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What is an egg wash — and how do you make one?

An egg wash is simply beaten eggs, often combined with a liquid such as water, milk, or cream. It may be made using just egg whites or yolks, or it may be made using whole eggs, depending on the recipe.

The specific egg wash recipe that you use will depend on what you’re making and what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re making an egg wash for bread, adding heavy cream will add richness and a texture adjustment to your crust. And if you’re making egg wash for pie crust or other pastries, you may want to add milk or water to thin it out for easier application.

Here’s what else to know, including some quick fixes if you need a vegan egg wash or another substitute for egg wash in your baking process. 

egg wash
Source: Unsplash
An egg wash can lend the perfect finishing touch to your baked goods. 

When to Use an Egg Wash

An egg wash is used to add shine and color to baked goods like pies and breads, and may also be used in cooking, such as when you need to seal dumpling wrappers. You may also use an egg wash for frying, since it provides a sticky coating for breading to adhere to.

The purpose of an egg wash—as well as how to egg wash—will vary based on what you need the wash for. So, is egg wash necessary? Not always, though it’s often a highly recommended step. Skipping out on egg wash doesn’t mean that your recipe won’t work or that it will have less flavor, but it may look dull, doughy, or unfinished.

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How to Make Egg Wash

How to make an egg wash depends on what you’re making it for. Usually, you’ll see an egg wash recipe within the larger recipe that you’re using, but there are some general rules you can follow when it comes to how to create an egg wash for pie, bread, or other baking purposes.

Basic Egg Wash Recipe

How do you make an egg wash?

If you want to keep it as basic as possible (such as if you’re wondering how to egg wash pastries for extra sheen but it’s not listed as an actual step in the recipe), follow these simple steps:

  1. Crack a whole egg into a bowl and beat it thoroughly with a fork or whisk.
  2. Add two tablespoons of liquid to thin out your wash, such as water or milk. Mix thoroughly again.
  3. Brush the egg wash onto baked goods before placing in the oven.

Make sure to only brush on a thin layer of egg wash and don’t let it pool on your baking tray. That could lead to your egg wash burning, which will result in an acrid taste on your finished recipe.

Egg Wash for Pie

Make an egg wash for pie crust to get a golden, polished look—or as a base for sprinkled sugar.

To do it, follow the standard egg wash recipe above, opting for cream or half-and-half instead of milk so that you get an extra rich sheen.

Egg Wash for Bread

What kind of egg wash you use for bread will depend on the type of crust you want.

For a softer crust: Use a whole egg and water or an egg yolk with milk or cream.

For a firmer crust: Use just an egg white with water, milk, or cream.

Consider adding a pinch of salt to your egg wash when you’re baking bread, which will add a nice flavor to your crust and help bind the whites in the wash.

Egg Wash for Frying

If you need an egg wash for chicken or another savory frying application, you can skip the liquid and just opt for beaten eggs. Beat your eggs well so that you get a coating for your dredge—instead of a layer of fried egg on your meal.

You may want to add seasonings to your egg wash too, for instance, salt, pepper, garlic powder, or paprika. If you do this, just make sure to balance it out with the seasonings in your flour dredge.

Quick Fixes When You Need a Substitute

If you’re looking for a substitute for egg wash, you have some options, including:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Melted butter
  • Basic milk or cream
  • Honey

Do some research on how to apply these alternate egg washes on the specific baked good that you’re making. Some substitutes, such as honey, can burn quickly and should only be added late in the baking process, and each substitute will have a different overall effect on your finished recipe.

The Vegan Version

For a vegan egg wash, you can use vegetable oil or a plant-based milk such as soy, oat, or coconut milk. You can also make a flaxseed egg by combining one tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water and allowing it to set in the fridge. Then use your flaxseed egg on its own or combine with non-dairy milk for your wash.

With so many solutions for how to make an egg wash—even without any eggs at all—you should be able to find a good fix regardless of your dietary needs or what you have available in the kitchen. Find what works for you and get to work creating even more beautiful and impressive-looking baked goods.

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