata
Signature Sweet Shoppe

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