All You Need To Know About The Skilly Wash

A crusty homemade cob loaf
Crusts. Cracklingly crunchy, crispy crusts.

If you're looking to perfect your crust technique, this is the last piece of the puzzle. You've tried steam, you've tried high temperatures, you've read my post "How To Achieve An Amazing Crust" but have you tried the skilly wash?

Relatively few people have, I suspect. But it could be the game-changer where perfect crusts are concerned. So, what is the skilly wash? How do you make it? What is it supposed to look like? This article is for you.

I've been a little bit obsessed with crusts lately. It all started when I began experimenting with the use of a casserole dish to bake my bread. I wrote about it in the aforementioned 'Amazing Crust' article. This prompted Geof (thank you Geof - you've encouraged me to up my game!) to get in touch with the suggestion that I try a skilly wash, to improve my crust.

Skilly what, now? I googled it to no avail. I mean, there are a couple of references to it, online, but no instructions. Geof was kind enough to enlighten me and direct me to this excellent book, which I am now reading, avidly:

My Life In Baking, by Clive Mellum*
*This is an affiliate link to the book on Amazon.

Clive Mellum will take your bread baking skills to another level. I am sure to be writing about this book in more detail soon. I am learning many fascinating details and helpful insights (Ah ha! So that's why such-and-such works!) But for now, the skilly wash...

What Is A Skilly Wash?

A skilly wash is made from scalded cornflour. It is painted onto bread to help with crust formation, since the hydrated starch in the cornflour will first help to keep the crust supple and prevent it from setting too early and then contribute to the caramelisation that gives the crust its attractive brown colour and particular flavour.

A skilly wash is also a good 'glue' for sticking seeds onto the loaf, apparently (though I have not tried this myself). Here is a testimony to that effect, on someone's personal blog and also here is someone discussing the benefits of a skilly wash for a seed coat.

How To Make a Skilly Wash

To paraphrase Clive Mellum (but you really should read his instructions in context, in his book), the skilly wash is made by first mixing two teaspoonfuls of cornflour into a small amount of water, to make a paste. This is then scalded, by pouring 250 ml of boiling water over it and stirring well. The starch in the cornflour expands (as you know from making gravy or white sauce) and, in this case, the result is a translucent, thin paste. If the boiling water poured over the cornflour is not hot enough to scald the starch, you can complete the process in the microwave.

Here's my skilly wash, freshly made:

Skilly wash in a jug

You can store it in the fridge for about a week and use it to paint many loaves.

Here's a free-form loaf, just turned out of its proving bowl, painted with the skilly wash:

A homemade loaf painted with skilly wash

You can see the finished loaf, after baking, at the top of this article. And here's another that I baked at the same time, also with the skilly wash and a fancy criss-cross pattern:

Cob loaf with a criss-cross pattern and excellent crust

These crusts are coming out really well, if you like them crunchy and crispy.

Let me know if you try the skilly wash. And, as ever, please get in touch with any bread-baking questions or suggestions. My mission is to help you make your own bread, as simply as possible.

Happy baking!


  1. One bread flour I would really recommend is Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Wholegrain Seeded Bread Flour. It gives a great rise and has a great taste. We haven't been able to get to a Sainsbury's for months as it is in the next town, and we have decided to keep local for now. We are really missing loaves made with this flour, which I make every four weeks or so.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I do have a Sainsbury's nearby!


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