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Egg Wash Vs Butter 

Egg Wash vs Butter: What’s the Difference? (Updated)

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Lori Walker

To get a shiny, sleek, light, and golden-brown finish on bread and pastries, an egg wash is often used just before baking.

But bakers would also use butter wash, especially if they run out of eggs. Will there be a difference between the two bread washes? 

Here’s a quick egg wash vs butter comparison to help you choose which bread wash you should use.

Comparing Egg Wash & Butter

brushing egg wash on bread

Egg wash is more accessible and affordable than butter wash, providing a better appearance to baked products. It also helps to glue and let the decorations stick to the surface of bread and pastries. 

“Butter or cream create softness and shine, but these don’t brown quite as well as milk or eggs.”

– Kimberly Blough, Writer

Using beaten eggs gives color to bread while using butter will result in bread with a softer texture and richer flavor [1]

Key Differences You Should Know

Definition

An egg wash combines egg and liquid, like milk, cream, or water. It is usually applied to the surface of yeasted bread, pastry shell, or pie crust to create a golden brown color. 

Meanwhile, a butter wash was sometimes used as a substitute for egg wash. Some recipes also call for butter, resulting in a different color and texture than egg wash. 

Preparation

Egg wash has many variations leading to different results. Add less liquid for the darker and shinier crust and maintain a 3:1 egg-to-liquid ratio. 

An egg wash that uses water produces a crisper crust with a deep brown appearance, while milk or heavy cream creates a softer crust.

On the other hand, melt butter at a low flame and whisk in the milk to create a butter wash. Ensure that you do not burn or brown the butter. 

Cost

Using egg wash in your baking process is cheaper than butter. You usually only need an egg and water, but some bakers use milk or heavy cream to replace water. 

You would only need a small amount of milk or cream, so it would not cost too much. Besides, eggs are a common ingredient in most kitchens.

Also Read: Can Spreadable Butter Be Used For Baking?

Color 

An egg wash would impart a very golden and shiny appearance to bread and pastries, more than the butter wash. Include the egg yolk for a better appearance of pies and pastries.

But if you’re looking for a shiny and clear finish, leave it out and use only egg white. 

A butter would only produce a lighter brown color or more rustic-looking baked products.

Texture 

An egg wash adds some crispiness to the baked goods, while butter softens some pastries as it melts inside the oven due to heat. Egg wash would also make the bread’s surface to be glossy. 

In addition, it helps decorations, spices, sugars, or seeds, to stick better to the surface of the baked goods than butter. When using butter, the decorations tend to slip off the surface of your bread and pastries.

Flavor 

Butter would enhance the flavor of your baked goods, incorporating an undeniable richness to the end product. In comparison, egg wash helps lock in moisture and seal fillings for bread and pastries. 

Use both washes sparingly to avoid a greasy baked good. Moreover, butter could also be used as a finishing as it will lend a richer flavor to the dish.

But what makes your cake eggy?

Drawbacks

brushing butter on a bread

Butter Wash

Including butter wash in your baking process results in a greasy baked good. It burns quickly and melts when exposed to high heat, softening some pastries that are supposed to be crispy. 

It is also unsuitable for those with dairy or milk protein allergies because it is made of dairy products.

Egg Wash

Using too much egg wash on your baked goods can ruin them. The egg wash will dribble down unwanted areas, causing the bread or pie to get stuck inside the pan. It can also prevent the pastry from puffing. 

It can make the baked products heavy and dense and seal the slits on the top of your bread or pie.

Related Post: What’s The Distinction Between Whipped & Regular Butter?

The Science Behind Maillard Reaction

Maillard Reaction, often called a nonenzymatic browning reaction, happens when foods are cooked or processed at high temperatures. This chemical reaction produces different flavors and brown color. 

It was named after Louis Camille Maillard, a French chemist and physicist who was the first to define it [2]. The food industry often uses the Maillard Reaction to generate different aromas, colors, and tastes.

FAQs

Do you use butter or egg wash for puff pastry?

Use egg wash for a flaky puff pastry instead of butter. But don’t put too much egg wash, as the excess can drip off unwanted areas and ruin the result. 

Do you use egg wash or melted butter on bread?

Use egg wash for bread with decorations, as it helps them stick to the surface. However, you can also use melted butter for bread with no decorations. 

Find out what you can do with milk solids from clarified butter here.

What happens if you don’t egg wash or butter wash bread?

If you don’t include egg wash or butter wash in your bread-making process, the result looks paler and seems unfinished instead of having a professional-looking golden color.

Sum It Up

Egg wash has more advantages to your baked products than butter wash. The egg is a common ingredient in our kitchens, and by mixing water, you can already have an egg wash that results in appetizing bread and pastries. 

On the other hand, butter would be a more expensive wash, and it imparts a lighter color to baked goods. You can use it for pastries that can withstand softening. 

References:

  1. https://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-video-tip-choose-the-right-bread-wash-bonus-recipe-20150311-story.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4745522/
Lori Walker

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