How to Make an Egg Wash—and What to Use It For
Isn't it crazy how the most simple technique can make a world of difference? Making and using an egg wash is a perfect example, and takes less than a minute. An egg wash is simply a whole egg, egg yolk, or egg white mixed with a small amount of water, milk, or cream. Often a single beaten egg is also used, although it might be a bit trickier to brush on evenly but will provide a luscious, dark sheen nonetheless. The egg-liquid mixture is then brushed over baked goods, like bread or pastries, before they go in the oven to help give them a strikingly golden color and an eye-catching gloss after baking.
An egg wash can also help seal the edges of filled pastries or hand pies, as well as help any sprinkled sugar adhere to dough. It's a straightforward technique that truly elevates both sweet and savory baked goods.
How to Make an Egg Wash
As you may have guessed, the process for making an egg wash is very simple and requires only two steps.
- Beat one large egg and one tablespoon of liquid (water, milk, or cream) in a small bowl with a fork until well combined. (Alternatively, beat one large egg white or one large egg yolk with one teaspoon of liquid.)
- Brush evenly on the surface of the dough using a pastry brush. Bake according to the recipe.
It's important to note that because this technique involves raw egg, the brush should be thoroughly washed after use to avoid cross-contamination, and this technique should not be applied if not followed by the indicated baking time of a recipe. The desired browning and gloss effect is a direct result of heat.
How to Use an Egg Wash
How to use an egg wash couldn't be easier. All it takes is brushing the mixture evenly with a pastry brush onto the baked good. The keyword here is "evenly," as it's important to avoid any pooling around the base or on the surface, which can result in an uneven look after baking but can also be off-putting in terms of taste. Ideally, a silicone brush is used for easy clean-up and less concern over loose bristles from a natural pastry brush, which has the potential to shed.
Choosing which liquid to use in an egg wash can depend on how much browning and gloss you're after. Think of more fat and protein in the mixture as yielding increased browning and gloss. A whole egg mixed with water will produce golden-brown results with some gloss, while a whole egg and cream will take that up a few notches and yield deeply golden-brown results with a touch more gloss.
Additionally, you might be wondering when it's best to use just an egg white or an egg yolk. An egg white mixed with water is best used for baked goods that would benefit from a nice gloss and just some light golden color, as in the Shortcut Palmiers below. Whereas an egg yolk mixed with water will yield a deep golden color (much like a whole beaten egg without any liquid). Using milk or cream will further enhance the color and gloss.
However, feel free to use what you have on hand. The benefit of using a whole egg instead of only an egg white or an egg yolk is that it minimizes food waste slightly. Or, be sure to use the rest of the egg in a scramble if you're only using the egg white or yolk for the egg wash.
Now it's time to make your baked goods shine! Keep reading for a handful of tasty recipes that demonstrate this simple egg wash technique for baking.