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Egg Wash Vs. Butter

Bread, pies and other pastry are often browned to appear more appetizing.

This process does not only produce a deeper color on the bread crusts but also a desirable flavor.

An egg wash could be brushed on the surface of bread dough before baking to produce beautifully browned breads.

This mixture of eggs, milk and water causes browning on the bread crusts by inducing the maillard reaction.

The maillard reaction is a process involving carbohydrates and proteins within the bread and the egg wash which interact under heat

However, when an egg wash is not available, other food products could be used on bread dough to create the same browning effect, one of such products is butter.

In this post, we are going to discuss the difference between using an egg wash and butter for browning baked products.

Difference between using egg wash and butter for browning bread

The extent of browning depends on the nature of the finishing used on the surface of bread before baking.

Egg wash gives a deeper shade of brown than when butter is used for browning bread. 

Also, when the egg wash is heated, the egg curdles forming a strong bond which could help hold toppings on the baked products in place and the edges together.

Therefore, in addition to being used as a glaze for browning bread, the egg wash is also used as a sealer.

On the other hand, when butter is heated, it melts, and this can also soak the baked products. Butter is also not a good sealer for pastries as it is too slippery when heated and the edges can slide open.

What’s in an egg wash?

An egg wash could be made from whole egg, egg yolk, or egg white mixed together with milk or water.

It is used as a finishing when baking breads and pastries.

The composition of the egg wash also determines how much browning would occur on the surface of the bread.

The egg wash is prepared and brushed on the surface of the dough before baking the bread.

Egg wash for browning

An egg wash is used as a glaze prior to baking bread to make the bread crust extra brown and glossy.

The egg wash contains proteins which promote the browning of the bread through the maillard reaction.

The fat in the egg yolk also makes the surface of the bread glossy.

When an egg wash is used, it adds some crispness to the surface of the baked product

For breads or pastries with decorations, or those coated with seeds, sugars, or spices, bakers use egg wash to make the surface coatings or decorations to stick better.

Egg wash can also help to hold edges of pastry together when used in pastries with fillings, and as the moisture from the fillings evaporates while the food is being heated, the tightly sealed edges do not open up.

Butter for browning

Butter can be used as a substitute of egg wash when egg wash is not available for glazing bread and some other bakery products before baking.

It encourages browning of the bread crust although not as much as an egg wash.

Therefore, with butter, the bread has a lighter brown colour than when an egg wash is used.

Butter also melts when heated and could soften some pastries especially those that are meant be crisps.

The toppings on the surface of bread can also slip off when butter melts.

However, butter has a rich flavour which it also adds to the bread when used as a finishing.

What is the maillard reaction?

The browning of bread and other foods could be as a result of the maillard reaction.

It is a reaction that produces a brown color and a rich flavor in some food when heated.

Baked products and other food products are browned to gain these qualities.

The underlying process involves the reducing sugar and the amino acids in the food.

These compounds combine when heated to produce new flavor compounds and a brownish color.

In the maillard reaction, a new flavour, aroma, and colour are produced.

Finishing bread with either egg wash or butter induces the maillard reaction which causes browning to occur on the bread crust.

As a result of this reaction, the bread crust becomes brown and shiny.

In conclusion

An egg wash contains egg often mixed with other ingredients such as milk and water.

It is brushed on breads just before baking to cause browning.

Egg wash could be used to give breads and other bakery products a golden brown color.

When an egg wash is not available, butter could be used in place of the egg wash, however, butter can make pastry softer and therefore should not be used for some pastries especially those that are supposed to be crisp.