So many steps go into making the perfect pie, including rolling out the dough perfectly, getting just the right mix of fillings and ensuring that spot-on glistening, flaky crust.
But that golden, glistening crust cannot be achieved by just making sure of a proper butter-to-flour ratio; a final finishing touch — usually called the egg wash, even though it does not necessarily have to include eggs — helps seal the dough and gives it great color. And although the go-to egg wash is a mix of milk and whole egg, there are actually many different options when it comes to finishing your dough.
Using the classic egg wash creates that familiar deep golden color, but you can also use just yolks for a darker, richer hue, or just milk for a matte, flakier look.
Whichever wash you choose, use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer evenly across the top of the pastry. For extra sparkle, sprinkle with coarse sugar. And remember, egg wash is not just for pie; use it on any dough you would like to give a nice shine to, including challah, brioche, and puff pastry.
Egg + Milk:
The classic egg wash is sometimes made with water or heavy cream, but most often it is a combination of 1 egg to 1 tablespoon milk, whisked together until smooth. Use it for the traditional rich, golden brown color with just enough shine.
For a crisp crust with a matte, classic pie appearance, use just milk. Many biscuits and rolls are brushed with milk or buttermilk to give them that finishing touch.
For a little more shine than an all-milk wash, but not as much as an egg wash, use heavy cream or half-and-half.
Similar in color to the egg-plus-milk combo, using a whole egg to wash the dough provides evenly rich, golden brown color. Whisk the egg until frothy before using.
For a very glossy, intense yellow-golden hue, whisk a yolk until smooth and brush a thin layer over the dough. To stretch the egg-yolk mixture out, allowing you to wash more dough, you can add two teaspoons water.
For the most shine, with less coloring, beat an egg white until frothy, then brush over the dough. An egg-white wash is great to use before adding sanding sugar, because it helps give your finished pastry that super sparkly look.
Nothing: For a crisp, brown crust, leave your dough unadorned. This gives the most matte appearance, so if you like that look, keep it plain.