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 variations, including the Béarnaise sauce.
Hollandaise is an emulsified sauce, which means it is a force combining elements that don't usually like to combine. In this case, it's egg yolks, lemon juice, and butter.
There are a couple of techniques that you should master 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. Ensure that the bottom of your bowl is well above the water level in the pan. You want all the heat from steam rising off the water, not from the water itself.
The second technique is maintaining the emulsion. It wants to separate once you have forced water and fat to combine. You can prevent or at least slow down this process by adding water to the eggs, carefully regulating your heat, and 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 the 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 ounces salted butter If you have unsalted butter you can add a ¼ teaspoon salt to the sauce.
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest finely 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 before the milk solids can sink to the bottom. This is important 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.
- Set the bowl over the water and gently whisk the yolk mixture over the water; they will slowly start to heat and increase in volume. Remember, the purpose of the whisking is not to aerate the mixture so much as to avoid the yolks catching and ensuring even thickening.
- The yolk mixture becomes thicker on the bottom and around the edges. Keep a towel around the outside of the bowl to remove it from the heat if it starts to form lumps from heating too 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 more significant part of the yolk mix as the runny yolk cooks.
- The only thing necessary to remember at this stage is to lift the bowl above the pot to slow down the heating if it starts to catch.
- The yolk mixture should hold its shape like a soft whipped cream for around five to ten minutes, and the texture should be smooth. This means the yolks are cooked but not to the point of being scrambled, and you have made yourself a " sabayon " in French cooking."
- Next comes whisking in the butter; make sure the butter is 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 keeping 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 relatively easy, but as the butter is slowly incorporated, it becomes more challenging. 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 safely make the hollandaise for up to two hours 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, I served with any seafood or freshwater fish and crustacean.
- Add chopped basil to the finished hollandaise, perfect in spring with new season asparagus and a great vegetable sauce.
- Exchange the lemon juice for strong tarragon vinegar and omit the lemon zest. Add chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, and parsley at the end and season well with freshly milled black pepper.
- If you don't have all those herbs, use one, preferably tarragon. The best red meat sauce ever!