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An egg wash is a coating applied to some baked goods and other foods to create a distinctive finish. Especially in the field of baking, it is often added to breads and sweets to create a glazed look. Egg-brushed bread will also have a slightly more crispy, flaky crust, which is sometimes a desired texture in baking. There are several different types of wash, all of which have a different end impact on the food.
A very basic egg wash is made by simply lightly beating an egg and brushing it onto the food. Other ingredients, like milk, water, or salt, may be added for a specific finish, and eggs are also frequently separated to make a wash. When one is made from whole eggs beaten with salt, it will be shiny. The addition of milk will cause the shininess to become more matte, while water will create a distinctive amber colored outer coating. No matter what other ingredients are included, the eggs should be as fresh as possible.
When just an egg yolk is used, the surface will tend to be shiny. The addition of water to an egg yolk produces a golden colored finish, while cream or milk will make it more dark brown. Egg whites, on the other hand, create a crispy surface that may be somewhat crackled. Typically, the color is very light, since egg whites themselves are so pale.
Some recipes specify which type should be used, while others allow the cook to decide which would be best. In addition to being used as a sort of glaze, an egg wash also seals flavors in, and it can be used on foods like egg rolls to seal dough so that the inner ingredients do not spill out during the cooking process. Beaten egg and milk are often used on sweets like scones, while one made with water is used on savory items, like empanadas.
When preparing an egg wash, it is important for cooks to make sure that the egg is completely beaten, since chunks of egg may disturb the surface of the finished product. Using a robust whisk can help a great deal with this. As ingredients are added, the egg should be whisked or whipped to fully incorporate them. Any leftover liquid should be discarded since it could quickly grow bacteria, and more can always be freshly made.