Lucy in the Larder

Not-so-scary Hollandaise sauce

Another first for me today – I made Hollandaise sauce.

I’d always feared that any attempt at this would only end in tears with a scrambled egg or split sauce, but it didn’t. It was time consuming but deliciously rewarding.

Hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolk and butter, usually seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar. Light yellow and opaque in appearance, it’s smooth and buttery with a mild tang. Its mild taste isn’t overpowering and makes for a great accompaniment with eggs, smoked salmon or asparagus.

This lazy Sunday morning, I’m having a poached egg and asparagus with my hollandaise sauce… a plate of happiness about to burst a gorgeous golden.

Don’t be scared, whisk up a batch today.

Basic Hollandaise sauce
Serves: 6 (1 ½ cups of sauce); Prep time: 25 minutes; Cook time: 10 minutes

3 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 Tbsp water
175g unsalted butter, clarified
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 shallot onion
½ tsp black peppercorns
Salt & freshly ground white pepper

–       Place a heatproof bowl over a medium saucepan that is quarter filled with water. The bowl should fit snugly into the pan without touching the water (lift the bowl to check and remove some water if it does).

–       Remove the bowl, cover the pan and bring the water to the boil over high heat. Uncover and reduce heat to very low so the water is barely simmering (there should be almost no movement at all). It is important that the water is barely simmering while making the sauce – if it is too hot, the egg yolks will cook too much and the sauce will curdle.

–       Melt butter in a separate saucepan to clarify – leave for a few moments to allow to separate, and the milk solids sink to the bottom – use the milk fat on the top.

–       Combined white wine vinegar, shallots, bay leaf and peppercorns in another saucepan and bring to boil to make a reduction.

–       Place the egg yolks and the 2 Tbsp water in the heatproof bowl and place over the pan. Use a wire balloon whisk to whisk the mixture constantly for 3 minutes or until it is thick and pale, has doubled in volume and a ribbon trail forms when the whisk is lifted.

–       Add the clarified butter a Tbsp at a time, whisking constantly and adding another cube when the previous one is incorporated completely. (It should take about 10 minutes to add it all.) If butter is added too quickly, it won’t mix easily with the egg yolks or the sauce may lose volume. At the same time, it is important that the butter is at room temperature and added slowly, so that it doesn’t take too long to be incorporated – if the sauce cooks for too long, it can curdle.

–       The sauce will begin to thin when you start adding the butter. However, once the emulsion is established (after about ¾ of the butter), it will begin to thicken again. It will continue to thicken as the remaining butter is added. If the sauce curdles or separates it can be saved as long as it isn’t grainy and the eggs haven’t set.

–       Remove the bowl from the pan and place on a heatproof surface. The cooked sauce should have the consistency of very lightly whisked thickened cream. Whisk in the white wine reduction and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


Using an electric whisk: An electric whisk will take the pressure off your wrist and arm, while resulting in a lighter, aerated sauce with more volume. Use the lowest speed possible, so the sauce doesn’t become too frothy and spray out of the bowl. It will only take about 4 minutes to whisk in the butter, and it will make about 580ml (2 1/3 cups).

Saving a hollandaise sauce: If the sauce begins to curdle or separate, remove the bowl from the pan immediately, add an ice cube and quickly place the base of the bowl in cold water to halt the cooking process. Continue to whisk to help cool the sauce and bring it back together. If this doesn’t work, place 1 tsp fresh lemon juice in a medium heatproof bowl and add 1 tbs of the curdled sauce. Whisk until the mixture combines and thickens and the emulsion is reformed, then whisk in the remaining sauce a little at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Keeping hollandaise sauce warm: Hollandaise sauce can be kept warm for up to 30 minutes. Pour the sauce into a clean heatproof bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming. Place the bowl into a larger heatproof bowl and then add enough warm water (as close to the temperature of the sauce as possible) to the larger bowl so that it reaches the same level as the sauce. Keep an eye on the temperature of the water – you may need to remove a little water and add extra warm water during standing so the sauce doesn’t become cold. Lightly whisk the sauce again before serving.


This entry was published on January 8, 2012 at 9:36 am. It’s filed under Lucy's plate, Recipes, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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