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The character of Hollandaise sauce


phan1
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Ummm... Well, I like to eat new foods, but the things is, it always seems more affordable and convenient to just make it at home, so I'm often left wondering "is it supposed to taste like this?" So one of the things I tried making without actually knowing what it tastes like is Hollandaise sauce. I've had it once about 8 years ago, but I don't remember it being typically memorable.

So I end up with a sauce that looks just like typical hollandaise sauces I see in pictures and it tastes like butter... ONLY butter. It is very rich (even in small amounts) and has a very mouth-filling taste. It's literally no different then tasting a piece of soft, warm butter. Of course you can add other things like lemon, but then you end up with a sauce that tastes like.... lemon butter!

So from my perspective, the whole concept of Hollandaise is making butter into the form of a thick, attractive looking sauce. Are there also different brands of butter that you'd recommend? It seems like having the right quality butter would make all the difference in the world. My sauce was VERY buttery, and I had to add a whole lot of lemon just to get any of the flavors through. I even added some anchovy paste but quickly stopped wasting my expensive anchovy paste after realizing it was going to take a lot of it before I was going to pick up any of that flavor. I felt like I needed to add sugar to help temper the richness of the sauce.

Well, is this hollandaise or is my cooking off? It's the typical sauce: 1 egg yolk to a half stick of butter, bit of water and lemon.

Edited by phan1 (log)
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I think you are right on target, it is basically a fluffier version of butter. Although in my mind the acid in the lemon is crucial to offset all that butter.

You might want to try Bearnaise, a version flavoured with shallots, terragon and white vine vinegar. It has more of a taste of its own.

Also you should of course try the sauces with some food! It is not until then you will realize why they are such classics.

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Definitely, the lemon juice is critical. I use three egg yolks to three quarters cup of butter and 2 T of lemon juice. I also put a pinch of cayenne in mine, and a t of mustard.

Broccoli and hollandaise is the on the menu tonight, as it happens!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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If it just tastes only of butter, you don't have enough lemon. I find that some restarants don't use enough. Broccoli or asparagus with Hollandaise is heavenly.

In fact, when I make it I totally ignore whatever quantity of lemon juice is listed in the recipe and simply keep adding it until it tastes good (i.e. not just like butter!). Adding the correct amount of salt also seems to be critical, in my experience. Again, I generally ignore the recipe here and add salt until I like the flavor. In a sauce that is so reliant on the butter, the variations in brands of butter actually has a real influence on the finished product, so just following the recipe is not guaranteed to give you a good-tasting sauce, in my opinion. Sounds like you had the right approach, trying to tweak it, but I think sticking with the original ingredients and just slowly adding more lemon juice and salt until it tastes good is your best bet.

Edited to add: just re-read your original post and it seems that you are not a fan of the "lemon butter" flavor. So these "more lemon" suggestions may not be what you are looking for. Nevertheless, in a sauce whose components are butter, egg, lemon, and salt, "lemon butter" is basically the flavor you are going for, with an ethereal, creamy, emulsified texture. Think veggies with a lemon/butter sauce, but taken up a notch. I like it on some fish as well. And eggs benedict. And...

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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My hollandaise sauce has dijon mustard in it, and sometimes I use white wine vinegar instead of butter. To me it's a lovely, tasty sauce with some buttery notes, but I don't think it tastes like glorified lemon butter.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Remember hollandaise is one of the five mother sauces. It is ment to be very basic on ts own, and you must add lemon juice to it to be a true hollandaise.

The idea of the mother sauces is that they are bases for other, more "advanced" secondary sauces. Adding things to hollandaise like the vinegar and tarragon reduction to make a Bernaise Sauce or a bit of tomato puree to make a Sauce Choron are just a few examples.

How about a bit of truffle juice and chopped truffles, or soy sauce and wasabi, or chopped jalepeno and cilantro, or pureed carmalized onions and chopped chives.

You can also substitute a bit of foie gras fat, chorizo fat, parma ham fat, or bacon fat for the butter for another demension of flavor.

There are thousands of sauces that can be made from this one mother sauce.

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My hollandaise sauce has dijon mustard in it, and sometimes I use white wine vinegar instead of butter.  To me it's a lovely, tasty sauce with some buttery notes, but I don't think it tastes like glorified lemon butter.

Uh, Smithy, I think you mean white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice? I hope... :rolleyes:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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To my way of thinking, hollandaise is all about that rich mouth feel. In fact, I find the normal problem when you end up with a 'blah' hollandaise is that it does not have ENOUGH butter. When I make hollandaise, I always try to push the egg yolk to hold as much butter as possible. (you are using just egg yolks right?) There are a lot of factors that effect this--size and composition of yolk, amount of butterfat, etc--so don't be tied to the recipe; just slowly drip in the melted butter until you get that thick, rich, shiny consistency of a perfect hollandaise. With a little practice, you will learn to recognize when the sauce is getting to the point where it won't take any more butter. In general, I use A LOT more than a half stick of butter per egg yolk.

(Also, always use unsalted butter or you could end up with WAY to much salt in your sauce.)

In the recipe you use, you mentioned "bit of water." I am not sure what the purpose of water would be in a hollandaise--it is unnecessary and could only serve to work against the taste and texture one is trying to achieve in a good hollandaise.

I agree with what everyone has said about the lemon juice. Throw the recipe out and use your taste as a guide. The idea is to have the acidity of the lemon cut across richness of the yolk-butter liaison; the lemon should not be so forward that it dominates. Balance is the watchword.

Also, fresh-squeezed lemon juice will add brighter notes to your sauce. But be aware that the acidity of any given fruit will vary widely--another reason following a recipe doesn't work. Bottled lemon juice will work in a pinch.

Cayenne (or a dash or two of Tabasco) is essential to rounding out the taste of a hollandaise. It is not there to make the sauce spicy, just to add a note of depth and complexity. One of my housemates is overly sensitive to capseicin, but I still use cayenne in my hollandaise and he is unaware of its presence. Again, it is all about balance.

One easy (and tasty) variation on a classical hollandaise, born out of necessity and lack of lemons, is to use lime juice instead. Again, fresh-squeezed is best.

Hollandaise sauce is one of the five classical mother sauces on which the classical system of French sauces is based and the only one that is regularly used 'as is' (though as others have noted, there are a huge variety of daughter sauces that are based on it--Bearnaise being the best know.) As such, a good Hollandaise sauce is an essential part of any cook's repertoire.

So throw out the recipe and don't be afraid to 'break a few eggs' and experiment. With a little practice and experience, you will soon be making a perfect hollandaise. :)

Good Luck!

Michael

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My hollandaise sauce has dijon mustard in it, and sometimes I use white wine vinegar instead of butter.  To me it's a lovely, tasty sauce with some buttery notes, but I don't think it tastes like glorified lemon butter.

Uh, Smithy, I think you mean white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice? I hope... :rolleyes:

Ha! Yes, I most certainly do. :blush: Sorry I didn't notice your question sooner, and thanks for the catch!

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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My hollandaise sauce has dijon mustard in it, and sometimes I use white wine vinegar instead of butter.  To me it's a lovely, tasty sauce with some buttery notes, but I don't think it tastes like glorified lemon butter.

Uh, Smithy, I think you mean white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice? I hope... :rolleyes:

Ha! Yes, I most certainly do. :blush: Sorry I didn't notice your question sooner, and thanks for the catch!

Actually, DUH, I men instead of BUTTER? Jasus are we all getting SENILE? :raz:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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:laugh:

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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IMO, I would follow the recipes from French classical cooking books. Ignoring the given measurements and proportions of some mother sauces can result in disasters. Try using a improperly prepared hollandaise as a glacage and you will see a pool of grease instead of a nice deep golden brown glaze.

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IMO, I would follow the recipes from French classical cooking books. Ignoring the given measurements and proportions of some mother sauces can result in disasters. Try using a improperly prepared hollandaise as a glacage and you will see a pool of grease instead of a nice deep golden brown glaze.

The classical recipes are an just approximation to get you into the general ballpark of the particular taste and feel that you are after. And the classical author themselves often offer different recipes for the same basic preparation.

In regards to hollandaise specifically, butter varies in the amount of butterfat, solids, etc. In particular, European butter tends to have more fat content than American butter. Egg yolks are of different sizes. Lemons have differing levels of acidity.

No recipe can capture all of the possible variations. One simply needs to develop a feel for the end result based on trail and error and practice. If a hollandaise is breaking and resulting in a pool of grease, then too much butter has been added, at least for the given application. And you will be able to make adjustments for next time.

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The classical recipes are an just approximation to get you into the general ballpark of the particular taste and feel that you are after. And the classical author themselves often offer different recipes for the same basic preparation.

In regards to hollandaise specifically, butter varies in the amount of butterfat, solids, etc. In particular, European butter tends to have more fat content than American butter. Egg yolks are of different sizes. Lemons have differing levels of acidity.

No recipe can capture all of the possible variations. One simply needs to develop a feel for the end result based on trail and error and practice. If a hollandaise is breaking and resulting in a pool of grease, then too much butter has been added, at least for the given application. And you will be able to make adjustments for next time.

Approximation is fine once you have enough experience in making sauces but you still have to start with a recipe. In a professional kitchen, recipe cards are there for cost and quality control. Consistency is what makes a restaurant great. Making adjustments to fix a broken hollandaise is easily avoidable if it was done right the first time.

As for the butter, the fat content is irrelevant, classical hollandaise uses clarified butter.

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As for the butter, the fat content is irrelevant, classical hollandaise uses clarified butter.

Clarified butter is one approach, but not the only one, and not always the most desireable. Anyone who wants to learn hollandaise well enough to improvise should consider learning all the basic methods (whole solid butter, whole melted butter, and clarified butter).

Each gives a different result; each is appropriate in different situations.

Notes from the underbelly

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Hi,

Anyone who makes hollandaise sauce (or bearnaise) with any frequency should learn James Petersons method.

It takes about two minutes on direct high heat to make the sabayon and another two minutes to make the sauce and adjust the seasoning.

It is very fast, reliable and fun.

Tim

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