Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

Feeling & sharing a world of cooking ~ more than your average Cajun


Hollandaise Sauce

November 3rd, 2009 · 18 Comments

Egg yolks in the bowl imageAs one of the “mother” sauces, this egg yolk, butter and lemon juice based emulsification is always popular among restaurants with a French flair or heritage. So many variations abound from the basic template including Bavaroise, Béarnaise, Chrone, Foyot, Paloise, Crème Fleurette, Dijon, Maltaise, Mousseline or Chantilly, and Noisette. One of the side passions that I have with ingredients and preparations in particular is learning about the history and development of the particular item or recipe. In the case of hollandaise, it goes back to the foundations of French cuisine with references to a similar sauce as far back as 1651 by François Pierre La Varenne, who stated in his cookbook Le Cusinier François: “…make a sauce with good fresh butter, a little vinegar, salt and nutmeg, and an egg yolk to bind the sauce.” However, the widespread use of egg yolks and butter in the preparation did not appear until the 19th century.

From the book A Guide to Modern Cookery – Part I, and found on page 23, by G. A. Escoffier, the foundation recipe for hollandaise consists of quantities for preparing one-quart of the sauce and the ingredients listed for this 1909 version include the following.

1 ½ lb. butter, the yolks of 6 eggs, 1 pinch mignonette pepper and ¼ oz. salt, 3 tablespoonfuls of vinegar.

The only ingredient I am not familiar with in this listed in the pepper. According to Penzeys Spices, mignonette pepper is a classical blend, also known as “shot pepper,” of cracked Tellicherry black pepper, Muntok white pepper and flavorful Moroccan coriander, and traditional in French-Canadian cooking and roasting.

Escoffier preparation procedure is described – Put the salt, the mignonette, the vinegar, and as much water in a small saucepan, and reduce by three-quarters on the fire. Move the saucepan to a corner of the fire or into a bain-marie, and add a spoonful of fresh water and the yolks. Work the whole with a whisk until the yolks thicken and have the consistence of cream. Then remove the saucepan to a tepid place and gradually pour the butter on the yolks while briskly stirring the sauce. When the butter is absorbed, the sauce ought to be thick and firm. It is brought to the correct consistency with a little water, which also lightens it slightly, but the addition of water is optional. The sauce is competed by a drop of lemon juice, and it is rubbed through a tammy (a fine sieve or cheesecloth). He also provides a set of remarks – The consistence of sauces whose processed are identical with those of the Hollandaise may be varied at will; for instance, the number of yolks may be increased if a very thick sauce is desired, and it may be lessoned in the reverse case. Also similar results may be obtained by cooking the eggs either more or less. As a rule, if a thick sauce be required, the yolks ought to be well cooked and the sauce kept almost cold in the making. Experience alone – the fruit of long practice – can teach the various devices which enable the skilled worker to obtain different results from the same kind and quality of material.

Escoffier had a way of breaking down descriptions of culinary preparations that were never done before, made them easy to understand and follow. Documentation of procedures and making them repeatable, and even 100 years later we find that the basic hollandaise has not changed very much. To the novice unfamiliar to certain terms may not know about “bain-marie”, simply it is a hot water bath, or commonly known as a double boiler. Typically, one of the first sauces that a culinary apprentice will have to master is the art of making a hollandaise, as it takes skill, stamina, patience and practice to hone one that will hold up during service hours.

Trout Pontchartrain imageWhen working the line at a restaurant that has hollandaise on the menu, typically it is prepared just before service time as the shelf life is not very long, it usually sits out a room temperature to avoid becoming to thin or too thick. Too much heat will cause it to break and separate, and too cold it becomes a solid mass and unable to pour smoothly. Finding the right spot in the kitchen for service storage is always a challenge. Ladling a portion of hollandaise sauce on a plated Trout Pontchartrain is depicted in the image on the left.

Here is the recipe for a typical hollandaise made at the start of service every day when working on the kitchen front lines.

6 Large Egg yolks, room temperature
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
1½  Tbsp. Water, cool
1 Tsp. Crystal hot sauce
1 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Cayenne pepper
Lb. Butter, melted and clarified
Procedure Steps
1. In a large stainless steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water (bain-marie), add the egg yolks, lemon juice, water, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.
2. Whisk the ingredients with a wire whip until it becomes a pale light yellow color, the volume increases to almost double and when the whip is lifted, it creates a slightly thick ribbon effect.
3. Remove the bowl from the hot water bath and while continuing to whisk, slowly add the clarified butter in a slow steady stream. Start with just a few drops of the butter first, and then gradually increase the amount as incorporating, but not too much at once. This is creating the emulsification of the butter into the egg yolks, but speeding up this process will result in a broken hollandaise. This is the tricky part of the whole process, ensuring that the eggs are ready to accept the butter, and that the butter is not added to quickly.
4. If the hollandaise seems too thick then gradually add more water to thin out some.

One tip to keep your stainless steel bowl from moving around while whisking in the butter is to place it onto a damp towel, this will keep it stable as you whip with one hand and add the ladles of butter with the other hand.

Several menu items served with a hollandaise sauce include the Veal Oskar with crawfish tails and white asparagus on the left and Sweetbreads with Hollandaise on the right.

Veal Oskar image Sweetbreads Hollandiase image

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Tags: French Cuisine · Sauces

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jenn @ cook or be eaten // Nov 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    does it have to be clarified butter? does it make it more difficult to make with melted butter … or even chunks of cold butter?

    i would really love to find an easy recipe for hollandaise sauce. my bf keeps asking for salmon benedict, but i don’t have the confidence or patience for hollandaise sauce on a hungover sunday morning!

  • 2 Light Delight with Tou Tou // Nov 3, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Chef Ryan ! I’m dazzled by those French words…. wow….no wonder you called yourself a Cajun Chef!!!! I I like this rich and creamy source, especially its name. Thanks for the recipe – finally there is one thing NOT complicated as those french words!!!
    btw, I just realized your comment in my spam somehow , now problem solved. Thank you very much for your encouragement! I really like foodie blog and enjoy reading yours!!!
    Hope to read more fantastic food from you , Chef!

  • 3 Cajun Chef Ryan // Nov 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Jenn, yes you can use just regular melted butter, but clarified butter prevents the chances of the sauce breaking down. Clarified butter is just butter that is melted and the fat separated from the milk solids and impurities. Typically when melting a pound of butter in a small sauce pan you want to skim the foam from the top and then pour off the fat and avoiding the milk solids that settle at the bottom. Easier to make clarified butter with large amounts of butter, like 5+ lbs or more.

  • 4 Cajun Chef Ryan // Nov 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Hi Tou Tou, thanks for the wonderful comments. I try to make it easier to understand, some of those French terms are outdated too! 😎

  • 5 Trix // Nov 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    No wonder French restaurants employ sauciers whose sole job it is to make sauces!! Could ghee be used, as that is clarified butter? Recently I made an eggless “fake” hollandaise … not because I don’t eat eggs, but because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get brunch on the table with potatoes, poached eggs and sauce … at least not all at once! Not as good as the real thing, but serviceable.

  • 6 lululu // Nov 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    wow, it seems like an ultimate hoolandaise sauce!

  • 7 Cajun Chef Ryan // Nov 3, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    In fact the last position I held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel during my apprenticeship was as the Saucier. Made soups, stocks, and sauces every day for 8 months. Quite a steal/deal for the chef, as apprentice wages were only $5.25 / hour back then in 1984.

  • 8 Kathyvegas // Nov 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I must have made gallons of this during my stint cooking in England years ago. I loved making it then and still do (except now I make it for the joy of it). This one of the most versatile of the important sauces and good to see such a useful post about it!

  • 9 Banu B B (BaL) // Nov 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    So good to know such a useful recipe… I always change my mind about baking an angel’s food cake whenever I hesitate about the leftover egg yolks lol I won’t anymore!

  • 10 Hillary // Nov 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial Ryan! 🙂

  • 11 Mathea // Nov 3, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    That is the most thorough Hollandaise recipe I’ve ever read! Much thanks!

    Peas Love Carrots

  • 12 Jessie // Nov 3, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    bookmarking this one for future references because this sauce sounds great!

  • 13 Cookin' Canuck // Nov 4, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Very interesting post! Thanks for all of the information on this classic sauce.

  • 14 penny aka jeroxie // Nov 4, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Clap Clapss! The sauce is different! Thanks for sharing.

  • 15 John D. // Nov 4, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Great post as always. The historical aspects of this post made it a very interesting read.

  • 16 PMh // Nov 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Mignonette de poivre: it is simply pepper grossly cracked under the knife…
    Nice site…

  • 17 Amber // Nov 5, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    In culinary school I was taught to use UN-clarified butter. The solids do help make the emulsification more stable. I think it tastes better too!

    Love the history included in your post. Very interesting.


  • 18 easy recipes // Nov 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    That look great, I’m going to try it tomorrow.