At the Culinary Institute, students (like yours truly at one time) have to pass one final cooking practical to graduate. And of course a temperamental sauce like hollandaise is on the menu. So I thought I'd share the finer points of how to make hollandaise sauce, for those special occasions that warrant crafting it at home. Because I rarely 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. Not edible times if you know what I mean. Or the best way to enjoy eggs Benedict on a Sunday morning. But since hollandaise is a simple emulsion of egg yolks and butter, a little bit of know how takes you far.
The formula for hollandaise sauce
Whether whipped up by an award-winning chef or a home cook, the basic recipe for hollandaise sauce is the same. Like all of cooking and baking, the ratios of ingredients for a successful sauce are inflexible. It's proper technique that produces a successful sauce. So please don't be fooled by headlines like "The BEST hollandaise sauce recipe ever!".
The tried and true, unyielding, inflexible formula is:
Hollandaise Sauce = 3 egg yolks + 8 ounces of butter
Create flavor with lemon juice, a herb reduction and of course salt. But that's it. Egg yolks and butter whisked until thickened and ribboned. Done and delicious. Even keto!
How to make hollandaise sauce
Success relies on awareness, and a properly heated double boiler. However, even seasoned professional cooks break the sauce - or curdle the eggs - by not heeding the warning signs .
How to keep hollandaise from breaking (curdling)
- The sauce becomes too thick in the bowl (sauce doesn't flow off the whisk)
- Less than 120° F
- 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 you're better off training your eyes. Because knowing what to look for is better than trying to temp a sauce... while holding a hot double-boiler with one hand and a whisk with the other.
How to fix hollandaise if it breaks
If your sauce breaks anyway - DON'T PANIC! Just crack another egg yolk into a new bowl, place over the simmering water, and SLOWLY whisk in the broken sauce. Or throw in the towel and buzz it up nice and smooth in a blender. It'll take just as lovely drenching your buttery English muffins and over-easy eggs. Because pouched eggs are one thing I never cook at home.
Yours in #brunchsohard,Print
To add a savory depth of flavor to your hollandaise, simmer up a quick reduction of vinegar and spices. To get right down to a classic version, use lemon juice instead.
For paleo hollandaise, use ghee instead of butter. It's dairy-free as the milk solids are removed.
- 2 tbsp white wine reduction or lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 ounces butter or ghee (clarified butter), unsalted, melted and keep very warm
- 1-2 tbsp hot water (as hot as the tap will give you)
- few pinches of salt, to your taste
- 1 cup dry white wine or white wine vinegar
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns, whole
- 1 small shallot, minced
Prepare Reduction (or use
- 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.
To Make Sauce
- Combine 2 tablespoons of reduction (or lemon juice) with 2 egg yolks in heat-proof bowl.
- Melt butter in a separate dish or small pot and keep warm over low heat.
- Make ready off the heat: a second pot lined with a kitchen towel, and a measuring glass with warm water.
- Over medium heat bring an inch of water to simmer in a small sauce pot.
- Whisk eggs with reduction or lemon juice off the heat until foamy.
- Set bowl over pot and whisk constantly until eggs double in volume. Once you can draw lines in the bowl with the whisk, you're ready for the butter.
- Off heat, slowly drizzle in warm butter to egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add warm water as needed to keep hollandaise a smooth, 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 emulsified (blended).
- Serve immediately over eggs, steaks, asparagus and more!
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