The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lesson: Glazing

Lesson: Glazing

What you put in your loaf has much more to do with the way your loaf turns out than what you put on your loaf, but glazing the exterior of your loaf can definitely help you achieve the effect you were after (i.e., soft, sweet, crusty, etc). It is, literally, the icing on the cake.

I made a batch of rolls and glazed each one with something different before scoring them. Compare:

glazed rolls

Let us look at them one-by-one.

no glaze

First is the control, with no glaze. The color was fairly light, the crust dry but not particularly crusty or crackly. There was not any particular shine to the rolls.

glazed roll with yolk

The one glazed in egg yolk came out the darkest. It stayed relatively soft, had a nice shine to it, and a slightly sweet, rich flavor.

egg white glazed roll

Egg whites also created a nice shiny coat and kept the crust soft. Adding a touch of salt to the egg whites helps break it down so it can be brushed on easier (something I failed to do above and may help account for the bare patches where I failed to glaze it properly).

water glazed roll

Water (above) and milk (below) both kept the crust on the soft side and gave the roll a soft, satiny coat. Milk is supposed to also darken the crust a bit more than water, though I didn't notice a significant difference here. The difference is, I suspect, more pronounced for a loaf that has to bake for 45 minutes than it is for a roll that bakes for 20 to 25 minutes.

milk glazed roll

Cream can also be used to glaze a loaf of bread. It is supposed to give the loaf an even richer, darker glaze.

butter glazed roll

The buttered bun is above. I actually did not apply the melted butter until after the roll was removed from the oven: it was brushed on to the still hot bun. It created a very nice shine, darkened the color noticeably, and gave the roll a moist, rich glaze.

If crispy crust is what you are after, the secret is not to glaze. Instead what you need to do is fill the oven with steam in the first few minutes. Below is a previous batch of rolls I made:

crusty rolls

As you can see, the exterior of them was crusty and crackly. I achieved this by pouring a cup of hot water into a hot baking pan on the shelf below where my rolls were. The water evaporated, filled the oven with steam, and resulted in a wonderful crusty rolls.

There are many other things you can try glazing with: a whole beaten egg, a mixture of egg and milk, juice, and so on.

Glazes also make a good base with which to glue on seeds or grains to the exterior of your loaf.

Continue on to Lesson Five: Ten Tips for Better French Bread.


Floydm's picture

I got a question via email about the recipe used to make these rolls.

The ones at the top of the article were just a basic french bread dough: flour, salt, yeast, and water. The ones at the bottom, the prettier darker ones, were the Vienna Rolls from the new Joy of Cooking (new meaning the 90s edition). They are a little more complex. As printed in the book:
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water to activate the yeast in

1 cup warm water
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the above together, then fold in:

2 large egg whites, beaten until stiff

Stir in an additional 1 3/4 - 2 cups flour. Knead for 7 minutes. Place in bowl and cover.

Let rise an hour and a half, punch down, let rise again.

Shape into rolls, cover, and give an hour to rise. Bake at 425 in a steamy oven for about 20-25 minutes.

I made a couple of changes to this recipe: instant yeast instead of active dry yeast and butter instead of shortening.

I intend to post a full article after I have a couple more times to practice them, but hopefully this is enough for folks to get close.

Cascabel's picture

I will try them

They really do look great :-)

Petras Brotkasten Chili und Ciabatta

Cascabel's picture

I made them, they look good but I think they taste a little bit bland... I prefer my rolls with sourdough. At the moment I'm testing the "Crusty Hard Rolls" from the King Arthur Baking Cookbook. They are made with poolish and have to rest overnight in the fridge before you bake them in the morning (which will be tomorrow). Let's see what happens...

jimbalaya_jones's picture

How did they turn out?

akofink's picture

How exactly did you form the rolls so that they look connected on the sides? It looks like there is no crust near the bottom on either side.

Floydm's picture

I baked them on a pan fairly closely together so when they rose they bumped into each other.  

JMR531's picture

Those look delicious, I have to try this recipe

winsey's picture

How would you go about glazing with a scrambled egg!? I'm fascinated.

Floydm's picture

I didn't mean a *cooked* scrambled egg, just an egg that has been all mixed up, whites and yolk together. What would you call that if not a "scrambled egg"?


A "beaten egg" is perhaps more accurate?

winsey's picture

Gotcha. A beaten egg is indeed more accurate.

hotbred's picture

hay u guys,,, egg wash water wash applecake is done apple jelly. the bakerys have a wash after the BREAD is done ,,Its brushed w , a coating so it shines,& one that has flour on top no shine. ok hotbred

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have bought 7gm packages of yeast, also 9gm, 10 gm, 11gm, 15 gm 17gm and 23gm. What is a package of yeast?  :) Mini Oven

Paddyscake's picture

1 Package = 1/4 oz= 7 gr = 2 1/4 tsp = 1 cake of fresh yeast (0.6oz)

jimbalaya_jones's picture

So whats the secret to having a strong chewy crust like Italian Bread?

DaviMack's picture

You get a thicker crust by baking in a higher temperature oven.  For example, if you bake at around 250°F (120°C) you'll get virtually no crust, which is handy for making sandwich breads, or for baking rye (as in those strange little thin slices you get at parties).  But if you bake at 500°F (260°C) you'll get a nice, thick crust.

I believe that you get the thickness due to the outside "setting" faster in the higher temperature, and the inside still trying to expand.  You cook more evenly with the lower temperature; you're really only cooking bread to an internal temperature of between 190°F to 195°F (87°C to 90°C), and you do so more slowly with the lower temperature, so the bread doesn't undergo the rapid change of the higher temperature.

If you cook on a "pizza" stone, or on unglazed tiles, or in a brick oven, then you're going to get a nice, thick, bottom crust to your loaves (assuming you're cooking directly on a surface, that is, and not in a pan).  If you are cooking on a stone of some sort, be sure to preheat the stone for long enough, so that it provides that additional heat to the bottom of the loaf.

As to the chewyness of the loaf, that's all about gluten, and not so much about the crust, really.

Good luck! 

DaviMack's picture

Have you tried dusting with flour before scoring?  Or spraying with olive oil before baking?

I usually do one or the other, simply because I like to let them raise covered in plastic wrap, and need something to help them not stick.  The flour gives a really nice presentation, and a dramatic showing to the interior, especially because I usually do whole wheat of some sort, so the contrast is quite nice.

The olive oil gives a nice sheen to the loaves, but it does tend to inhibit flakiness in the crust. 

Chausiubao's picture

I was under the impression that the introduction of steam only serves to maximize oven spring as the steam condenses onto the dough in the beginning of baking to prevent crust formation before the oven spring is complete. If this is so, is it not possible to create a fully crispy, crackly crust, without using steam, and simply high heat?

Floydm's picture

Steam prevents crust formation until later, which lets it spring longer and results in a thinner crust. The thinner crust is more likely to be crackly.

I'm not sure how your crust would turn out if you did high heat but no steam. My fear would be that it would be too thick and leathery, but it certainly worth trying, eh?

Chausiubao's picture

Tough and leathery would take a long time to produce. In my experience 500F for 5 minutes or so is enough. Back it down to 450F for the rest of the bake. I usually only bake for 20 to 30 minutes total per loaf.

 Occasionally when I bake larger loaves for longer then that a thicker crust is produced, and so it doesn't turn out so well. But I've never had a problem with shorter bake times. But if the steaming method can increase the crackliness of the crust I'll be all for it. 

I think it tends to soften easily, maybe even the day of the bake. 

jonquil's picture

Jonquil Hi, I made that joy of cooking recipe with the 2 stiffly beaten eggwhites. Did yours come out with hard crusts (the plain ones?) Mine were a little soft. I baked at 400F for about 25 minutes. They were pretty, they tasted ok (a little bland, but my sister likes it that way), just softer than I wanted.

To get sandwich rolls with big holes would you just use your regular french bread dough? Thanks, Jonquil

BKSinAZ's picture

What size and shape is the dough when placed on baking sheet for baking?

How to achieve size and shape?

diah's picture

your buns are yummy. It make me feel hungry. Do you have the recipe to share?

Ali The Chef's picture
Ali The Chef

Hi Floydn and the members of The Fresh Loaf,


    The loafs looks great, I got a question can I still use the same recipe on a bread maker or need to change it a bit?


Thanks in advance for any tip and keep it up :)

MNBäcker's picture

Here's a great way to get a nice, crackly crust on most breads and rolls AFTER you have baked them:

mix about a Tablespoon of corn starch with a 1/4 cup of cold water. Add 1 cup of BOILING water, stir well and then brush STILL HOT glaze onto the STILL HOT bread or rolls.


Added on Feb. 3: I guess it should say "extra shine" more than the crackly crust. When we used this glaze in the bakery, we used it on breads that most likely already had a nice crust. But, with the glaze, it really gets a great shine on the crust and helps "seal" it.

invertdna's picture

Hi All -

  I've always gotten great results from baking boules in enclosed pots, but when I try to bake outside of an enclosure, I often get a pale/white-ish shine that makes my final products look sickly.  This seems to happen whether or not I use steam in the first few minutes of the baking.  My baguettes, for example, are crunchy and taste great -- but they look pale.  Water glazing after they bake doesn't help matters.  Any advice? 

For the record, I most recently saw this today, when I baked a few baguettes from sourdough starter, bread flour, and 63% hydration.

MNBäcker's picture

Try the corn or potato starch glaze (see my post above) next time. Your breads will almost look like they're lacquered.


hairstyler's picture

I am a novice at this--- do you apply egg yolk before you bake?

Also what temperature should wheat bread be when done?


Floydm's picture

Yes, I put the yoke on before baking.

Most breads should be around 200F inside when done, though soft breads with milk or butter can come out a bit sooner (more in the 185-190F range) and lean breads like French Bread should go a little longer until they are around 205F inside.


huskerfoos's picture

My first attempt at a loaf was from the lesson 2 of this site.  Taste wise, excellent, looks and shape (from a pan) excellent.  Crust color was nice, not too dark.  But, the crust was a little too stiff for our likings for sandwhiches.  What can I change to soften that up a bit?  

I also wouldn't mind it being a little softer/lighter in the middle of the loaf.  Ideas?

thanks           JJ

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

loaf into a plastic bag or sealed container overnight.  This pulls moisture from the inside of the loaf to the crust and softens it.  Also brushing the hot out of the oven loaf with butter or olive oil will seal in steam and soften the crust.

Lighter in the middle of the loaf?  Try baking it hotter.  Then try baking for less time.  Be sure to let your loaf rise well before baking it.  You can also switch from water to milk for a softer crumb.  

Salvia's picture

I'm trying the crusty rolls recipe above for the first time and mixed it all up with the assistance of my six year old daughter. The dough is on its first rise now. In all the chaos that goes into baking with a child, I forgot the egg whites step. I'm curious how this is going to turn out without them. I'll post later about that.

Salvia's picture

Despite inadvertently omitting the egg whites, the rolls turned out great. I did put an egg wash on them before baking and at first glance out of the oven they didn't seem to have much of a crispy crust. But upon breaking them open, I discovered that they indeed had a lovely crispy/flaky crust and they were delicious! I also formed six oblong little loaves and placed them near enough on the baking sheet that they bumped up against each other in the final rise. I can't wait for tomorrow and another new recipe!

Bread winer's picture
Bread winer

Question for the experts from a glazing newbie:  Are glazing and steam mutually exclusive or can you do both?  What happens with an egg-wash glaze when you apply steam?  Should I egg-wash after the first ten minutes in the oven?  So many questions....

Bread winer's picture
Bread winer

Question for the experts from a glazing newbie:  Are glazing and steam mutually exclusive or can you do both?  What happens with an egg-wash glaze when you apply steam?  Should I egg-wash after the first ten minutes in the oven?  So many questions....

Brokeback Cowboy's picture
Brokeback Cowboy

From a pastry chef my specialty being ,Viennoiserie, generally it is not advisable to do both. The only exception however is Croissants, Pain au Chocolat and Pain D' Amandes benefit from a short steam and egg wash. However when working with breads such as sweet doughs I would suggest only egg washing.

gondo's picture

Yes steam is for a crusty french bread.  Glaze for a soft bread.  

Professionally we are taught that steam will create the french bread.  If you don't have a steam injector bakery oven we use spray bottles.  Then we are taught that if you want dark you glaze the bread before cooking with an egg wash.  And if you want soft crust you butter the bread when it comes out of the oven and it will soften the crust.  

Or store in a paper bag for the hard crust, or plastic for the soft crust.  Take your bread out of the oven and let it cool a couple minutes so it won't melt the bag lol :).  but store it in a plastic bad and the crust will be soft.  I buy boxes of 12lb bags which are loaf size.  I put all my bread in those and can freeze the loaves in the same bag.  

Brokeback Cowboy's picture
Brokeback Cowboy

And in all honesty outside of sweet rolls and rich breads I've never seen the point in glazing savory preparations.