Most of us will have come across Hollandaise sauce deliciously dolloped over poached eggs, ham and muffins in the form of Eggs Benedict. It has always had a reputation as being a tricky sauce to master but there is really nothing complicated about it and once you have mastered the technique there are endless variations.
What is Hollandaise Sauce?
According to the Michelin Guide Antonin Careme described the four French mother sauces, or sauce basis. The sauces are Béchamel, Velouté, Allemande and Espagnole. By the 20th Century Chef Escoffier had demoted Allemande as a daughter sauce of Velouté and instead added in Hollandaise and Sauce Tomat. All of these mother sauces are thickened with a roux, a mixture of flour and fat (usually butter), except for Hollandaise. It is actually the quickest sauce to make and is an emulsion using the simplest of ingredients that you will likely always have available at home. All that you need is melted butter, lemon juice or white wine vinegar and eggs.
How to make Hollandaise Sauce
There are two ways to make Hollandaise sauce according to preference, however, I actually prefer the traditional method as I think it is less clearing up and I think that is a big factor when you are making something at home!
Method 1 - Traditional
Whisk 2 egg yolks in a heatproof bowl with 1 dessertspoon of white wine vinegar then set the bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water. Make sure that the water does not touch the bowl. Whisk the mixture over the heat for 2-3 minutes until pale and thick. Melt the butter in a pan and gradually whisk in to the egg mixture. If the mixture is too thick add a little lemon juice until you find the right consistency. Season to taste.
Method 2 - Blender method
Put the eggs and vinegar into a blender and combine on a medium speed. Melt the butter then add in a steady stream with the blender on. Add lemon juice and seasoning as before.
Tips and Troubleshooting
Some recipes call for clarified butter, otherwise known as butter with the solids skimmed off but I have made this countless times using normal butter and I cannot notice a difference.
Because a Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of butter and egg there is a chance that the mixture can split. To avoid this serve the sauce warm immediately or keep warm in the bowl over the simmering water as in the traditional method. It is also possible to rescue a split sauce by whisking in a few drops of hot water.
If you want to make enough sauce for one person it's easy to do. Allow I egg yolk to about 60g of butter and a teaspoon of vinegar. A mixture made from 2 yolks, 120g butter and a dessertspoon of vinegar will be enough
If you are not keen on the taste of vinegar you can substitute lemon juice instead in equal amounts. Beware of adding extra lemon juice at the end.
Béarnaise sauce is a daughter sauce of Hollandaise made with with a reduction of white wine and vinegar and the addition of chervil and tarragon. In France Bearnaise sauce is often served with steak but it goes equally well with fish.
Of course, Mayonnaise is a sauce derived from Hollandaise where egg yolks are combined with oil instead of butter. Add some chopped capers and it becomes Tartare sauce.
Homemade mayonnaise is easy to do at home as a base for . You can find step by step instructions to make Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise.
- 2 egg yolks
- 120 g melted butter
- 1 dessert spoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
- lemon juice to taste
- Traditional Method: Whisk 2 egg yolks in a heatproof bowl with 1 dessertspoon of white wine vinegar.
- Set the bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water. Make sure that the water does not touch the bowl. Whisk the mixture over the heat for 2-3 minutes until pale and thick.
- Melt the butter in a pan and gradually whisk in to the egg mixture a little at a time. If the mixture is too thick add a little lemon juice until you find the right consistency.
- Season to taste.
- Blender Method: Put the eggs and vinegar into a blender and combine on a medium speed.
- Melt the butter then add in a steady stream with the blender on.
- Add lemon juice and season to taste as before.
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