Have you ever wondered what gives pies their extremely beautiful shiny golden brown color?
To us, it actually makes any pie irresistible and even more delicious! Plus, this golden look is all thanks to 1 single ingredient: eggs!
Egg wash is literally the secret weapon when it comes to making pies! Forgetting to put egg wash on your pie crust is like forgetting to preheat the oven! It helps create that classic crispy texture and adds a delicate final touch to your dish.
So, what type of egg wash should you use for pie? We prefer using 2 large eggs mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream. For a vegan alternative, use 3 tablespoons of almond milk with 1 teaspoon of agave nectar. Both these recipes will give you a beautifully and evenly browned pie crust.
Now, many different types of egg wash have been gaining more and more popularity, with people arguing over which is best and whether you even need it!
So today, we will be looking at all the different types of egg wash you can find, how to make them, and how to use them.
What Is An Egg Wash?
It always astonishes us how simple an egg wash truly is and yet how big of a staple it is in kitchens.
Egg wash doesn’t have many uses but has one very important function: adding an inviting color to products, mainly pastries and baked goods.
The mixture always contains some form of egg and a form of liquid. The egg can either be a whole whisked egg or simply an egg yolk or just an egg white. Depending on what you are using, it will affect the final color of your pastry.
The same goes for the liquid component of the mixture. Often people add milk, and sometimes cream or simply water. Depending on which you use, because of their different chemical structures, your final color will vary.
Many people also like to include seasoning ingredients like salt, dried herbs, and spices. You can create your very own custom egg wash that will match the flavor profile of your dish.
Egg wash is one of those things that you can’t really mess up, but it’s the little attention to detail that is going to give your pie the perfect gloss that it needs!
How Does An Egg Wash Work?
The mechanics behind an egg wash is quite simple and easy to understand. During baking, a chemical reaction takes place that is referred to as the Maillard reaction.
This basically describes the browning of sugars when heat is applied. For food to caramelize, it needs to have sugar, protein, and high heat.
1 large raw egg contains roughly 0.2 grams of sugars and about 6 grams of protein.
Once the egg wash is applied to the product and exposed to heat during baking, the sugars slowly begin to caramelize and cause a browning effect on the product.
Now, once you add a liquid like milk or cream, there are even more sugars and proteins present to help the browning effect take place.
1 cup (250ml) of full cream fresh milk contains around 12 grams of sugars and about 8 grams of protein. 1 cup of light whipping cream contains about 0.3 grams of sugar and about 5 grams of protein.
Egg Yolks Vs Egg Whites Vs Whole Eggs
You may have seen that some recipes call for whole eggs, some only egg yolks, and some only egg whites. That might make you wonder why and whether it even matters!
However, these parts actually do have different characteristics and create different effects. So, let’s look at the functions they have.
When you think about egg yolks, the first thing you see is the deep intense yellow color. That color will directly be transferred over to the product you are applying it to.
Egg yolks add a beautiful deep golden color to any baked good, especially pie crusts, and helps the product brown evenly. The browning mainly happens because of the high protein content in the yolk.
Now, let’s look at egg whites. Obviously, they don’t have any color, so why are they still included? Well, egg whites don’t necessarily add a ton of golden color to the pie crust, but it does, however, add a beautiful shine to them.
So, then, in conclusion, a combination of egg whites and egg yolks (or one whole egg) will create a perfect in-between browning effect. One that is not as dark as a yolk-only egg wash, but also not pale like a white-only egg wash.
Water Vs Milk Vs Cream
Egg wash can be made with water, milk, or cream, and to a certain extent, the one you choose comes down to personal preference.
Keep in mind that milk and cream will have a different effect on the product compared to water (which doesn’t add any flavor or color).
We do however have a few tips when it comes to choosing and using a liquid as part of your egg wash. First, you want to get a completely lump-free and preferably thin egg wash.
This way you can brush an even thin layer on your pie crust, which will help it brown evenly.
Water doesn’t add any flavor to your egg wash and will also not help add color. It will, however, help dilute the intensity of the yolk, especially when you are only using egg yolk.
Milk and cream on the other hand will help add flavor to the egg wash and will contribute to the browning effect.
The cream is much richer than milk and contains more fat. Fat helps add glossiness, so naturally, the cream will add more gloss to your pie crust than milk.
Some creams, however, especially heavy whipping creams, will make your egg wash thick and potentially difficult to brush on thinly and evenly.
Milk will have the exact same effects cream does but on a lighter and less intense scale.
Functions Of Egg Wash
As we have already mentioned, adding the egg wash to your pie crust is a must. No one likes a plain dull-looking crust – it’s simply unappealing!
One of the most important functions of egg wash on a pie is to give the crust the ultimate inviting golden brown color.
This color, as we have discussed, is thanks to the sugars and proteins in the egg yolk and the dairy base (milk or cream).
The glossiness on the pie crust is attributed to the fat in the dairy and egg as well as the egg whites.
A big question we are often asked is whether or not egg wash adds flavor to your pie crust? And we would say it definitely does, however minor it might be.
You will probably only notice it when compared side by side; however, once you have noticed it you’ll never leave it off again!
Because the sugars caramelize, they create a slight sweetness on the curst.
Now, depending on the type of pie you are making, you may want to adjust this flavor slightly.
For example, if you are making a savory pie, you may not want those sweet flavors present. So to counter this, simply add a pinch of salt to the egg wash before applying it to the crust.
Adding salt will also help with browning and can preserve your egg wash a little longer if you plan on keeping it in the fridge.
Egg wash also helps improve the texture of your pie crust. It adds a slight crispiness to your crust while also giving it that glossy look instead of a dull unappetizing color.
And then, a very overlooked function of egg wash is that it can be used to help stick on other dough pieces or attached two ends together. This is usually done to create beautiful designs and patterns on your curst or edge.
How To Make An Egg Wash
Making an egg wash is probably one of the easiest parts of the pie baking process! It only takes a few minutes to make and can even be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
Traditional Egg Wash
Egg wash is the key to any glossy, crispy pie crust. This recipe we use is very versatile so it can also be used for other baked goodies and pastries. We like to use a two egg recipe for our large pies, especially before adding the filling.
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp. (30ml) liquid (water, milk, or cream)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and liquid until a smooth mixture is formed.
- Use a pastry brush to lightly coat your pie dough with the egg wash. Make sure to use gentle, even strokes.
- For a light coating use water and for a golden shiny coating use milk or cream.
- Use a thin layer of egg wash to prevent any uneven browning. Too much egg will also leave an egg-like flavor on your crust.
- Make sure to brush between every groove and crack to ensure that all parts brown. Unwashed parts will stick out like a sore thumb!
It’s happened to all of us at some point: you open your fridge or pantry and all of a sudden you don’t have the ingredients you need! Or maybe you have some type of dietary requirement and don’t know what to use instead of eggs or dairy.
Well, as always, we have included some of our favorite substitutes that you can use!
Instead of dairy, you can simply use water. It will still help thin the egg wash so you can add an even layer, and it doesn’t contain any lactose.
Instead of egg, some great substitutions include melted butter, additional milk or cream, a vegan alternative, or some olive oil.
Melted butter will help brown the crust, add a glossy shine to it, and also add some delicious flavors. Just be careful not to bake the crust at too high temperatures or for too long as the butter might burn.
When using only milk and cream, we would highly recommend adding a sprinkle of sugar or dollop of honey, just to substitute the missing sugars of the egg.
This is also a great alternative if you don’t want to use pure fat like butter or oil.
You can look at using some type of oil. We prefer olive oil as it has a semi-neutral flavor profile, but a very deep intense golden color.
It is a fantastic oil that will easily help brown any pastry or food item. However, it may add a distinctive oil flavor that may not pair well with sweet pies.
Our last alternative is one we don’t really recommend for pie crusts, but if you really don’t have anything else and want the browned color, this will do the trick.
Lightly brushing some maple syrup or lukewarm honey will definitely help brown your crust.
These are basically just sugar, so only add them to your pie crust during the last 5 minutes or so of baking. Otherwise, they will just burn, become unpleasantly sticky, and even rock-solid.
Egg Wash Flavor Variations
Egg wash can also be a fun way to incorporate different flavors into a recipe! Just make sure they complement the recipes’ flavor profile while also not overshadowing it.
The easiest way to incorporate some extra flavor is to add some ground-dried spices. You can also add some dried herbs or even some flavored syrups.
To create a textured sparkly dough crust, brush the dough with egg whites and sprinkle over some castor sugar. This works exceptionally well for more delicate sweet pastries.
Vegan Egg Wash Recipe
We absolutely hate it when people leave out certain parts of a recipe (or certain ingredients) simply because it isn’t vegetarian or vegan.
A vegan diet does not have limits and there are an endless amount of substitutes for every non-vegan ingredient.
Without egg-wash (or an alternative) you will have a very dull-looking pastry that won’t do your hard work justice!
When choosing any substitute, it should be able to perform the same functions the original ingredient does. In this case, the substitute should still be able to add a brown color without necessarily adding too weird a flavor.
Plant-based products still contain sugars and proteins, so will still be able to help brown the crust. If you really want to, but it isn’t always necessary, you can add coconut sugar or agave syrup to help add more sugar for the Maillard reaction.
Substitutes like coconut oil and almond milk work great and they don’t give off too strong flavors. You can also use certain substitutes with certain pies. For example, use olive oil with savory pies, and almond milk with a sweet almond pie.
You can also use soy milk, macadamia milk, cashew milk, and other natural sweeteners like date syrup.
Almond Milk And Agave Vegan Egg Wash
Almond milk and agave syrup make a fantastic alternative to egg wash. It contains no animal products or by-products and is completely plant-based.
The sugar from the agave nectar helps the caramelization process and the almond milk adds a great nuttiness to the pie crust. This recipe is recommended only for sweet pies and not savory pies. Remove the agave nectar for savory pies.
- 3 tbsp (45ml) Almond milk
- 1 tsp (5 ml) Agave syrup
- In a small bowl, whisk the almond milk and agave syrup together until the syrup has dissolved.
- Use a pastry brush to gently brush the pie crust with the mixture.
Now that we’ve gone over how to make an egg wash for a pie, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Can you make an egg wash with only eggs?
You can use only eggs if you want to; however, you have to make sure they are well whisked. If not, you will be left with a lumpy mixture that isn’t going to brush on well.
The addition of liquid helps smooth out the egg wash. However, as we’ve said, you can use only eggs.
How long does egg wash take to brown?
Egg wash takes about 9-10 minutes to brown. Keep this in mind when using pie crust recipes that need to bake longer – only brush on the egg wash when there are about 10 minutes left.
Does egg wash make pie crispy?
Egg wash will not make your entire crust crispy, but it will create a crispy layer on top of the crust. This crispy layer is from the caramelized sugars.
How long does egg wash last?
Egg wash can be stored in an airtight container or a plastic bag and placed in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Add a little bit of salt to your egg wash to help preserve it a little longer. Egg wash can also be frozen and defrosted when needed.
What can you do with leftover egg wash?
If you’re not planning on baking anything in the next few days, use leftover egg wash to make scrambled eggs, omelets, or French toast.
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