“Don’t be a fuddy-duddy with your hollandaise;
be bold, dunk your pretzels in it!”
In this post you will find:
- a recipe for a super simple cheats’ version of hollandaise
- a failsafe, traditional hollandaise
- how to save a hollandaise
- a couple of recipes for a lighter, more stable version of hollandaise
- how to improve ready-made bought hollandaise
- some ideas for ways of using hollandaise
- the history of the hollandaise sauce
My father-in-law was a man of fierce intellect, which was fine it itself but he was also a master of a hollandaise sauce. I decided not to even compete. So until a couple of months ago I was a hollandaise sauce virgin. I’d never made a hollandaise sauce and I was dimly aware that it might not be exactly straightforward.
So I made a sort of cheats’ version of hollandaise.
Recipe for a super simple cheats’ version of hollandaise
- warm some bought mayonnaise
- mix in a little bit of sherry vinegar, some grainy mustard, a spoonful of crème fraîche, thick Greek yoghurt or best of all, soft cream cheese.
However, I am on the LoveFood mailing list and a recipe for eggs Bbenedict by Mat Follas popped up on my screen. Without further research I printed it out and the following day set to.
It really didn’t look all that complicated. The instructions were to beat two egg yolks in a bowl with lemon juice and vinegar. Then heat butter and pour the egg mixture straight in, whisking the while to combine. Finish with a pinch of salt.
I did this. It separated. However, all was not lost. I simply collected up the solid part using a slotted spoon and deposited on the poached egg. My beloved noticed nothing amiss and deemed the whole dish ‘delicious’.
However, an ideal technique would remain simple and fool-proof but not separate. So I embarked on a hollandaise sauce research project.
This is the result.
Recipe for a failsafe hollandaise sauce
- 2 eggs
- 125g/5 oz/½ brick of butter
- 1 tsp of white wine or tarragon vinegar
- juice of half a lemon (1 tbsp)
- salt and white pepper
- in a bain marie whisk the two egg yolks, the lemon juice and the vinegar (this seems a lot of acid, but you need it to cut through the richness of the sauce) with a cappuccino whisk.
- Melt the butter gently in a small saucepan with a pourer allowing it to foam (which is the water burning out of it). As soon as it stops foaming TAKE IT OFF THE HEAT.
- put the bain marie over a gentle heat and very slowly pour the butter into the egg mixture, whisking the whole time with the cappuccino whisk until it begins to thicken
- you can’t make this too far in advance, but you could make an hour or so ahead and then keep warm in a thermos, or a thermal coffee pot (see link below)
How to keep, and not to freeze, a hollandaise sauce
As I mention above, you can keep a hollandaise sauce hot for an hour or so in a thermos, or a thermal coffee pot. For more on thermal coffee pots, follow this link. The planetary design pot is the best, especially for keeping hollandaise sauce warm.
What you can’t do is to freeze a hollandaise sauce – it’s egg-based obviously and it won’t freeze.
How to save a hollandaise sauce – pay attention, gents!
“There are a few small errors you can make which any man who cooks should be able to rectify. Take hollandaise sauce, for instance: nothing curdles more easily, and nothing is easier to fix with a tablespoon of boiling water and a bit of stirring”
Mimi Sheraton, The Seducer’s Cookbook
Alternatively, if it gets too hot and starts to separate whisk in a small ice cube
And if the sauce has curdled a bit more seriously, then:
- keep it warm
- with a slotted spoon lift out any scrambled-eggy looking curdled bits
- in a clean, stainless steal bowl mix a room temperature egg yolk with a teaspoon of warm water and a knob of room temperature butter until smooth
- slowly whisk in the the broken sauce
A couple of recipes – methods really – for a lighter, more stable version of hollandaise
If that all seems a bit nerve wracking you can make a far more stable, and a lighter version of hollandaise by following Delia Smith’s suggestion and make what she calls ‘foaming hollandaise’.
Fold a couple of stiffly whisked additional egg whites and fold into the sauce – you can keep this in the fridge and reheat gently over a bain marie, or even, apparently, freeze it.
Alternatively you can also achieve stability by using the traditional recipe above but with an additional couple of egg yolks and the other half of the brick of butter, but follow Delia’s method of separating out the egg whites, whisking until stiff and beating in at the end after you have added the melted butter to the beaten yolks and the heat of the butter has ‘cooked’ the yolks.
NB – both of these methods result in the use of uncooked egg – not for the elderly, pregnant etc.
How to improve ready-made bought hollandaise
And bear in mind that, if all else fails, you can these days buy fresh hollandaise in supermarkets and it is really not at all bad. And a little crème fraîche makes it even better.
Eight uses for hollandaise sauce:
- with eggs Benedict* – put some spinach on half an English muffin; top with ham, or crab, or smoked salmon, or black pudding; a poached egg and the hollandaise. Technically using spinach (this wasn’t included in the original version) makes it eggs Florentine (excellent with the addition of smoked eel); the crab turns it into eggs Chesapeake; the salmon into eggs Hemingway; and with black pudding it becomes eggs Hebridean (due to the Stornoway connection).
- with asparagus, also good if you add some wasabi to your aïoli (some add as much as 2 tbsp to the amount above)
- with artichokes
- with brussels sprouts
- with green beans
- in a chicken pie
- with salmon
- with sole
The history of the hollandaise sauce
The history of eggs Benedict is rather fun. There are, as always, two versions, but Charles Ranhofer, the chef at Delmonico’s in New York has laid a more substantiated claim to being the inventor by dint of having included the recipe in his modestly entitled tome, The Epicurean published in 1894. The story goes that an incredibly demanding, fussy and pernickety female client (sound familiar?) came into the restaurant, looked through the eleven page menu and found nothing which appealed. The name of this Grand Dame was, appropriately, Mrs LeGrand Benedict. She demanded that Ranhofer concoct something for her, anything as long as it was eggs. Ranhofer, creating with the gentler sex in mind, devised a lighter than normal cream sauce and added the ham and muffin. Miraculously it pleased the lady….. and many others as it soon became a favourite on the menu.
Hollandaise sauce is one of Escoffier’s five mother sauces.
“Eggs Benedict is genius. It’s eggs covered in eggs.
I mean, come on, that person should be the president.”
This post is dedicated to my father-in-law