Eggs are without a doubt the most common thickener used in the pastry kitchen. Long, tangly proteins are the source of their thickening power, which can bring the water flow around them to pretty much a complete stop. Though egg proteins naturally occur in small clumps, they can be convinced to un-clump with the application of a little heat or with some agitation. Once they’re unfolded they can be further convinced to bond at which point all manner of textures are possible depending on the degree of protein coagulation: a thick liquid crème Anglaise, a semi-flowing pastry cream, a fully gelled crème brûlée or a crisp baked meringue. All the cook must guard against is over-heating or over-agitating those egg proteins which causes them to completely coagulate, squeeze out the moisture that’s between them and form tough curds.