Have you ever worked hard at making the perfect double crust fruit pie with the most perfect fluted edges and then felt like something was missing when you put it in the oven, and later felt disappointed when you pulled the pie out of the oven and looked at a dry and dull looking pie crust? Have you ever wondered what some people do to end up with a glistening glossy pie crust? Well the answer is in the pie wash. A pie wash is a wash that is thinly brushed on the top pie crust right before it goes into the oven. There are a few different wash options, depending on the look you desire. Most but not all pie washes contain egg or cream. In the pictures below, I have illustrated a few of the most common pastry crust washes.
These pastry forms are baked using the following washes:
- The top left pastry form was brushed with half and half cream. It is a light golden brown, but has a matte finish.
- The top right pastry form was not brushed with anything. It is dull looking and hardly browned.
- The bottom left pastry form is brushed with egg and water. It’s a nice golden color and slightly glossy.
- The bottom right pastry form is brushed with egg and half and half. It’s a nice golden color and more glossy.
The only thing missing on all of these is sugar…which I will show you in a minute.
To brush a pie crust, you need a soft natural bristled pastry brush, and you need to thoroughly wash the brush under hot soapy water after using it, to prevent the raw egg from drying in the bristles of the brush.
When brushing on a wash, you need to make sure that the wash is thin and smooth, not too thick.
Half and Half (unbaked)
The result with half and half is a light golden matte finish. Whipping cream can be used in place of half and half.
Note: Plain milk can be used instead of cream, however it results in a darker and less glossy crust. I don’t personally recommend milk.
Egg and water (unbaked)
The result will be a nice golden color and just slightly glossy.
Note: A general rule of thumb for egg wash with water is to use 1 – 2 tablespoons of water whisked with one egg. The more water, the thinner and easier brushing consistency, resulting in a lighter golden color. I used 2 tablespoons of water in the picture above.
Egg and half and half (unbaked)
The result will be a nice golden color and a more glossy look than egg with water. Again, I used two tablespoons of half and half in the picture above.
The picture below shows what happens when you sprinkle sugar over the wash…
Egg and half and half sprinkled with sugar (unbaked)
Note: The one above is sprinkled with granulated sugar. Coarse decorating sugar can be used as well.
Egg and half and half sprinkled with sugar (baked) – this one looks glossy. My Favorite!
My personal preference is to always sprinkle a light dusting of sugar on my crust if I’m making dessert pies…Of course I wouldn’t sprinkle sugar on my chicken pot pie.
There are other wash options as well as the ones I’ve listed above…
Some bakers like to use an egg white for brushing a pie crust. Egg white results in a very pale/white crust but very glossy. Most bakers sprinkle coarse sugar over this wash for a glossy sparkly result.
Some bakers brush plain water on their pie crust, resulting in a real brown crust with no gloss…my least favorite.
Some bakers warm up light corn syrup and spread over their pie crust. I’ve never personally tried this one, but you would definitely have to warm the syrup to thin it enough for brushing on the pie crust.
Note: One important thing to remember when brushing a pie crust is to not brush the edges of the pie crust. This will cause the edges to get too brown.
Washes are not only used for brushing on a pie crust…they are also used for brushing the finish touches on such things as bread loaves, rolls, and pastries such as puff pastry and pate a choux. The picture above shows an egg/water wash on pate a choux (for cream puffs). The type of pastry or pie crust you’re making usually dictates what type of wash you want to use, but again, the choice is really yours.
The bottom line is that a wash is the perfect finishing touch to any pastry dough or crust to give it that perfect golden, soft, matte or glossy appealing look. Please don’t omit this important step, or you’ll regret it later.
Happy baking my friends,