When properly made, the Perfect Hollandaise Sauce is light, billowy, lemony, and rich with butter and eggs.
Making Perfect Hollandaise Sauce uses butter and egg yolks as a binding. It will be a pale lemon color, opaque, but with a luster not appearing oily. The basic sauce and its variations should have a buttery-smooth texture, almost frothy, and an aroma of good butter. Hollandaise Sauce is not difficult to make, but you need to know what you are doing to get a right. Do not be intimidated by making Perfect Hollandaise Sauce at home! Read below and I will help you.
When made, it is served hot with vegetables, fish, and eggs (like Egg Benedict). What would most people’s favorite Eggs Benedict dish be without a great Hollandaise Sauce? Hollandaise Sauce is also great served on cooked asparagus.
Egg Benedict with Perfect Hollandaise Sauce on top.
History Hollandaise Sauce (HOL-uhn-dayz): Most historians agree that it was originally called Sauce Isigny after a town in Normandy, Isigny-sur-Mer, known for its butter. Today, Normandy is called the cream capital of France. During World War I, butter production came to a halt in France and had to be imported from Holland. The name was changed to hollandaise to indicate the source of the butter and was never changed back.
17th Century – Sauce Hollandaise, as we now know it, is the modern descendant of earlier forms of a sauce believed to have been brought to France by the Heugenots. It appears to have actually been a Flemish or Dutch sauce thickened with eggs, like a savory custard, with a little butter beaten in to smooth the texture.
1651 – Francois Pierre de La Varenne (1618-1678), in his cookbook, Le cuisine françois (The True French Cook) has a recipe for a similar sauce in his recipe for Asparagus in Fragrant Sauce:
“Choose the largest, scrape the bottoms and wash, then cook in water, salt well, and don’t let them cook too much. When cooked, put them to drain, make a sauce with good fresh butter, a little vinegar, salt, and nutmeg, and an egg yolk to bind the sauce; take care that it doesn’t curdle; and serve the asparagus garnished as you like.”
3 egg yolks* 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into small chunks, divided** 1/2 cup white wine, divided 4 pieces peppercorns 1 tablespoon white vinegar Salt and pepper to taste
* The fresher your egg yolks, the easier it is for you to make your emulsion.
** When making Perfect Hollandaise Sauce, you can use either whole butter or clarified butter. It is personal preference which type of butter you choose to use, but whole butter is about 15% water - whereas clarified butter is straight butter fat. Because of its water content, more whole butter is needed to thicken a Hollandaise Sauce then just straight clarified butter.
Important: Do not be tempted to hurry the process along. Only use very low heat - this is the secret to making perfect Hollandaise Sauce.
Use a stainless steel, round bottom bowl. The round bottom will make it easier for you to beat the egg yolks evenly and the stainless steel will not react to the acid and discolor your hollandaise sauce.
Using a wire whisk, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice vigorously in a heavy, medium-size saucepan over very low heat until mixture has thickened and doubled in volume. Eggs start to curdle at around 160 to 170 degrees F. (71 to76 degrees C). The trick is to heat your egg yolks enough to get them thick, but stop right before they reach this temperature.
Do not be tempted to hurry things along by turning the heat up, the sides of the pan should be cool enough to touch at all times.
Add 1/2 of the butter and white wine and stir constantly, still over very low heat, with the wire whisk until butter is melted (be sure butter melts slowly so eggs have time to cook and thicken sauce without curdling or scrambling). Add the remaining butter and white wine and continue to whisk until butter melts.
If you do notice that your sauce in beginning to look grainy and slightly curdled, this is an indication that the sauce is about to break. Immediately stop what you are doing and add a small splash of cool water. Then whisk vigorously until completely smoother.
This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world.
Add peppercorns, white vinegar, and salt; continue vigorous stirring until combined. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Keep your hollandaise sauce warm over a double boiler until ready to serve. The best holding temperature is about 145 degrees F. (63 degrees C.). For food safety, hollandaise should not be held any longer than two hours.
TIP: I put my Hollandaise Sauce in a small thermos to keep warm until serving time.