Comparing 15 glazes on one dough was quite a fun experiment with surprising results.
We all know the most common ones like egg, milk, oil. But you could make dozens of different glazes with various ingredients and then even more once you start mixing them with one another. There are literally hundreds of options.
But why use a glaze at all? Not all breads benefit from it. Most whole loaves of bread are not glazed. The crust is supposed to be ‘naked’ and natural. Not glazing lets the crust dry out more and become crispier (although some glazes will do that too).
Most of the time a glaze is used for enriched dough. Breads that are made with fat, eggs, milk, and sugar are elaborate in texture and flavour and a glaze can elevate that even further. Also, a soft and shiny crust is usually desired on those kinds of breads.
Smaller loaves and rolls benefit from a glaze too as it can help with keeping them moister and softer for longer. Most glazes help the dough expand more as they moisten the crust preventing it from setting too soon.
But not all glazes are created equal. Some make the curst sticky, some make it shiny, some make it crispy, and some make it softer. Some are used as glue for sticking on seeds and other ingredients.
Let us not forget about the glazes that can be brushed on after baking. Hot sugar syrup gives extreme shine and sweetness. A jam and water mix and enhance pastries. Honey or other sweet syrups can be used to similar effect. Oil can soften and give a nice shine. Just naming a few here.
I chose some of the most common ones to compare side by side, but I also chose some more unusual ones to keep it interesting. Some of them require preparation. You will find all the ingredients and specific methods below.
- This is perhaps the simplest glaze. It does not leave any residue or coating, but it does affect the crust making it slightly crispier and it helps the dough expand more by moistening the crust and preventing it from setting too early. This is true for all other glazes in this list. Can be used at any temperature.
- Increases shine and keeps the crust soft.
- Corn starch paste. This is a 1:10 ratio of corn starch to water cooked until thickened, then brushed on. It adds a thin slightly crispy coating which can be coloured and flavoured. Resists higher temperatures.
- Wheat flour paste. A 1:6 ratio of wheat flour and water cooked until thickened and used in the exact same way as the corn starch paste to similar effect.
- Honey or syrup mixed with water. A 50/50 mix of honey or any other sweet syrup with water. Makes the crust sticky, shiny, and caramelizes it more. This should be used at lower temperatures.
- Water/oil emulsion. This is commonly used for focaccia. The idea is that water will keep it moist as it is baking and make the crust crispier. The oil works the same way as oil by itself. Whisk 1 part lemon juice, 3 parts water, and 6 parts olive oil until emulsified (thickened). This can be seasoned and mixed with herbs. Quite like a salad dressing. I personally just use oil and sprinkle on whatever I like instead of adding this extra step of making an emulsion.
- Glaze made from dough. This one is quite unique. It is made from fermented rye bread dough. The way it works is that you pinch off a piece of dough before final shaping, mix it with water at 3:2 ratio and brush it on before baking. It gives the crust a crispy texture and a cracked design. The dough/water ratio can be adjusted for different effect. The more water the smoother the glaze. I first used this in my Belarusian rye bread video. It can also be made with wheat dough, but then it must be mixed more. Perhaps with a food processor. The resulting crust looked kind of like the one on a tiger loaf. This can withstand high temperatures.
- This can be used in place of water. It will have a similar effect although it will caramelize the crust more since milk contains sugar.
- It is thicker than regular milk but acts similarly. It does leave streaks though so a thin layer would be best. Gives a slight acidic flavour.
- Sour cream. Like buttermilk, but smoother once baked. Gives a sweet & sour flavour and nice even caramelization.
- Almond milk. Since I was trying out different dairy products, I thought I would also try non-dairy milk. It did not leave any taste. But it did give the crust a nice even colour and shine. Other non-dairy milk can be used to similar effect.
- Panettone topping. This is another unique one. Made by blending an egg white, 20g (0.7oz) sugar, 10g (0.35oz) almonds, 10g (0.35oz) hazelnuts, 2g (0.07oz) four, and 2g (0.07oz) cocoa powder. It creates a crispy, sweet, and nutty crust which works amazingly not just for panettone but also for other enriched breads. This amount of glaze could cover 6 rolls.
- Finally, we have the standard – whole egg. Makes the crust nice and shiny, gives it a bit of a bite, great caramelization.
- Egg yolk. It also resulted in a beautifully shiny crust with some bite to it and a little more egg flavour.
- Egg white. Super shiny but without the eggyness.
All the above can be modified and adjusted. Eggs can be mixed with water, milk, added sugar, etc. The ratios can be adjusted in the cooked toppings and other liquids used instead of water. The panettone glaze can be made with different nuts and without the cocoa if not desired. All the milk glazes can be mixed with flavourings and coloured to your heart’s desire. And of course, there are many other glazes that I have not even discovered yet.
But which one is your favourite? Which one do you use most often and why? Let me know!
And don’t forget to check out the Principles of Baking playlist for more videos like this one.
Watch the video here