This method makes a wonderful thick, dense sauce that is perfect for coating eggs and fish, or serving with vegetables such as asparagus.

...Make hollandaise

Step by step

1 Straining the reduction through a sieve.

2 Adding ½–1 tsp reduction to the creamed butter and egg yolks.

3 Testing the temperature of the bain marie.

4 Stirring the egg yolk, butter and reduction mix over the bain marie until it starts to thicken.

5 Beating in the remaining butter, one cube at a time.

6 Balancing the flavour of the sauce with a little more reduction, lemon juice and seasoning.

Making hollandaise in a double boiler

This makes a lighter, more mousse-like hollandaise. Sometimes referred to as the sabayon method, it is especially useful when making a larger quantity of sauce.

Make the reduction as for the main recipe. Pour water into a large saucepan to a depth of 5cm, then bring to a simmer. Select a bowl large enough to sit over the pan, with the base well above the water level. Put the egg yolks in the bowl with 1 tsp reduction and a pinch of salt. Whisk the egg yolks with a balloon whisk until light and fluffy.Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Still whisking the egg mousse, slowly pour in the butter. Try to avoid adding the milk solids as they can thin the sauce. Once it is all added, remove the bowl from the pan and season with more reduction or lemon juice, salt and white pepper.

Making hollandaise in a blender

Double the ingredient quantities (to ensure the blender blades are covered with egg yolk). Make the reduction. Place the egg yolks, 2 tsp reduction and a pinch of salt in the blender. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once the butter is just starting to separate and is bubbling, pour a little into the blender with the motor running. Add a little more butter and the emulsion should be created, with a definite change in the sound the blender motor makes, from a high-pitched whine to a lower, slightly labouring noise. Continue to add the butter slowly in a thin stream until all but the milk solids are added. Avoid adding the milk solids as they can thin the sauce. Taste and season with more reduction, lemon juice, salt and ground white pepper.

Consistency

The emulsion is created as the butter is dispersed into the egg yolk. The sauce begins to thicken as the yolk reaches a high enough temperature to coagulate and thicken the sauce. You need to allow the sauce to thicken between each addition of butter or it will remain very thin. Start slowly, and as more and more of the butter is added the sauce will become thicker, and the butter can be added a little more quickly. Using the basic method, the finished consistency should hold itself on a spoon. It is possible to thicken the sauce at the end of the cooking process, with continued stirring and a gradual increase in temperature, but it requires care and patience not to overheat the sauce.

How to save a hollandaise on the verge of splitting…

If the sauce becomes very thick and appears greasy, it may be just about to split. Take the sauce off the heat and add a little reduction or water at room temperature, or a small piece of ice. Confine your stirring to the addition itself, gradually drawing in the rest of the splitting mixture. This should bring it back, loosen it and lighten the colour a little, allowing it to continue to absorb more butter.

How to remedy split hollandaise…

If the sauce has split completely, start with a fresh egg yolk in a medium bowl, add a little reduction and re-make using the split hollandaise in place of the butter. You will need to add more butter after adding all the split hollandaise, as there will now be 4 yolks in the sauce.

Ingredients

Makes 250–300ml
For the reduction
50ml white wine vinegar
50ml water
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 mace blade
For the sauce
150g unsalted butter, at cool
room temperature
3 egg yolks
Few drops of lemon juice, to taste
Salt and ground white pepper

Instructions

  1. For the reduction, put the wine vinegar, water, peppercorns, bay leaf and mace in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the liquid by at least two-thirds, then strain to remove the peppercorns, bay and mace.
  2. To make the sauce, cut the butter into 1cm cubes. Put the egg yolks, a cube of butter and a small pinch of salt in a small bowl. Using a wooden spoon, cream the butter into the egg yolks, add ½–1 tsp of the reduction and stir to combine.
  3. Half-fill a roasting tin with water and set over a medium heat, to create a warm bain marie. Heat until the water is hand-hot (it should be comfortable to dip your fingers into). A bubble might occasionally rise to the surface, but if you have the water too hot, the sauce will curdle. Turn off the heat.
  4. Stand the bowl containing the egg yolk, butter and reduction mixture in the bain marie, off the heat, and stir until the egg yolks visibly start to thicken.
  5. Beat the remaining butter in, a cube at a time, making sure that the sauce has re-thickened before adding the next cube of butter. As more butter is added, the heat can be turned on to low (but take care that the water does not boil) and the butter can be added more quickly. If the sauce becomes very thick and appears greasy, add a little more reduction or cool water.
  6. Once all the butter has been added, remove the bowl of sauce from the roasting tin, taste it and adjust the seasoning. To achieve a balanced flavour, you may need to add more reduction, lemon juice, salt and ground white pepper. The sauce can be kept for about 30 minutes before serving, by standing the bowl in a warm bain marie, off the heat.

Variations

Choron sauce
Prepare as above and add ½–1 tsp tomato purée to the finished sauce. This can be served with fish or chicken.

Herb hollandaise
Omit the mace from the reduction and add 1 small, chopped shallot and a few herb sprigs, such as parsley, chervil or chives. Proceed as for hollandaise and add ½–1 tsp freshly chopped herb (the same herb used to infuse the reduction) to the finished sauce. Season with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. This is not a classic variation but delicious nonetheless.

Mousseline sauce
Make as for hollandaise and add 50ml lightly whipped cream to the finished sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. This can be served with fish or vegetable dishes.

Béarnaise sauce
Omit the mace from the reduction and add 1 small, chopped shallot and a few tarragon and chervil sprigs. Proceed as for hollandaise and add ½–1 tsp each of chopped tarragon and chervil and 1 tsp of glace de viande (see page 98) to the finished sauce. A classic sauce to accompany steaks.

Paloise sauce
Make as for béarnaise sauce, but substitute 2–3 tsp chopped or chiffonaded mint (see page 89) for the tarragon and chervil. A delicious variation of a béarnaise to serve with lamb.

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