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089As the Mother sauces go, Hollandaise is perhaps the most misunderstood and intimidating of the bunch.  It is unctuous, silky, rich, buttery, like velvet on your tongue and just so versatile. You need this sauce in your repertoire.  You need to make this sauce over the holidays.  You need to make this sauce today.  Hollandaise is so wonderful in its pure form, but you can toss in some Herbes de Provençe or a bit of tomato paste or pink peppercorns and tarragon or capers and anchovies or orange zest or…well you get the idea.

A couple of things to note.  You are going to whisk, whisk, whisk until you want to drop to your knees and beg for mercy.  Secondly, I use the direct-heat method.  I put the pan right on the burner; I don’t like messing around with a double boiler and I just think it’s easier to learn to do this over direct-heat from the beginning (I explain this a bit more later).  Thirdly, you need a pan with a heavy bottom.  I talk about this later, too (see**).  And finally, I add beaten egg whites at the end.  I used to make the classic version, but we like the lightened, slightly more fluffy version better, but this is purely a personal choice…it’s entirely up to you.  There will be more pictures than usual so you can see the progress better.  Now to the recipe.

The Goddess's Not-So-Basic Hollandaise Sauce

  • Servings: 4-5+
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

  • 4 large egg yolks, reserve 2 of the egg whites in a squeaky, clean bowl
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 sticks (1/2-3/4 pound) unsalted cold butter, cut into pieces*
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or up to 2 tablespoons more if you wish)
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put yolks, water,  lemon juice and zest in a saucepan**over low heat.

Whisk the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes, taking the pan on and off the heat to keep the mixture from overheating.  Heat is the true enemy of Hollandaise.

When the mixture begins to look like a mayonnaise and you can see the pan through the tracks made by the whisk, it’s butter-adding-time!  I cut the sticks of butter into tablespoons-size pieces.

Add butter a few pieces at a time, whisking continuously.  When the pieces of butter are almost melted, then add an additional piece or two and keep whisking, baby! You can’t over-whisk, but your arms are going to feel it…whisk, whisk, whisk.

When all the butter is added, take saucepan off heat.  See how much lighter in color the sauce is now.  Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Beat the 2 reserved egg whites to almost stiff peaks.  Just whisk them in now.  This lightens the sauce, making if just a hint “fluffy”, but you may omit this step and have a lovely, regular Hollandaise that is truly delicious, too.  We’re into fluff!

The Goddess’s Not-So-Basic Hollandaise Sauce Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2014.  All rights reserves.

I haven’t gone round the bend, if you think I am repeating myself below, I am.  I think it’s clearer to have the method sink-up with the picture.

050Put yolks, water,  lemon juice and zest in a saucepan**over low heat.

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Whisk the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes, taking the pan on and off the heat to keep the mixture from overheating.  Heat is the true enemy of Hollandaise.

When the mixture begins to look like a mayonnaise and you can see the pan through the tracks made by the whisk, it’s butter-adding-time!  I cut the sticks of butter into tablespoons-size pieces.

070Add butter a few pieces at a time, whisking continuously.  When the pieces of butter are almost melted, then add an additional piece or two and keep whisking, baby! You can’t over-whisk, but your arms are going to feel it…whisk, whisk, whisk.

Making this sauce over direct heat takes a bit longer, but I feel you are less likely to break the sauce.  I think using a double boiler sort of lulls you into a false sense of security; when that flame is on, you know you have to be diligent and stay with it.

I have a gas range and that makes it much 065easier to control the heat immediately.  If you are using an electric range, keep a holder next to the stove (you can see I have one right there; I used to have an electric stove…old habits die hard).  Remove the pan, whisking continuously, if you feel the sauce is getting too hot…remember too much heat is our nemesis.

 

075When all the butter is added, take saucepan off heat.  See how much lighter in color the sauce is now.

Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Now this is where my recipe is different.  You can stop right here and serve your perfect, traditional  Hollandaise sauce,

 

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or I add the 2 reserved egg whites, that I have beaten to almost stiff peaks.  Just whisk them in now.

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This lightens the sauce and it adds protein, too.  I hate to waste things.  And why waste the egg whites when they add such loveliness to this sauce?   You can save egg whites and freeze them to make a Pavlova, meringue, angel food cake, but if you’re like me, that’s not going to happen.  You’ll tell yourself you’re going to save those eggs whites and make something wonderful, but you won’t; you’ll be tossing them out and you know it!

Well now, that little rant is finished and so is the sauce!  It is best if you serve this now, immediately, at once, instantly, straight away, without delay, but if you MUST make it ahead, you may pour the sauce into a preheated wide-mouth vacuum bottle (to preheat, pour almost-boiling water in, empty it out and proceed), or put the saucepan in a larger one filled with very warm (not hot or not boiling) water; whisk it occasionally.  This will buy you no more than 30 minutes, so it’s best to have everything else ready and waiting for the sauce.  When I make Eggs Benedict, I have everything ready, but I do poach the eggs after I make the sauce and it works just fine.

*Okay, I gave you optional amounts of butter to use.  I usually add about 3 ounces (about 6 tablespoons) butter per egg yolk, but until you are comfortable making this sauce, start by using 2 ounces of butter (4 tablespoons) per egg yolk.  The more butter you use, the more tenuous the suspension and the sauce can break more readily.  But if you’re feeling good, go for it!

**Also, a Windsor pan, a pan with sloping sides and a narrow area in the base  (you can see it in the picture with the flame), makes sauce-making much easier. There aren’t any creases to work with and since the bottom is narrower than the top it concentrates the mixture.  No matter what you decide to do, a heavy-bottomed pan is essential if using the direct-heat method.

Now I’m just going to mention what to do in case a sauce begins to “break”.  Since the world is a perfect place, this will never happen to you, but if it happens to someone else you can save the day, thus ensuring an invite back to the ever-grateful host persons.  When you are adding the butter, if the sauce seems to be losing it thickness and it looks like there is melted butter around the very edge, the sauce is beginning to “break”.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep about 1/4 cup ice water near the stove.  Simply remove the pan from the burner, add 1 tablespoon of the frigid water and whisk like mad a mad person.  If you catch it before the suspension comes apart and life as we know it comes to a screeching halt, the ice water usually does the trick.  I’m mentioning this, as it is good to have all the facts at one’s disposal.  I will make and break a Hollandaise sauce in the immediate future, (it kills me to do this, but for you, nothing is too much!) and then I’ll show you how to reclaim it.  I just did this a week ago at The Spice Mill.  We did a demo on emulsion sauces…very timely, don’t you think?  I’ll talk about what to do with leftover sauce, as well.

Whew…this is a long post!  But, I had some “splainin’ to do”!  Thanks for staying with me.  Don’t be intimidated by this…it’s just a sauce, but what a sauce!  Make it now!