Two wildly different recipes may have one thing in common: an egg wash. Can you brush an apple pie and a brioche with the same mixture? Can you use that same egg wash for tempura or fried chicken? Though you can often substitute one egg wash for another, recipe developers usually have a specific type of egg wash in mind for a dish.
Why Use an Egg Wash
An egg wash imparts a pleasing color and shine to your baked goods, but it also acts as a natural adhesive. Seeds will stick to your bread, raw sugar to your pie crust, and breadcrumbs to your cutlet if you first brush the dough with an egg wash. You can also seal dumplings or stuffed pasta with a simple egg wash.
When and How to Use an Egg Wash
If you're making bread or dessert, you should apply the egg wash right before you bake your creation, though some recipes may tell you to brush on the egg wash halfway through the baking process. The longer the egg wash stays in the oven, the darker it becomes. If you prefer pies and breads with a lighter color, consider applying the egg wash toward the end of the baking process.
It's also important to remember that an undiluted egg or yolk wash will result in a richer, darker color.
If you're frying meat or vegetables, dredge them in flour, then an egg wash, then breadcrumbs. Don't use a pastry brush in this scenario: Just drop your ingredients directly into the egg wash.
Different Types of Egg Wash
The simplest egg wash requires a single egg, but other egg washes can involve water, milk, or cream. Some recipes may tell you to use only the egg white, while others may tell you to use the yolk. Each combination produces a different color and shine:
- Beaten whole egg: Rich golden color and deep shine. If you want to avoid a dark color, apply this one 15 minutes before you remove the baked good from the oven.
- Beaten whole egg with milk: Another rich color and shine.
- Beaten whole egg with water: Lighter color and similar shine.
- Beaten egg yolk: Vivid yellow and deep shine. Again: Apply this one 15 minutes before you remove the baked good from the oven if you worry about browning it too much.
- Beaten egg yolk with water: Pale yellow and less intense shine.
- Beaten egg yolk with cream: Deep brownish yellow and less intense shine.
- Beaten egg white: Beautiful shine with very little color.
- Beaten egg white with water: Light shine.
- Beaten egg white with milk: Light shine with some browning.
How to Use Leftover Whites or Yolks
- How to freeze leftover egg whites: If you freeze leftover whites until you've accumulated enough for a recipe, you won't have to waste yolks or throw away whites that have sat in the fridge too long. You can make any number of exciting desserts with your frozen whites, from this elegant torte to these adorable floating meringues.
- How to freeze leftover egg yolks: Unfortunately, you can't just throw egg yolks in the freezer. They'll become a gelatinous mess unless you add a few simple ingredients. Consider making these walnut cookies or this classic shortbread with your thawed yolks.