An egg wash is used in the process of baking and gives the bread a ground substance to stick to. Using an egg wash on bread or pies will give it an aesthetically pleasing tint and shine.
However, it also provides a natural adhesive for toppings or coatings to stick to without falling off; such as grains, sugar, or berries. This works as the protein in the egg coagulates when cooked and forms a stiff bond.
If you’ve been asking yourself the question – should I egg wash bread? – then read on to find out.
Is it necessary to egg wash bread?
Putting an egg wash on bread is completely optional; generally, the recipe will give you the choice of adding it or not. The purpose of an egg wash is to make the final result more visually pleasing; however, it does not have any impact on the texture or flavour of the bread – only the appearance.
If you compare an egg-washed loaf to a non-egg-washed loaf, the primary difference will be the color of the bread. Not using an egg wash will result in a pale color of bread, whereas the egg-washed bread will have a brown color.
Bare in mind that if do choose to not use an egg wash, it could make the loaf more delicate. Therefore you should take extra care when removing it from the pan as it may crumble without that adhesive seal on top.
The only time that bread wash is necessary is when you sprinkle seeds on your bread. If you don’t egg wash bread before you sprinkle seeds on, the seeds will fall off. The egg wash works as a glue that helps seeds stick to the bread while baking and, more importantly, when you cut it.
Should I egg wash with egg yolk or egg white? (or both?)
The most common type of egg wash is using the whole egg; however, it generally comes down to personal preference. With this being said, certain types of loaves or pastries may require a specific type of finish. Some are intended to be pale, and some are intended to have a rich color. If this is the case, it will be advised in the recipe.
Depending on what mixture you use to egg wash your loaf with, it will effectively have an impact on the color. It is fine to use either egg yolk, egg white, or both for the bread’s glaze. Alternatively, you can also add water to the egg wash to dilute it slightly or milk to brown it. Each combination will produce a different finish.
Here is what will happen to the color in each situation;
- A vivid yellowish color with a bright, glossy shine
- A beautiful shiny finish, with not very much colour tone
Both – egg yolk and egg white
- A rich golden color and glossy shine
Adding water or milk
- Adding water will reduce the color intensity but keep a shine
- Adding milk or cream will leave a deeper brown finish and a duller shine
When to apply egg wash
Knowing when to correctly apply an egg wash will help to produce the best possible results. The egg wash will determine the final look of the crust, and the time that you should apply it will depend on how light or dark the color is meant to be.
There are two different options for when you can apply your egg wash. Either you can apply it when the dough is raw before baking, or you can apply it halfway through baking. Which option you chose will depend on what color you would like your bread glaze to be.
Egg wash on raw dough
Applying the egg wash when the dough is raw will leave a deeper brown finish. With certain mixes, such as whole eggs or undiluted egg yolks, you should only add this wash to the raw dough if you are looking for a dark tone.
Egg wash halfway through baking
If you’re looking for a lighter color, consider adding the egg wash half way through the baking process; especially if you’re using an undiluted egg wash mixture.
Egg wash after baking
You should not apply an egg wash to your bread after it has been baked. This could cause deflation during the resting period and alter the texture of the bread.
How to apply egg wash on your bread
To make the egg wash, break one egg into a cup. Use a fork and whisk it so the egg yolk and egg white combine thoroughly. If you are using just egg yolk or just egg white mix them generously so you get a smooth mixture.
Applying egg wash on bread dough is easy. The easiest way to do it, is to use an egg wash brush. Never pour the mixture on the dough, always spread it evenly so you don’t get a thick egg crust on one side of the loaf and no crust on the other side. The best egg wash brushes are the ones made with natural boar bristles like this one:
You can apply egg wash with natural bristles quickly and evenly. The usage is not limited to just egg wash. You can apply any liquid ingredient with this brush. The only downside with this brush is the washing part. You could put it in the washing machine but after a few washes, the bristles won’t be the same anymore. That is why I started to use the brushes with silicone bristles. The application of egg wash is great and the washing part is effortless. The bristles stay the same even after years of using and washing the brush. If you decide to get the silicone brush, I recommend these ones:
All in all, to answer the question ‘should I egg wash bread?’ – giving your bread an egg wash makes it look more professional and helps hold it together, although using it is not necessary.
It is useful for when you would like to add toppings as it will work in a similar way to glue and keep the toppings in place. Certain pastries, such as empanadas, may also benefit from an egg wash as it helps bind the different parts together.
Nonetheless, the main purpose of using an egg wash is to make the visual appearance of the product more appealing. The quality of the bread dough will not be effected without the use of an egg wash; nor will the taste.