You've made your perfect flaky pie dough, let it rest, rolled it out, and created the beautiful, crimped crust of your dreams. Your unbaked pie is sitting in the fridge, resting and waiting for the oven to preheat. You've come so far in pursuit of a delicious and beautiful pie, don't forget the most critical aesthetic step in the pie process: applying a fine coat of egg wash or cream to the top before you pop the pie into the oven.
This small step makes all the difference in your pie's final appearance— the difference between having a golden brown pie or one that looks dull and under-baked. Many people wonder if they should apply heavy cream or egg wash. Heavy cream is just what is sounds like—a light coating of the same cream you'll use to make that homemade whipped cream to top the pie. An egg wash can be made by lightly beating together an egg with a teaspoon of water, but I prefer beating an egg with a healthy pinch of salt.
The results from the methods are very different, and there is a time and place for each. As you can see in the photo below, the egg wash (made with salt) on the right side of the pie creates a darker, glossy exterior, while the cream wash is a lovely golden brown matte finish.
When finishing your pie with a wash, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- For cream wash, consider sprinkling sugar on top to enhance browning and give it a prettier, lightly sparkling appearance.
- When using egg wash, be sure to allow the egg and salt mixture to sit for several minutes after you've beaten them together and before using. This will allow the salt to dissolve in the egg's liquid and the wash will become more fluid.
- For either type of wash, be sure to brush off excess flour before applying.
- Don't put the egg wash on too soon. Always apply washes to cold, rested dough, just before it's time to bake.
About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute and holds a CS certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.