Pie Crust Washes are the perfect finishing touch for any pie crust.  Don’t work hard making a delicious pie and perfect-looking pie crust just to stop there!  A great pie isn’t complete until it’s been brushed with a good pie wash, and there are many pie wash options to choose from.  

Have you ever worked hard at making the perfect double crust fruit pie with the most perfect fluted edges only to feel disappointed when you pulled the pie out of the oven and looked at a dry and dull-looking pie crust?  Have you ever wondered what some people do to end up with a glistening glossy pie crust?  Well, the answer is in the pie wash.  A pie wash is a wash that is thinly brushed on the top pie crust right before it goes into the oven.  There are several pie wash options, depending on the look you desire and I’ll show you below, the different options!

The washes below are examples of washes without added sugar.  Whether you are making a breakfast quiche or savory chicken pot pie, there are several options for a pie wash.  For example, if you want your chicken pot pie to have a nice golden crust, you might prefer a glossy or sheen-like appearance, or you might want a plain golden-brown crust with no sheen or glossy look.  It’s all about what makes you happy!

The pastry forms above are baked using the following washes:

  1. Half & half:  The top left pastry form was brushed with half and half.  It is a light golden brown but has a matte finish.  Whipping cream can be used in place of half and half.  Note:  Plain milk can be used instead of cream, however, it results in a darker and less glossy crust.  I don’t personally recommend milk.
  2. Half & half and egg:  The top middle pastry form was brushed with half & half and egg. The result will be a nice golden color and a more glossy look than an egg with water.
  3. Egg & water:  The top right pastry form was brushed with egg & water.  It’s a nice golden color and slightly glossy.  Note:  A general rule of thumb for egg wash with water is to use 1 – 2 tablespoons of water whisked with one egg.  The more water, the thinner and easier brushing consistency, resulting in a light golden color.
  4. Egg white:  The bottom left pastry form was brushed with egg white only.  It’s a nice golden color but has no sheen or gloss.
  5. Plain:  The bottom middle pastry form was not brushed with anything.  As you can see it is rather dull looking and barely browned.
  6. Milk:  The bottom right pastry form was brushed with milk only.   The milk helped the pastry form to brown a little more than the plain one, but it’s still dull looking.

The only thing missing on all of these is sugar…which I will show you in a minute.

USING THE RIGHT BRUSH

To brush a pie crust, you need a soft natural bristled pastry brush, and you need to thoroughly wash the brush under hot soapy water after using it, to prevent the raw egg from drying on the bristles of the brush.

When brushing on a wash, you need to make sure that the wash is thin and smooth, not too thick.

WHEN TO ADD SUGAR TO PIE WASH

The only time you want to add sugar to a pie wash is if you’re making non-savory pies.  This includes all types of sweet dessert pies.  Again, there are several options.  Pick the one that suits you!  Below are a few different options and what they look like when adding granulated or turbinado sugar.

I’m not going to break down each one of the pictures above.  They are simply the same as the first pictures listed above but with added sugar.   The more coarse the sugar, the more sparkle and shine on your finished crust.  My personal favorite is half & half, egg & granulated, or turbinado sugar.  On all of my double-crusted dessert pies, I always use a sugary pie wash.

TIPS

  • Don’t brush the edges of the pie crust with pie wash.  This will cause the edges to get too brown.
  • Don’t sprinkle sugar on the pie edges of the pie crust.  This will also cause excess browning.
  • Some bakers brush light corn syrup over their pie crust instead of other pie wash options.  I have never personally tried this, but if you do, please give us feedback on the results.  I suggest warming the syrup first to make it thin and spreadable enough.

Washes are not only used for brushing on a pie crust… but they are also used for brushing the finish touches on such things as bread loaves, rolls, and pastries such as puff pastry and pate a choux.  The type of pastry or pie crust you’re making usually dictates what type of wash you want to use, but again, the choice is really yours.

The bottom line is that a wash is the perfect finishing touch to any pastry dough or crust to give it that perfect golden, soft, matte, or glossy appealing look.  Please don’t omit this important step, or you’ll regret it later.

Check out this recipe for Aunt Elsie’s Flaky Pie Crust.

Originally posted, March 2016.  Updated May 2021.