One of the hallmarks of professional bread is the perfectly browned, crisp crust that encases the tender crumb within. Brushing olive oil -- or other liquids -- on bread is a great way to achieve a gorgeous loaf at home, without the high heat or steam ovens that many professional bakers have the advantage of using. Brushing olive oil on bread prior to baking is called glazing.
Glazing bread entails brushing a liquid onto the dough before baking to achieve a golden, brown or even shiny appearance. The liquid that you decide to brush on your dough will affect the visual outcome.
Glazing with Olive Oil
Brushing olive oil on your dough will result in a slightly shiny, tender crust with a beautiful golden brown hue. This will also give your final product an additional layer of olive oil flavor. Pour your olive oil into a small bowl and, using a pastry brush, apply it evenly over the bread just before inserting the loaf into the oven. You can also brush additional olive oil on your bread just after baking for more shine and olive oil flavor.
In addition to using other oils and fats such as butter to glaze your dough you can also use milk, buttermilk, egg yolks, egg whites, or whole beaten eggs. Each glaze will impart a slightly different brown color, texture, flavor, and level of shine to the crust of the bread. You can even just spray water onto your bread before and during baking to encourage browning.
Other Browning Techniques
One great way to achieve a nicely browned, crisp crust is to create steam during the cooking process. Just before inserting your bread into the oven, fill a metal or ceramic loaf pan with boiling water and place it on the bottom or lowest shelf of your oven. This will continuously release steam into your oven to help promote a crisp, browned exterior.
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