How To Make Perfect Hollandaise
First and foremost, this is not an easy sauce to make. Many things can go wrong and you might not enjoy having to work so hard to get a successful sauce, but if you've ever had a really good Eggs Benedict or enjoyed asparagus with hollandaise, you know that it's worth the effort. There are some "just-add-water" versions of hollandaise sauce available at most supermarkets, but making this sauce from scratch will leave your guests amazed with your culinary prowess. I've included a section on tips and trouble-shooting below, and would recommend you read those before even attempting to make this sauce. That said, I'm not trying to scare you away from trying out this recipe - I'm just letting you know in advance that many a culinary student has experienced failure the first few times making this sauce. Good luck and Bon Appetit!
- 6 Eggs
- 1 lb. Unsalted Butter plus 1 tsp.
- 1 tbsp. Minced Shallot
- 1/2 tsp. Kosher or Sea Salt
- 1 small pinch Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Lemon
- 1 tbsp. White Wine
Step 1) Clarifying the Butter - Bring the butter to a boil in a medium sauce-pan and let cook for about one minute. Once the butter starts to "seperate", you'll notice a foam rise to the top. Remove from heat and allow to sit for a minute or two. At this point, you should notice the butter solids start to sink to the bottom and the butter on top will be clear and golden. Using a chinois or cheesecloth, genty strain the butter into a seperate container and discard the butter solids left over. Perfectly clarified butter should be clear and lightly golden. If you wish to skip step 1, clarified butter is available at some specialty stores or available as a product called "ghee" at Indian and Asian specialty stores.
Step 2) Sweat the Shallots - Meanwhile, in a small saute or omelette pan, add a teaspoon of butter together with the shallots and saute on medium heat until the shallots start to sweat. Deglaze with the white wine and continue cooking for about another minute. Do not allow to cook longer because you don't want the sauce to turn brown. Immediately strain through a chinois or cheesecloth into a large mixing bowl and discard the solids.
Step 3) Seperate your Eggs - Using an egg seperator, seperate the egg yolks and set aside in a seperate bowl. Discard the egg whites or set aside if you plan to use them in another recipe soon. To seperate out the egg yolks without using an egg seperator, hold your hand palm-side up with about 1/4" to 1/2" space between each finger. Gently crack the egg open and pour into your hands being careful not to break the yolk. Now, gently transfer the egg back and forth between both hands allowing the egg white to fall out between the gaps in your fingers keeping only the egg yolks. Once the egg yolks are completely seperated from the whites, set them aside in a seperate bowl.
Step 4) Getting your lemon ready - Using a micro-plane zester or small cheese grater, zest the lemon into a small bowl. Once the entire lemon is zested, cut in half and squeeze the juice into the same bowl with the zest. Be carefull not to get any seeds or pith into the bowl.
Step 5) Whisking all the ingredients together - Set the large mixing bowl with the white wine/shallot liquid over a pot of simmering water (double boiler) and add the egg yolks. Beat together with a wire whisk until they start to just turn pale. Next, VERY slowly drizzle your clarified butter into the egg yolks whisking vigorously the entire time. If your arm gets tired, stop pouring the butter in, remove the bowl from the heat and rest for a few moments. Return the bowl to the double-boiler and continue pouring the butter in while whisking vigorously until the entire amount of clarified butter is incorporated. Add the salt, cayenne, lemon juice and lemon zest then remove from heat. Use immediately or hold in a steambath for up to an hour.
Tips and Troubleshooting
"My hollandaise is too thick and pasty." - Whisk in a tablespoon of warm (not hot) water one at a time until you reach desired thickness. Some butters have a higher molecular fat content than others and can result in a more "emulsified" sauce.
"When I tried adding the clarified butter to the yolks, the sauce broke and seperated." - A few things could have gone wrong here...
- Your double-boiler was too hot and the yolks cooked completely before the butter was even added. Next time, turn the temperature down before adding your yolks.
- You accidentally over-cooked the yolks before adding the butter. Remember, you want to constantly whisk the yolks over the double-boiler until they just start to turn pale. Then, immediately start to add your clarified butter. Think about it this way, how hard would it be to add butter to a hard-boiled egg yolk?
- You added the butter too fast and/or didn't stir fast enough. It's very important to add the butter slowly while whisking furiously. This is not an easy sauce to make. Try drizzling in only a little bit of the clarified butter at a time and take breaks (removing the bowl from the heat). If you're still having problems or your arms are getting too tired, have someone help you drizzle in the butter or take over whisking for you.
"My sauce looks like scrambled eggs." - Again, this is a problem with over-cooking or cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature. Egg emulsifications are difficult to master and the heat has to be just right during the entire cooking process. Cooking the sauce at just a few degrees too hot can result in a scrambled eggs consistancy. Err on the cooler side when cooking. I recommend having the double-boiler just below medium heat (a very slow simmer). The sauce may take a bit longer to make, but the end result should be successful. Also, check to make sure there's enough water in the double-boiler. There should be at least two to three inches of water in the pot and the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
"My sauce is too thin and watery" - This occurs when the butter isn't properly clarified. In order for the butter to "bond" with the egg yolks (resulting in thickening), all of the butter solids have to be removed prior to use. Butter solids contain water in the form of cellulose that seperate at high heat. We don't usually see this when cooking with regular butter because the water tends to steam out during cooking, but this sauce is cooked at such a low heat that the water will stay behind resulting in a thin sauce. Next time, make sure to clarify the butter more or purchase some prepared clarified butter or ghee from a specialty store and save yourself the hassle.
If you're still having problems with your results, you can always come talk to me on facebook. Also, please feel free to check out some of my other recipes and articles on hubpages and leave your comments. I love to share my knowledge and secrets with those who love to cook! Salud!