Crust Treatments for Your Breads and Rolls

Brushing your loaves or rolls with a bit of wash or glaze might seem like an unnecessary hassle, especially when you are looking at whipping an egg and cleaning out a goopy pastry brush. However, almost all yeast breads require some type of crust treatment. Sometimes they simply add a beautiful shine or a lovely color. Others, like scoring and steaming, will allow your crust to fully expand. Glazes that contain moisture or fat also allow the inner crust to expand fully before the crust is too hard to allow expansion. Watch me have some fun throwing some various finishing touches on my giant batch of rolls!

Just for comparison purposes, let’s start with an example of a “naked” roll. For this roll I did not treat the crust in any way. It was crispy but the crust did not have a great color and it didn’t expand as fully as the other rolls.

Let’s start with the tastiest treatments, butter! It was super interesting to see the small differences in the crust just based on how frequently I basted with butter. I did have to melt it before applying, which left me with extra dirty dishes and a little bit of wasted butter.

The roll below was basted with butter only before being baked.

The roll below was basted in butter before baking and during baking. You can see the crust is flakier and it has more little blisters.

The roll below was basted in butter before being baked, half-way through baking and one last time right after it was taken from the oven. It still has the pretty flakiness but just having one more application of butter at the end has added a beautiful sheen!

Here we are experimenting with an egg white wash. The egg white was beaten with a teaspoon of water. The roll on the left was brushed before being baked. The roll on the right was brushed before baking and one additional time mid-bake. I loved the color and crispiness of the egg white roll and I think basting the second time was totally worth the end result!

For my egg yolk wash I beat one yolk without anything else added. I brushed the roll on the left before baking and the one on the right received an additional egg yolk brushing half-way through the bake. Similar to the egg white wash, the additional brushing really seemed to put the end results over the top. The color was beautiful and similar to the yellow-brown of the egg white but the yolk, with it’s extra fat content, added more softness to the crust.

Here we have a cornstarch glaze. This glaze was made by whisking 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of water and microwaving for 2 minutes, stirring at least 4 times. These rolls came out very crispy and a lovely brown color.

The roll below was brushed with the cornstarch glaze only before being baked. It came out nicely browned and crispy.

This roll was brushed with cornstarch glaze before being baked and gain half-way through the bake. Over-all I felt the rolls were the same, the browning is a little different but that pretty much went for all of the rolls depending on where on they were placed on my pan. The blisters are slightly more pronounced but I think the one glaze application before baking was enough.

My little helper making sure I know which lump of dough is which!

Now we are going to move onto cream. I liked using cream because it was super easy, no cooking or mixing or beating. Just a little bowl and a pastry brush to clean up afterwards.

The roll below was basted with heavy cream right before going into the oven. It came out very similar to the butter, which wasn’t super surprising but the cream was easier to use as it didn’t require melting. In the future if I’m thinking of doing a butter wash I will baste with cream until they are taken from the oven and then do a final rub down with butter.

The roll below was basted with cream before going in the oven and half-way through the bake. Overall I felt they were mostly the same and equally crispy but the roll with two applications was ever so slightly glossier.

Now let’s move onto the oiled rolls. Oil was also a pretty easy treatment. I used olive oil. For some reason these rolls smelled simply incredible, they had a super toasty, fresh bread smell.

The first roll received an oil basting before going in the oven and this is the beautiful result. It was evenly browned and very crispy and blistery.

The second oiled roll received a basting before going in the oven and another one half-way through the bake. It also came out evenly browned and just a little more blisters.

The last oiled roll received it’s oil basting before going in the oven, again half-way through the bake and one last time after being removed from the oven. It was evenly browned, crispy and smelled divine! The last oil basting took down the evidence of blisters but it did not add a sheen like the butter did.

Next I did a comparison of steam versus no steam. I used a dome lid to cover the roll on the right and the roll on the left I left uncovered with no crust treatment. This comparison was much more startling than any of my others. Look at how lovely the brown color is just from adding steam?!

Here is a cute and simple scoring job on this roll. I know scoring isn’t typical for rolls but I was wondering how much a roll without a glaze could benefit from a scoring job.

The roll on the left is scored but with no further crust treatment. The roll on the right has no crust treatment and no scoring. The scoring definitely helped the crumb open up!

Next up I tried a sugar glaze. I used two parts sugar to one part water, brought the mixture to a boil and let it cool. I have personally never used a sugar glaze so I had no idea what to expect. I initially thought the crust might brown too much or too quickly but it browned very similarly to the other treatments. I brushed one roll before baking and the other before baking, half-way through the bake and then again after baking. I had read that a sugar glaze is delicious on sweet rolls because it makes the crust soft and sticky-sweet. The roll with the final basting was so glossy and soft and the sweetness was lovely!
I don’t think I would use this method again just because boiling and cooling the sugar water was inconvenient and if I do sweet rolls I usually like to frost them but I made a mental note to try a ready-made simple syrup or maple syrup next time.

This roll was simply rolled in seeds. I think seeds are so pretty and so easy! Until it comes to the clean-up that is! I brushed with a light basting of water and then rolled in sesame seeds before baking.

Here is one that I simply floured. I use flour on my potato rolls so when I see it, I’m in the mood for a potato roll! I probably won’t use it on regular rolls in the future just so I don’t disappoint myself too much.

After browsing through my fun crust experiments I hope you feel inspired to try something new! I thought it was super fun and so did my little helper. Nobody was upset by the fact that the kitchen was overflowing with rolls for a solid week!

Rochelle Greenway

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