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Chef Essentials: Hollandaise Sauce

Chef Essentials: Hollandaise Sauce

The Culinary Institute of America

Since the largest part of hollandaise is butter, the success or failure of the sauce depends not only on skillfully combining egg yolks, water, acid, and butter into a rich, smooth sauce, but also on the quality of the butter itself. Hollandaise sauce is prepared by emulsifying melted or clarified butter and water (in the form of an acidic reduction and/or lemon juice) with partially cooked egg yolks. A number of similar warm egg emulsion sauces, as this group of sauces is sometimes known, can be prepared by varying the ingredients in the reduction or by adding different finishing and garnishing ingredients such as tarragon. The group includes béarnaise, choron, and mousseline sauces. Hollandaise can also be combined with whipped cream and/or velouté to prepare a glaçage, which is used to coat a dish that is then lightly browned under a salamander or broiler just before service.

Melted whole butter or clarified butter may be used in a hollandaise. Some chefs like melted whole butter for the rich, creamy flavor it imparts to the sauce, which is best for most meat, fish, vegetable, and egg dishes. Others prefer clarified butter, for a stiffer, more stable sauce, which is of particular advantage if the sauce is to be used in a glaçage. Whatever the approach, the butter must be quite warm (about 145°F/63°C) but not too hot for the sauce to come together successfully.

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In general, the ratio of egg to butter is 1 egg yolk to every 2 to 3 oz/57 to 85 g of butter. As the volume of sauce increases, the amount of butter that can be emulsified with 1 egg yolk also increases. A hollandaise made with 20 yolks, for instance, can usually tolerate more than 3 oz/85 g of butter per yolk. Pasteurized egg yolks may be used for hollandaise, if desired. However, the method outlined here cooks the yolks enough that salmonella bacteria, a major concern with eggs, is rendered harmless.

An acidic ingredient is included in Hollandaise both for flavor and for the effect it has on the protein in the egg yolks. The acidic ingredient, which can be either a vinegar reduction or lemon juice, also provides the water necessary to form an emulsion. Whether to use a reduction or lemon juice is determined by the desired flavor of the finished sauce. A reduction will impart a more complex flavor, particularly if lemon juice is also used as a final seasoning.