How to Make Restaurant Quality Hollandaise Sauce
Hollandaise is one of the “mother” sauces of French cuisine. Master this sauce, and you can make any number of variations, including the Béarnaise sauce included in this book.
Hollandaise is an emulsified sauce, which means it is a force combining of elements that don’t normally like to combine. In this case, it’s egg yolks, lemon juice and butter.
There are a couple of techniques that you should master in order to make a successful Hollandaise sauce. The first is to heat the egg yolks to thicken them without having them curdle into scrambled eggs.
The secret to success is using a double boiler–a metal or glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of your bowl is well above the level of the water in the pan. You want all the heat to come from steam rising off the water, not from the water itself.
The second technique is actually maintaining the emulsion. Once you have forced water and fat to combine, it wants to separate. You can prevent or at least slow down this process by adding a bit of water to the eggs, by carefully regulating your heat and by whisking constantly.
Both of these techniques will be addressed in the procedure section of the recipe.
As with all dishes that are widely made, there is a lot of discussion about proper ratio of butter to egg to lemon juice. Consider the following a basic Hollandaise. Master it, and then play with proportions as your taste dictates.
- 7 oz salted butter If you have unsalted butter you can add a ¼ teaspoon salt to the sauce.You should not need to add any salt if the butter is salted but check the seasoning at the end anyway
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest - fine grated
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Technique for hollandaise
- First, we need to melt the butter. This needs to be done five minutes or so ahead of time so that the milk solids can sink to the bottom. This is important for when we whisk in the butter as it allows us to control the consistency of the sauce.
- Place a large pot filled to a third with water on to boil. Choose a stainless steel mixing bowl that sits on top of the pot but does not touch the water and place the egg yolks, lemon juice, zest and vinegar into the mixing bowl.
- Turn the heat down to just under a simmer, this is the ideal heat and won't cook the yolks too fast.
- Sit the bowl over the water and gently whisk the yolk mixture in the bowl over the water and they will slowly start to heat and increase in volume.
Don't forget the purpose of the whisking is not to aerate the mixture so much as to avoid the yolks catching and also ensuring even thickening.
You will notice the yolk mixture becomes a little thicker on the bottom and around the edges. Keep a towel around the outside of the bowl so that you can remove it from the heat if it starts to form lumps from heating to fast.
Keep the yolk mixture moving constantly by whisking continuously. You will notice the bubbles that form will get smaller and smaller and soon become the larger part of the yolk mix as the runny yolk cooks.
The only thing that is important to remember at this stage is that if it starts to catch, lift the bowl above the pot to slow down the heating.
- In around five to ten minutes, the yolk mixture should be holding it's shape like a soft whipped cream and the texture should be as smooth. This means the yolks are cooked but not to the point of being scrambled and you have made yourself what is called in French cooking a "sabayon".
Sabayon can also be made with yolks and sugar. This is the base for many well-known recipes like parfait and semi fredo (parfait with a fair amount of alcohol like tequila added and served semi frozen). Often this technique is also used as a base for decadent cake baking.
- Next comes the whisking in of the butter, make sure the butter is boiling hot. Place the sabayon bowl onto a damp cloth so it won't spin while you whisk.
- While whisking fast slowly pour on the butter keeping a steady stream of butter but keep the stream as thin as possible.
- Don't add more butter than you can whisk in, if the sabayon is overloaded it will split the mixture (be patient especially if you are a beginner).
- At first, the whisking is quite easy but as the butter is slowly incorporated, it becomes a little tougher. Add the butter slower at this stage to compensate.
- As you near the milk solids, be at your most diligent not to add too much as the hollandaise is more likely to split at this stage, then slowly pour in the milk solids while still whisking, this will loosen the hollandaise and set the consistency.
- Usually adding all the milk solids is the correct amount of moisture that the hollandaise needs, but it can be too much so add slowly in case you don't want the hollandaise to be that thin.
- Alternatively, if you have added all the milk solids and it is still thicker than you would like, add a little boiling water to compensate.
- Variation can occur due to the size of the eggs. Check the seasoning, transfer to a small stainless steel bowl and cover with cling film.
- Keep in a warm place until serving time. You can make the hollandaise up to two hours safely before you need it.
- If the butter has been added too fast and has split slightly, you can use a blender to blitz the emulsion and save it. Please remember to keep the sauce warm, if it cools too much the butter will start to set and you guessed it "split", the most dreaded of all kitchen terms to a chef.
Different Flavors for Hollandaise
- Exchange the lemon zest and juice for lime zest and juice in the basic recipe. Like lemon hollandaise, serve with any kind of seafood or fresh water fish and crustacean.
- Add chopped basil to the finished hollandaise, perfect in spring with new season asparagus and a great sauce for vegetables.
- Exchange the lemon juice for strong tarragon vinegar and omit the lemon zest. Add chopped fresh tarragon, chervil and parsley at the end season well with freshly milled black pepper.
- If you don't have all those herbs, just use one preferably tarragon. The best red meat sauce ever!