I have to pass one final cooking practical to graduate, and hollandaise sauce is on the menu. So I thought I’d share the finer points of making it for those special occasions that warrant crafting it at home. Because I never order it at a restaurant for one reason, and one reason only.
The sauce is made hours before guests arrive, and sits waiting in a thermos to be served lukewarm at best. In my opinion, not the best way to enjoy eggs Benedict on a Sunday morning. But since hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter – it is slightly tricky to whip up. Success relies on awareness, and a properly heated double boiler, i.e. small pot with an inch of water and medium size heat proof bowl. However, most cooks (including professionals) break the sauce, or curdle the eggs, by not heeding the warning signs… in the form of egg yolks and sauce that are…
- Too thick to incorporate more butter (sauce doesn’t flow off the whisk)
- Too cool, less than 120° F
- Too hot, more than 140° F
So when slowly whisking heated butter into warm, foamed egg yolks, add a tablespoon of warm water if it gets too thick. To keep it the right temperature, have a second pot lined with a towel on the counter (to steady while whisking), and move the bowl on and off the heat every minute or so.
A thermometer can be your friend in the beginning, but visual cues are easier than stopping to probe the sauce every minute. And last, if your sauce does break – just buzz it in the blender. It’ll taste just the same poured over those English muffins topped with fried eggs. Because poaching eggs is something else I never do at home.
- 1 Tbs white wine reduction (recipe below)
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 oz butter, unsalted, melted and around 145Â° F
- 1-2 Tbs hot water (as hot as the tap will give you)
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 cup dry white wine or white wine vinegar
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 Tbs black peppercorns, whole
- 1 small shallot, minced
- Combine ingredients in a shallow pan and simmer on medium-high heat until liquid is reduced to a quarter cup. Strain out aromatics and cool slightly.
- Combine 2 tablespoons of reduction with 2 egg yolks in heat-proof bowl. Melt butter by microwaving for one minute in a heat proof (glass) measuring cup or bowl that can be poured from easily. Leave in microwave.
- Have ready off the heat a second pot lined with a kitchen towel to set bowl in when whisking in butter.
- Over medium heat bring an inch of water to simmer in a small sauce pot. Whisk eggs with reduction off the heat until foamy, then set bowl over pot and whisk constantly until eggs double in volume, and you can draw lines in the bowl with the whisk (when eggs get close to needed volume, microwave butter again for 30 seconds).
- Off heat, slowly drizzle in warm butter to egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add warm water as needed to keep hollandaise smooth and a thick, but pourable consistency.
- Return bowl to heat to keep warm, and add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Do not over whisk once sauce is finished, simply stir gently to keep it incorporated. Serve immediately over eggs, steaks, asparagus and more!
Snap Shot: The Reduction