How to make hollandaise sauce
Hollandaise sauce is a great trick to have up your sleeve. The ingredients are likely to be loitering in your fridge and store cupboard.
This simple but refined sauce can elevate a simple piece of cooked fish for the smartest dining, allow dull steamed vegetables to take centre stage or jazz up a grilled steak.
Basically, the sauce is an emulsion of lightly cooked eggs and butter, and it’s often this delicate marriage that causes cooks to come unstuck. Both ingredients can split or curdle if over-heated, so the trick is to keep the cooking heat as gentle as a baby’s bath. Cook the hollandaise in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, and take the bowl and pan off the heat while whisking in the last few knobs of butter.
Purists and braver souls will tell you that you can successfully make a hollandaise in a pan set directly over the heat. You can, but why make things harder? This method is foolproof.
1. To make enough hollandaise sauce for 4, you’ll need 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 6 black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 blade (whole) mace, 2 egg yolks, 110g diced unsalted butter at room temperature and a good squeeze of lemon juice, to taste.
2. Put the vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaf and mace into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Strain the reduced mixture into a heatproof glass bowl.
3. Add the egg yolks to the strained reduction with 1 small cube of the butter and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set over a pan of gently simmering water and whisk until slightly thickened. Remove the bowl from the heat if you have to leave it for any reason.
4. Return the bowl to the pan of simmering water and whisk in the remaining butter, a few cubes at a time, until it’s all incorporated and you have a good thick sauce. If you think it’s too hot, take the pan and bowl off the heat and continue. Whisk in a good squeeze of lemon juice.
The easiest way to keep hollandaise warm without it curdling is to put the finished sauce into a Thermos flask – it will keep warm safely for hours.
Incidentally, if your hollandaise curdles you can rescue it by whisking a fresh egg yolk with a teaspoon of warm water and a knob of butter in a clean bowl until smooth, then gradually whisk in the split sauce until smooth and thick again.
To make the classic Béarnaise sauce for grilled meats and fish, follow the method for the hollandaise sauce, cooking 1/2 chopped shallot with the reduction. Stir a handful of chopped fresh tarragon into the finished sauce.
Recipes with hollandaise sauce