Bread recipes often call for some sort of "wash" or glaze before baking, sometimes egg, sometimes milk. Even butter. Different washes are used to achieve different results:
- Brushing with beaten whole eggs will give both color and sheen to a bread. Egg yolk provides rich color, browning easily in the oven. Egg white provides a nice sheen.
- Brushing with milk will help to color the crust, the sugars in the milk helping to brown the crust.
- Water is often sprayed or brushed onto bread before it is placed in a very hot oven, and during baking, to give the bread an extra-crisp crust. Water added to an egg wash helps to thin the wash so it brushes more easily.
- Butter will give the bread a softer crust and richer flavor.
- Sweeteners--honey, syrup, etc.--will give bread a sweeter, softer crust.
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Video credit: Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times