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On Salting Egg Wash

The one nice things about being mostly absent for a couple of weeks is that the comment fields become stuffed with great questions. Like this one from reader Dean: Joe, why do you salt egg wash? I presume it’s a flavor thing. Does salt do anything else in an egg wash?

Oh my yes, Dean, and bless you for asking. In addition to seasoning your wash, salt causes the mixture of liquid yolk and gelatinous white to relax into a nice thin, even solution. Now I know what you’re thinking: Joe, how on Earth does that magic happen? Well let me tell you a thing or two about egg white proteins. In their natural state, egg white proteins occur in little bunches, which are scattered throughout the white. Well I suppose I shouldn’t say “scattered” exactly, because the fresher the egg white is, the closer those bunches are to one another. So “clustered” might be a better word in this case. It’s this clustering that’s responsible for an egg white’s thick and jelly-like texture, as those close-together clusters restrict the flow of the liquid (mostly water) around them.

You can actually see the things in a very fresh egg, at least collectively. Every notice how, in a very fresh egg, the which is a little milky looking? Those are the proteins bunches. Being as close together as they are, they bounce light rays back to our eyes. And how cool is that?

Add salt and the whole situation changes. The protein bunches start to repel each other (as you probably guessed, something like this happens naturally as an egg gets older and the pH of the white starts to rise). As they spread out into the white, they make it white both thinner and clearer. In a salted egg wash, this process takes about ten minutes. A mixture that was once lumpy and goopy, with the help of a shake of salt, becomes almost water-like in texture and near completely homogenous. It also becomes richer in color, going from yellow to a deep orange as the yolk spreads out evenly through the mixture.

Ahhhh, that felt good. Thank you, reader Dean. It’s good to be back.

2 thoughts on “On Salting Egg Wash”

  1. Can you tell us something about freeze-dried fruit and how to use it? I’m thinking in buttercreams and frostings. It’s the amount of freeze-dried fruit that is confusing. Different recipes run the gamut – 1/4 cup, 2 cups, all for the same amount of buttercream. This is where an understanding of ratios might come in handy. If I wanted to make a raspberry flavored meringue buttercream for my macarons, how much dried fruit would flavor it decently?
    Many thanks.

    1. Hey Chana! Can you give me an example of a recipe? I have quite a few buttercream recipes that call for jams or conserves, but none that call for dried fruit. Where have you seen those?

      – Joe

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