Demystifying hollandaise sauce

30th March, 2009 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Eggs benedict with Hollandaise sauce and steamed asparagus.

Hollandaise sauce has a reputation as a tricky sauce best attempted only by professionals under certain conditions. In reality hollandaise is a quick sauce that goes well with fish, eggs or vegetables – especially the asparagus coming into season right now. There is a bit of technique involved, but nothing too complex. The only equipment needed is a sauce pan of simmering water, a metal bowl to sit over the water and a whisk.

Hollandaise is one of the classic French mother sauces, as defined by Antonin Careme. The mother sauces are the basis of all the other sauces and this one is a good one to use to impress people. It’s also the key ingredient in eggs benedict.

Hollandaise is a emulsified sauce, meaning melted butter and lemon are forced to play nice with each other using egg yolks as the playground. While hollandaise is easy to prepare, it is not a sauce to walk away from. Once committed, the cook needs to see it through; otherwise you’ll find yourself with a bowl of scrambled butter yolk.

The real key to a successful hollandaise is heat – as in you don’t want much. By whisking the eggs over water, the heat is diffused in a way that most burners can’t provided. The water should be barely bubbling, a rolling boil is much too hot and will solidify the egg.

The first step is to whisk the yolks to “ribbon stage”: when the whisk is dragged across the bottom of the bowl, the yolks should be solid enough to hold their shape for a moment, but not so runny that they immediately come back together. Basically the eggs are being massaged for the butter and lemon.

The butter should be melted and warm. Browned butter will not blend well. Once the eggs are ready, add the butter in a thin steady stream while continually whisking the eggs. The first couple times this sauce is attempted, it might not be a bad idea to have another person hold the bowl in place.

How will you know the sauce is emulsified? If the mixture is smooth and creamy, then you’re good. If you have little islands of egg yolk floating in a sea of butter, then the sauce is broken and it didn’t work. What to do then?

First, remove the broken sauce from the heat. Then whisk together two more egg yolks. Slowly pour the broken sauce into the new yolks while continually whisking. The new yolks will emulsify the broken sauce. Add more lemon and serve.

Hollandaise can be frozen and thawed for serving, but don’t ever microwave it. The high heat will break the sauce. It’s best thawed at room temperature with occasional stirring.

Hollandaise for Everybody

3 egg yolks
12 oz hot melted butter (2-3 sticks)
1 lemon, quartered
warm water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a saucepan over low heat, simmer water. Place bowl with yolks over heated water and whisk until eggs begin to ribbon.

2. Add a squeeze of a lemon and a dash of warm water.

3. Add butter in a slow steady stream while whisking continuously.

The sauce should taste mainly of lemon and butter.


Posted on: March 30, 2009

Filed under: Breakfast, Dinner

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