with no-fail peeled soft-boiled eggs technique, recipe
THIS is THE breakfast classic of Viennese coffeehouses. And yes, most Viennese I’ve asked admitted to childishly associating this pair of eggs with the male anatomy. They dismiss it immediately as immature nonsense and never articulated such seemingly puerile thoughts. But, as you will see, the unspoken link with the pair of peeled soft-boiled eggs in a champagne saucer is nonetheless striking.
All subconscious sexual imagery aside the wonderful part about this dish is it’s the egg lover’s way to eat eggs. I’ll share professional tips and tricks adapted for the home cook on how to peel a soft-boiled egg for this Freudian dish.
This breakfast is always exactly two eggs. Never three, like in a classic French omelet, or only one, like the single egg you get in a regular egg-cup. Even stranger is that the dish is often called Ei im Glas, meaning “egg in a glass,” the singular concealing the fact that they usually come as a pair. The name perhaps represses the significance of these two white, soft, warm eggs traditionally served in a glass with a stem. When it’s called Eier im Glas, the plural just indicates that there is more than one, the same way slang refers to balls.
And why this insistence1 on using a glass with a stem? That’s how Eier im Glas is served at the very traditional Café Sacher. The Viennese coffeehouse Cafe Sabarsky, at the Neue Galerie New York, uses a Martini glass instead. Same idea. Some foreigners are quite surprised at the way these soft-boiled eggs are plated. Granted, everybody gets the peeled part. It’s a very practical presentation, with no need to fuss with the peel. You just eat the whole thing. And the shallow bowl of the glass contains the eggs but gives you more room to operate than the restrictive egg cup. The stem, though, has no practical reason (or at least not more than for any other dish).
No one person or place invented this way of serving soft-boiled eggs. With all its cannibalistic and homoerotic innuendos, it must simply be the expression of the collective unconsciousness of the city of Freud.
Now consider the eggs separately. They have always been a symbol of life and rebirth. What could possibly be more fitting than eggs for breakfast after sleep, that experience of near-death? Eggs are considered an aphrodisiac and represent male prowess. Eggs have a Freudian connection too since the man never ate chicken. He held that chickens should be left to lay eggs.
But wait, it gets even better. Soft boiled eggs in a glass are eaten with a buttered Kaiser roll, or Semmel in Vienna. At more refined places one will get toasted brioche. Often bread comes in form of soldiers, those sticks of bread some call fingers, ready to dunk. You can make your soldier as large as you want, you will always be able to dunk it – or a spoon for that matter – into the eggs in the glass because no narrow shell opening is stopping you. (Is this a feminization of the dish? Does the dish get androgynous here? What matters is that the eater has to actually use a phallic symbol, to accomplish the empowerment.)
As a side note, I’ll add that the chives that often garnish the two soft-boiled eggs in a glass, Schnittlauch, are, according to Chinese medicine, supposed to promote virility too. I know, that’s probably overinterpreting things. But coincidentally, “起阳草,” chives in Chinese, translates to “the grass that raises your Yang.” Yang, as in Yin-Yang, is in this instance referring to the male “parts.”
Back to the point, the Viennese Kaffeehaus was in the past a place for men,2 patronized by cliques of like-minded artists, musicians, politicians, writers and free-thinkers. A male refuge, a smoking room filled with newspapers and conversations of a world that only very reluctantly had started to acknowledge the existence of self-determined women.
Sigmund Freud, who was passionate about smoking big cigars, was a regular at Café Landtmann. And even his Wednesday Society met for some time at Café Korb. Ironically, and to complete this picture, before World War II, some of the city’s coffee houses in the 2nd district served as prayer rooms for Jewish men.
The female side of Viennese culture took place at the Konditorei, which are patisseries or confectionery shops, that serve coffee too. In Austria, Germany and Israel it was and still is very popular to have cake and coffee at a Konditorei during mid-afternoon. Indeed, girlish pink is the signature color of a famous Viennese Konditorei chain, Aida. And sure enough, there’s no pair of soft-boiled eggs in a glass with stem to be found on any traditional menu of a Viennese Konditorei.
I rest my case. Make or order Eier im Glas to see and feel for yourself, and leave a comment below.
RECIPE for Viennese Soft Boiled Eggs in a Glass (Eier im Glas)
There’s only one way to eat the absolute tastiest and healthiest eggs, no contest. Get local, organic, non-GMO, pasture-raised eggs. They taste better and are better for you, because they’re from happier and healthier chicken, that actually forage outside in the fresh air! Don’t buy the free-range scam variety. Do the chicken and yourself a favor and don’t fall for grain fed either. Once again, your local farmer’s market will be your best bet.
Cooking time for Eggs in a Glass
There’s no consensus on whether Eggs in a Glass should be à la coque in French, thus coddled like very soft-boiled eggs, cooked between 3 to 5 minutes, with barely solid whites and served in their shell, or more like a regular soft-boiled egg, oeuf mollet, cooked 5 to 6 minutes, with a quite firm white that can be peeled and served whole, quite similar to a poached egg. I follow the practice of the majority of Viennese coffeehouses whole peeled soft-boiled eggs, though on the softer side.
As a variation, you could serve these Florentine-style (on a bed of spinach) or Provençal-style (on a mixture of tomato, eggplant and zucchini), etc.3
- 2 eggs per serving
- bundle of diced chives
- fleur de sel
- a pinch of chili flakes (optional)
- coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
1 Kaiser roll, “Semmel” in Vienna (or 2 slices of bread, toast, toasted brioche or challah)
Glass with a stem, like a Champagne saucer or a Martini glass.
- For convenience, use your eggs straight out of the fridge. And for consistent results, stick to that. Sort your eggs by weight, and thus cooking time (see table below).
- Fill a pot that just fits the number of eggs you wish to cook with 1/2 inch (1,25 cm) of water. Bring to a boil and quickly add all the eggs. Cover with a lid (or a plate) and lower the heat. Steam them for the appropriate time. No more than:
55 - 60 g ........ 5 min 61 - 65 g .... 5 1/2 min 66 - 70 g ........ 6 min
- Immediately and as quick as possible take them out the pot, because they continue to cook. Don’t put them in cold water. You want warm eggs in your glass! Carefully crack the shell all over and peel them. You can protect your hand from the heat with a napkin (and dip your hands in ice-cold water). If necessary, use a spoon to help you remove the shell. It takes a knack to get the delicate egg out of the shell intact.
- You may wish to prepare the eggs in advance. To do so, promptly drop them in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. Delicately crack them all over. Put them back into cold water. Reheat them in the water to 140°F (60°C), no more. As they don’t risk continuing to cook at this temperature, you can leave them in this warm water bath for as long as it takes to get the rest of your breakfast ready.
- Serve the peeled soft-boiled eggs in a preheated glass with a stem, like a Champagne saucer or a Martini glass, with soldiers of buttered Kaiser roll (or bread, toast, toasted brioche or challah), accompanied by some finely chopped chives.
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- You’ll find this insistence even in some of the Viennese classic reference cookbooks like Das Franz Ruhm Kochbuch, in popular Viennese cookbooks like Die Gute Küche by Plachutta and Wagner, or in blogger Susanne Zimmel’s Wiener Küche.
Also, there’s a legend that the bowl of the champagne coupe was modeled on the breast of Marie Antoinette. But, according to Wikipedia, the glass was designed especially for sparkling wine in England in 1663.
- Some coffeehouses, like the café Schwarzenberg, had a Damensalon reserved for the ladies.
- For more classic variations, consult your Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia.
Are you Viennese and contend with these views? I’m quite sure you do… Be sure to let me know.
Delicious. Visually disturbing but a sensuous triumph from the Freudian Wiener taffel. Thanks Nino for another obscure recipe.
My advice: try one egg to check your timing and equipment and see if you have peelable orbs. Cool with tap water a just few seconds until you can handle them. Makes peeling a lot less fussy and quicker.
I must include praise for your fascinating Tafflespitz history and the only ingredient-comprehensive recipe worth trying. I am experienced in the multi-ethnic kitchen and it is an inspirational pleasure to explore the elusive and varied artistry of simmered beef cuts and root veges in consomme with applesauce-horseradish and chives.
My eyes have been opened to the delight and evolution of Old-World cuisine and how our modern palate has become so narrowed. Thank you for sharing your broad knowledge in such an entertaining manner. I can see how your tours and lessons must be quite interesting and enjoyable.
(goy from Seattle and Hawaii)
I’m blushing! Thank you Kurt for so much praise. I’m glad you like these pages. I hope to see you around. All the best
Over here in the Philippines I purchased a steamer with a plastic tray, with feet that keep the eggs out of the water and fully in the steam – works extremely well, and you are correct – steamed eggs peel easily!
Thanks for this info from the Philippines, John. These steamers seem to work wonders, but I stay with my old school little pot, which makes one thing less in the kitchen to find a place for. I hope to see you around! Best, Nino
“For convenience, use your eggs straight out of the fridge” – I presume this is aimed at foreigners, because here in the EU, we don’t refrigerate our eggs (because we don’t wash them).
I hope you’re not cross with me but I beg to differ: In European countries I’ve lived in (F, I, Hu, Aut) from all I could ever see, people generally store their eggs in the refrigerator after they bought them. This practice is also recommended by the producers themselves and as such featured on most packages I know. But YMMV.
Aha has a point, rarely did I see Europeans including the British storing eggs in the fridge. Unlike America for one important example eggs for sale in the supermarkets are not washed in the EU, not washed by law. This is because washing eggs as they do in America (with detergent then chlorine) removes the all important “cuticle”which the chicken secretes over them when laying to protect their precious eggs from bacteria.
This cuticle is very important because it seals the egg closing the shell pores thus not allowing air and moisture born bacteria into the porous egg. These eggs also last longer and are perfectly good for keeping in a nice basket in the kitchen of the kind made for exactly that. Which is what we generally do. Room temp eggs are also a lot easier to deal with cooking wise too as they don’t crack easily when warmed up in cooking as the core is room temp as is the shell.
This is also one of the reasons the EU bans the import of American eggs. After washing (first in detergent then chlorine which can enter the shell) the eggs are vulnerable to becoming infected at any time, so have to be chilled at all times, from the time they’re washed to the time they’re cooked. With transport, trucks and planes plus delivery, storage distribution and getting them home from the supermarket etc if at any time in this lengthy process the temp changes, even just fractionally upward, condensation forms on the washed shell thus allowing airborn bacteria in the condensate to contaminate the eggs as the pores of the shell are wide open, this can happen even in an air sealed plastic container. Very few of us have fridges in our cars set at exactly the required temps so Salmonella is thus a risk with washed sanitised eggs.
The EU doesn’t recommend eggs be stored in the fridge as they don’t need to be in the EU. Our fridges are also not as giant as the standard American ones which also makes more room for other items that do need to be chilled.
Thank you for your informed reply. As I said, YMMV
thanks for this beautifully written post. I had to chuckle a few times.
As a coffee lover and someone who loves to learn about food cultures, I really appreciated the detailed information on the history and Viennese traditions that you provide. The addition of the Chinese name of chive and the reference to the Yin Yang concept was like the cherry on the cake for me.
Your beautiful description makes this simple dish stand out as a gourmet food- yet I think any good quality food is if prepared with care and served beautifully as is the case for the Ei im Glas.
I shall further explore your site, keen to learn more about the Viennese traditions and the influences from international cuisine. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion.
Thank you so much for your kind words about this site. Stay tuned for more!
My mouth is watering at the prospect of decent Ei im Glas – the way you describe them. I came to this site because my two soft boiled eggs were served this morning with tough, unbuttered brown soldiers. They added nothing to the meal – and I left the Konditorei wondering if I was missing something. How could such a dissatisfying dish be so popular. In future, I shall ask for buttered Kaiser rolls!
A well-made “Ei im Glas” is indeed delicious. It is not that difficult to achieve good results at home. Try following my directions! I hope to see you around.
I have very fond memories of eier im glas as I took to it in a big way on my very first trip to Wien and was portentous too. It’s such a delightfully refined way to eat boiled eggs. I can personally attest to its virility inducing properties. It helped that I was a mere twenty years of age, still the lovely soft warm smooth eggs fired the imagination.
The other absolute god send are indeed the keiser rolls or semmel or even keiser bollen as they call them in the Netherlands where I had had them already. The most satisfying bite imaginable of any bread roll. To my taste even better just slightly stale when they get chewy and utterly toothsome, just don’t keep them longer or they become inedibly hard.
Eier im glas is definitely something that should always be served but never made LOL that way you can enjoy all the more. It’s what cafes in Wien are there for.
I now have an Austrian sister, two Austrian nieces, an Austrian brother in-law and his entire extended family and it all began with a charming breakfast between siblings in Wien delighting over eier im glas. You just never know who you may meet nor how important they may become in your life so never frown and eat nicely.