Comparing Different Types of Washes for Baking
Have you ever wondered why one recipe calls for an egg wash to be brushed on while another calls for milk? It’s all about appearance! Let’s go over the slight (and some not so slight) differences and see if you can spot them.
In baking, many recipes call for an egg wash to be brushed on the baked good before it goes into the oven. The purpose of this is to give the final product a golden brown color that is slightly shiny. But you’ll also notice some recipes call for heavy cream to be brushed on or even a light coating of oil.
Different ingredients brushed onto a baked good before baking can result in varying results but the main purpose is appearance. If you see it in a recipe, it is almost always optional and will not affect the final texture or flavor of your baked good- only the appearance. Let’s go over the differences!
Basic Egg Wash
The ingredients in an egg wash are simply a whole egg with about a tablespoon of water (or milk) whisked in. Most bakers don’t actually measure the amount of liquid that is whisked in, they just eyeball it until it looks like it is the right consistency. It is then brushed on over an unbaked baked good using a pastry brush and applying a light, thin coat. You can use a silicone or bristle pastry brush.
The egg yolk in the wash creates a shiny golden appearance which is ideal for professional-looking pies and pastries. While if you wanted a shiny but clear finish you could leave out the yolk and whisk together the egg white with a splash of water.
Typically egg washes are used on pastries, like a danish or pie crust, or on enriched bread, like soft dinner rolls or sandwich bread. It is also sometimes used as a barrier on a pie crust before the filling goes in to help prevent a soggy bottom.
- Egg Wash Appearance: very golden and very shiny, the most of all washes
Egg Wash = 1 Whole Egg + 1 Tablespoon of Water or Milk
Heavy Cream or Milk
You’ll notice on scone and biscuit recipes, they’ll ask you to brush the tops with heavy cream or milk before baking. If you don’t brush the tops, they will be duller in comparison to the browned sides and bottoms. Since milk encourages browning, brushing the tops will give you a desirable rustic golden color out of the oven.
An egg wash brushed on biscuits will also give you a golden color but it will also create shine which isn’t typical of a biscuit or scone.
- Cream Wash Appearance: medium golden, very shiny
- Milk Wash Appearance: medium golden, dull
Oil and Non-Dairy Milk
A flavorless oil such as vegetable or canola oil is a great egg wash substitute for vegans. Olive oil and coconut oil are also options but keep in mind that they have a distinct flavor and may affect the taste of your baked good. Non-dairy milk can also be used such as almond or soy milk with great results.
- Vegetable Oil Wash Appearance: Medium golden and dull
- Almond Milk Wash Appearance: Very golden, slightly shiny
Melted butter can be used in place of an egg wash to create shine but keep in mind it will melt in the oven and seep into your baked good. I usually reserve melted butter to be brushed on at the end of a bake for something such as a biscuit that could benefit from the buttery taste.
- Butter Wash before Baking Appearance: pale and dull
- Butter Wash after Baking Appearance: very golden and very shiny (slightly less shiny than an egg wash)