There's no need to be intimidated when a recipe calls for an egg wash. It's a simple technique that requires an egg and a little water or milk. Used on top of bread, pies, and other baked goods, an egg wash alters the appearance and texture of the crust and can be used as an edible glue. The best part is that you can adjust an egg wash so your baked goods come out as crisp, soft, or shiny as you want them.
What Is an Egg Wash?
An egg wash is usually made with 3 parts egg to 1 part liquid. This means you'll add about 1 tablespoon of milk, cream, or water for each large egg. To make it, beat the egg first with a fork, then add the other liquid. Continue beating to get a consistency that can easily be brushed on top of the bread product prior to baking.
Using an egg wash on yeast breads, pie crusts, and other baked goods can help with the browning process. The type of egg wash you use makes a difference in the appearance and texture of the crust as well, though all will add some degree of shine.
You'll also want to use an egg wash so seeds, grains, chopped herbs, or sugars attach to the crust. In some applications, such as making pastries, egg wash acts as a glue that can hold two pieces together with an amazingly strong bond.
Egg Wash Effects
Should you use a whole egg, a yolk, or just the white? Typically, a recipe will provide a suggestion about which part of the egg to use as well as whether it's best to mix it with cream, milk, or water. When no direction is given, or when you want to customize a recipe, use the chart to determine the color, texture, and shine you can expect from each type of egg wash.
|Whole Egg + Milk||Color, Shine|
|Whole Egg + Water||Soft Crust, Shine, Color|
|Egg Yolk + Milk or Cream||Soft Crust, Shine, Color|
|Egg White + Water||Firm Crust, Shine|
An egg wash can also be made with beaten egg alone. Just keep in mind that the less liquid you add, the darker and shinier the crust will become. In addition, brushing on milk or cream alone will result in a soft crust with a little color. Water alone will help achieve a crisp crust.
Salt can help loosen egg whites. For an egg white-only wash (no yolk), add a pinch of salt. Even when mixed with water, this will make the wash easier to spread on savory breads and rolls.
Applying Egg Wash
An egg wash can be applied to shaped bread or rolls before or after proofing, but it should always be added before baking. When applying after proofing, use a very light touch with the brush to avoid deflating the bread. Avoid using too much egg wash, and if it does pool up in places, carefully dab it with a paper towel to absorb the excess.
After applying the egg wash, rinse the pastry brush very well under cold water first. Hot water will cause the egg to coagulate and make cleanup difficult. Also, to prevent Salmonella bacteria, be sure an egg was is added only to food that will be cooked and that all tools are thoroughly cleaned afterward.