Finishing the Crust – glazes, washes and toppings

I baked three loaves of beer bread. Same recipe the only difference was how I treated the dough ball then how I baked it.


When the dough is placed in a hot oven, it puffs up in the first few minutes. This is called oven spring. If the dough skin dries too quickly the rise may be hindered. Two ways to permit the maximum rise are washes and scoring.

Washing with a glaze

A wash is applied to the dough before baking. A wash helps keep the skin of the dough pliable is the early bake. It may also smooth or colour the crust as well as add flavour. Some washes also provide the glue if you want to add seeds to the crust. Once the final proof is complete, the finish of the crust is determined. Glazes affect the look, taste and crunch of the crust. Some are classics such as washing a Challah with egg and topping with sesame seeds. But it is really up to you, the baker, as to how you will finish the loaf. Here is a list of glazes to choose from.

1. Water – crispy crust

Water may be brushed on or spritzed. Water keeps the dough skin from forming the crust, enabling the dough to expand. It also smooths out the crust, creating a more refined appearance. Apply just before baking.

2. Olive Oil – smooth chewy crust

One of my favourite glazes. Just spread as you drizzle. Apply just before baking.

3. Flour – rustic and chewy crust

Dust the dough with some flour. This will encourage the crust to form more quickly, resulting in a more rustic appearance with a chewier crust. Apply just before baking.

4. Melted Butter – soft chew and look

Spread 1/2 TBSP on the top to give a velvety appearance and a softer chew. Apply just before baking.

5. Egg – Shiny and brown. Attach toppings

Mix the egg with 1/2 TBSP water and a pinch of salt. Whip and strain to remove clumps of egg white. Wash with the egg mixture and add your toppings. Injected steam during the baking will remove the shine. Apply just before baking.

  • Egg yolk – gives the brown colour
  • Egg white – gives the shine
  • Whole egg – brown colour and shine
  • Egg with milk – darker brown
  • Egg with cream – even darker brown

6. Cornstarch – Shiny, hard crust. Attach toppings

  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 6 TBSP water

Whisk the cornstarch with 2 TBSP of the water.
Bring the remaining 1/4 cup water to a boil and whisk the cornstarch mixture into it
Simmer for about 30 seconds or until thickened and translucent.
Cool to room temperature.
Apply just before baking. Can be applied just after baking also.

7. Honey – Sticky sweet. Attach toppings. Applied after baking

All of the previous glazes are applied before baking. Honey is applied, just after the loaf is removed from the oven. You can attach toppings. The honey will soak into the crust but hold the toppings on.

Toppings

Here are some possible toppings.

  • Basil
  • Caraway seed
  • Garlic flakes
  • Rolled oat flakes
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Poppy seed
  • Sesame seed
  • Rolled oats

Scoring

Scoring is cutting slashes in the skin of the dough. This gives a route for the expanding dough to escape. If there was not a wash, the drying crust will open to permit the interior to escape creating the classic artisan look.

Below is a potato bread with an olive oil wash, deep scoring and baked on a stone.

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