Hollandaise sauce - three classic recipes.

hollandaise sauce
Hollandaise sauce is a thick, yellow buttery sauce that is typically associated with Eggs Benedict. Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion, which means that it is a combination of two liquids, in this case lemon juice and butter, that is held together and stabilised by a third agent, egg yolks, to form a rich and thick sauce.
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As well as being one of the main components of Eggs Benedict, Hollandaise sauce, is also typically served with steamed asparagus or other vegetables and steamed or grilled fish.

The sauce is a warm and rich yellow in colour and boasts a thick and smooth texture. The end result should be a delicious combination of butter and egg yolks with a tangy twist of lemon and a touch of spice.

Although the sauce has few ingredients, it does have a reputation of being very difficult to make. This is because the traditional method involves whisking the lemon juice into the beaten egg yolks, whilst cooking gently over simmering water.

The temperature of the water here is everything, because if there is too much heat, the eggs will scramble and overcook. On the other hand, if the water is not hot enough, the sauce may separate. Therefore this has to be a slow and steady process that cannot be rushed.

The second thing to watch out for is the process of adding the butter (preferably clarified butter). This must be done a little at a time, whilst continuously whisking and if too much butter is added at once, the sauce may not thicken.

Egg yolks can only cope with absorbing a certain amount of butter overall, so if too much butter is incorporated, the sauce will eventually curdle. Try to stick to using no more than 3 oz (85 g) of butter for each egg yolk and this problem should not occur.

Nowadays, the sauce can be partly made in a food processor or blender, which removes some of the difficulties from preparing the sauce and potentially leaves less room for disaster.

Once you have grasped and mastered how to make Hollandaise sauce, you could also try to prepare some of the other sauces that are derived from this French classic.

By adding a handful of capers, a delicious "sauce aux capres" is created, the addition of whipped cream gives "Mousseline Sauce", whilst in order to transform Hollandaise sauce into a delicious "Béarnaise Sauce" to be served with steak, you will need to add a few chopped shallots, some white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of dried tarragon.

Below are several recipes for Hollandaise sauce ranging from the simplest method to the more traditional methods that require a bit more work.

Simple Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients
  • 8 oz (225g) of butter
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp of hot water
  • just over 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
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Method
  1. Melt the butter slowly in a medium-sized saucepan. Once the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and leave to one side.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  3. Whilst continuing to whisk, add the lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to the beaten egg yolks.
  4. Next, very slowly to begin with, whisk in the melted butter and the 2 tbsp of water. Continue to whisk constantly.
  5. Return the mixture to the saucepan, heat over a very low heat, still whisking all the time until the sauce thickens.
  6. Serve immediately or keep warm for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients
  • 8 oz (225g) of butter cut into small chunks
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
Method
  1. Whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper together with a wire whisk in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Add the pieces of butter and turn the stove to a medium heat.
  3. As the butter melts into the egg yolk mixture, whisk continuously.
  4. Once the butter has melted, continue to whisk the mixture until all the ingredients have blended together and the sauce begins to thicken.
  5. Check the seasoning and then serve immediately.

Traditional Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients
  • 1 1/3 cup of butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp of cold water
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
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Method
  1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Once the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  3. Taking a spoon, skim off the foam from the surface of the melted butter and discard.
  4. Transfer the rest of the butter to a warmed pouring jug and set aside.
  5. Pour 2 inches of water into a saucepan and heat so that the water is gently simmering but not boiling.
  6. In a glass bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the water until frothy.
  7. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and continue to whisk the egg yolks for several minutes until they have thickened.
  8. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk the eggs for a further minute, in order for the eggs to cool down.
  9. Place the bowl with the eggs back into the saucepan but remove the saucepan from the heat.
  10. Very slowly, pour the melted butter into the egg yolk mixture, making sure that you continuously whisk the eggs whilst doing so.
  11. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until they have thoroughly blended together and the sauce is as thick as you require.
  12. Check the seasoning and then serve immediately or keep warm over a bowl of hot water for up to 30 minutes.
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