Hollandaise sauce is one of the classic French sauces made with egg yolk and butter. Making hollandaise by hand using a wire whisk is really no more difficult than using a blender.
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
- 2 tbsps cold water
- 2 tsps fresh lemon juice
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
Making a good hollandaise sauce is not that difficult, you just need to pay attention to a few details. The saucepan makes a difference and getting the cooking temperature right spells success, see note below.
Put the egg yolks and water in a heavy 2 to 3 quart saucepan. In a separate small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (see note below about copper-clad saucepan). When the butter is completely melted, remove from the heat.
Put the pan containing the egg yolks and water on another burner over very low heat and begin beating with a wire whisk. Beat steadily for 2 to 3 minutes until the egg yolks are thick and pale in color.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the warm melted butter, beating constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and continue beating, adding the butter in small amounts as you whisk. When you add the last amount of butter, put the pan back on burner at very low heat.
Add the lemon juice, pinch of cayenne pepper and pinch of salt. Beat more slowly until the sauce is well blended. The hollandaise sauce should look glossy and stand in little peaks when you pull out the whisk.
If necessary, set the pan in a bowl of warm water until served. When you're ready to serve, beat the sauce evenly with a wire whisk for about 30 seconds before spooning out.
Yields about 2/3 cup.
One of the tricks to making hollandaise sauce is using the right saucepan. You want to remove the saucepan from the burner while you beat the butter into the egg yolks, but you need the saucepan to retain enough heat. A copper-clad or copper lined saucepan works well since it will retain enough heat for this technique.
For other saucepans that don't work as well as a copper-clad pan, keep the heat on low and move the pan off the heat for 60 seconds, then back on for 30 seconds several times as you beat in the butter.
The key is that the melted butter needs to be warm but not hot or it will cook the egg yolks.
See Allemande sauce in the glossary of cooking terms for more details about the "five mother sauces" in French cooking.