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White Sauce (Bechamel) ratios


Bernie
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I make white sauce as a starting point for quite a few different dishes. I have always done it "by ear".

Flour, Butter, Milk (or liquid).

Probably as most do I sort of know how much of each and then I sort of trial and error to get the right consistency I need.

For fairly plain sauce I add nutmeg. It takes away any blandness I sometimes get particularly if I am not adding salt to the finished dish.

Method I now use is to heat the butter and stir in the flour to make the roux. Then I take it off the heat allow to cool and then heat the liquid in the microwave then add to the roux stirring with an egg whisk

When dissolved and smooth, return to the heat and still using the whisk bring it to the boil (or close to it depending what I am going to use it for).

 

Does anyone have any hard and fast rules as to the ratios. The net has a number of different (obviously copied from one another).

 

1 Tablespoon Butter(or Margarine)

1 Tablespoon of flour

1 cup milk

or

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Tablespoon flour

1/4 cup of milk (this is going to end up as a single great glop)

or

3 Tablespoons Butter

3 Tablespoons flour

2 Cups of milk

There are a few other and some with what I think are truly bizarre additions.

 

I suspect I come close to the first one, though I never measure anything, and I think i end up using more milk.

Variations are I use cream/milk , milk/white wine (usually for seafood and tarragon)

I have made it with beef stock but I am not sure it is classed as a "white sauce"

 

What say you is there a magic  ratio?

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Never measure anything in the Bechamel and usually add grated cheese, whatever is around to grate, to it for Ed.  I'm not eating dairy any longer (alas).   He eats this sauce on steamed vegetables.  I just use a lemon juice/olive oil dressing on mine.  

 

A white sauce is the only thing I remember learning how to make in Grade 8 Home Ec.  Hated Home Ec and the teacher also.  But by golly, we DID learn how to make a white sauce.   (No doubt I deserve censoring for the following:  my dominant memory of Grade 8 Home Ed is when my friend Sheila Simpson put a wooden spoon through the washing machine wringer.)  

 

Sorry, my Bechamel is very slap dash.  

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@Bernie back from the eGCI vault… sauces. Images are gone but one can always request that they be restored. Bechamel and other cream sauces…

 

And a recipe for bechamel 

 

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I do 50 //50  or close to it.

 

whole milk

 

but I also add a hint of freshly grated nutmeg 

 

microplane off the dry surface from a previously used nutmeg

 

then a shaving or two

 

I want to get a hint of something in the béchamel 

 

but not an about that makes the nutmeg obvius

 

I do the nutmeg also for Russet mashed potatoes.

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3 hours ago, rotuts said:

I do 50 //50  or close to it.

 

whole milk

 

but I also add a hint of freshly grated nutmeg 

 

microplane off the dry surface from a previously used nutmeg

 

then a shaving or two

 

I want to get a hint of something in the béchamel 

 

but not an about that makes the nutmeg obvius

 

I do the nutmeg also for Russet mashed potatoes.


Yes, I do the same.

 

Nutmeg is a must, as is a pinch of salt. Celery salt is a good option, too. A bay leaf if at hand. A small onion dotted with 3 or 4 whole cloves to be boiled in the bechamel for 20 min or so if I feel fancy. 
 

 

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methinks the only 'rule' is fat:flour = 1:1 - by volume in my case 2T butter + 2 T AP flour

the amount of liquid is _hugely_ dependent on the end sauce use and what-all-else may be going into the sauce.

I use milk (1% to full), light cream, heavy cream, splash of wine as appropriate.

the cream is always 'in addition' to the starter glug of milk.

always use a whisk for the initial liquid adds, spoons/spatulas just don't do the job.

 

example

making a souffle - 3T ea, cook out the raw flour taste, add minced onion/shallot

they will exude water - the fat/flour mixture tends to seize up

I add cold milk and incorporate with a whisk to a 'base volume.

add cheese to melt - well, various cheeses make for different consistencies as they melt . . . add milk/cream as needed....

fold mixture into beaten egg whites.

plus how your flour hydrates also makes a difference.

using a recipe of x this y that z liquid is really not a good approach - you have to adjust 'on the fly'

 

tonight I'm fixing clam&shrimp in a white sauce over linguini.

after the first batch of milk goes in, I add the juice from the canned clams. 

as that equalizes I add a jar of clam juice.

after that milk - cream for company... - to the 'near finished' consistency.

diced shrimp (from frozen, some water comes with them..) - cook to almost-pink

add drained clams to heat thru, 2-3 minutes tops.

final consistency adjust with milk/cream/wine - serve.

 

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1 hour ago, AlaMoi said:

methinks the only 'rule' is fat:flour = 1:1 - by volume

 

Two things:

 

At first, I thought "1:1 fat:flour" is correct, but "by volume" is not. We're all supposed to be using weights now, aren't we? Then I thought back to the lasagna we made yesterday, which calls for a balsamella: 3 cups whole milk thickened with 1 stick (113 g) of butter and 1/2 cup (65 g) a/p flour. This doesn't follow the "by weight" ratio -- but it does follow the "by volume" ratio. One stick of butter is . . . 1/2 cup.

 

Secondly, the whole thing -- amount of roux and liquid(s) -- depends on end use.  You can't get to the 3 cups of balsmella needed for my lasagna by starting with 2T + 2T and adjusting the liquid -- either I will never have enough sauce, or it will never get thick enough.

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by volume or by weight depends on which continent you're cooking on.

which is precisely why I specified "by volume"

anyone who cannot find a site to convert 1 tablespoon of butter to x grams... they're likely to have other issues.

in metric countries, few people will even know what 2 tablespoons of flour weighs....  few European cooks own "official" devices of cups, or tablespoons or teaspoons.  the words exist, but not necessarily the "conventional" definitions.

 

btw, one of the biggest food fights is:  how much does one cup of flour weigh?

 

"... the whole thing ..."

yup.  that's called experience.

starting with 2T or 3T or 4T fat . . . requires knowing how that amount works out for the intended dish.

 

people who blindly follow recipes or blindly follow clock directions rather frequently have """issues"""

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47 minutes ago, AlaMoi said:

 

"... the whole thing ..."

yup.  that's called experience.

starting with 2T or 3T or 4T fat . . . requires knowing how that amount works out for the intended dish.

 

people who blindly follow recipes or blindly follow clock directions rather frequently have """issues"""

 Exactly.   There is so much cooking that is second nature, automatic pilot, what feels like common sense.    Thinking "outside the recipe" about what you're making should be part of your MO as it builds one's battery of processes. 

eGullet member #80.

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On 1/10/2022 at 10:23 PM, AlaMoi said:

btw, one of the biggest food fights is:  how much does one cup of flour weigh?

 

"... the whole thing ..."

yup.  that's called experience.

starting with 2T or 3T or 4T fat . . . requires knowing how that amount works out for the intended dish.


Isn’t that combined the information that the OP asked: what is from your experience a solid ratio for Bechamel ? 

 

Let’s look at it from a practical view: the flour to milk (or combined liquids, but then we are not in Bechamel territory anymore) ratio determines the thickness of the resulting sauce. You do this in metric and you will get consistent results (the hydration levels of different AP flours do not matter much). The fat amount is required to make a roux is secondary; a 1:1 ratio by weight gives a semi-fluid roux that I can work with easily. If you use ratio by volume you’ll end up with more fat, which will not impact the thickening if you keep the flour to milk ratio constant. It’ll make making the roux a bit easier and the resulting sauce more creamy. The latter is similar to the effect of using full fat milk (~3%) vs. reduced fat (~1%).

 

I am fully with both @Dave the Cook and @AlaMoi: when preparing a target amount of Bechamel you need to know the basic ratio to begin with - either by experience or by recipe, and work from there. That’s what from my point of view what @Bernie had in mind. 
 

My “golden ratio” for a Bechamel of medium thickness is 50g butter, 50 g butter and 1 L of milk. @Dave the Cook used 65 g  flour, 113 g butter and 0,71 L milk. What does your experience tell you, @AlaMoi, to complete the OPs request (imperial measures ok 😉) ?

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The new Per Se book advocates Using beurre manie but the proportions should be the same 

 

"BEURRE MANIÉ

5%: Lightly creamed soups or veloutés

10%: Meat-based sauces or jus

15%: Classic blanquettes or cream sauces

30%: Fully thickened béchamel or binders

Beurre manié, equal parts (by weight) flour and butter, kneaded or paddled to a paste, is perhaps the most broadly used thickener at The French Laundry."

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  • 1 month later...

In my recent experiments with white sauce I’ve found that the amount of flour seems not to make much difference. I’m definitely leaning more towards the “by volume” end of the scale rather than “by weight”. With the latter I find it uses a lot more flour with no perceivable benefit. 
 

I love nutmeg but my current go to for that bit of flavour is to add a couple of pieces of blade mace to the milk while I scald it. 

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On 1/12/2022 at 4:06 PM, AAQuesada said:

The new Per Se book advocates Using beurre manie but the proportions should be the same 

 

"BEURRE MANIÉ

5%: Lightly creamed soups or veloutés

10%: Meat-based sauces or jus

15%: Classic blanquettes or cream sauces

30%: Fully thickened béchamel or binders

Beurre manié, equal parts (by weight) flour and butter, kneaded or paddled to a paste, is perhaps the most broadly used thickener at The French Laundry."

 

I like to use beurre manié for certain sauces.  It's easy enough to have a bit nearby, if and when it's needed.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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