Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Sep 13, 2009 09:02 PM

making HOLLANDAISE: ideal temperature of ban marie?

hello all, sometimes it still curdles or breaks when i make it. any tips? thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't use a double broiler. I just use a saucepan and whisk like mad over a gentle (low) heat. Once the sauce coats the back of a spoon evenly, it's done.

    if you use a double broiler and the sauce breaks, try adding some heavy cream.

    1. barely simmering water. if it breaks, you can try adding an egg yolk and rewhisk.

      1. The recipe I use says if it breaks, add a tablespoon of water and whisk again. This does work. I just wish I could prevent it breaking in the first place - does anybody have any suggestions? I asked a similar question in another place - not sure how to avoid breaking the rules, because I'm new to Chowhound.

        4 Replies
        1. re: drariella

          i've worked out how not to break the sauce - i just use less heat. in fact, i stopped using a double boiler all together - hot water from the thermos is good enough.

          1. re: drariella

            drariella- You're adding the butter too fast (it should just start as a dribble) if it breaks or the butter is too hot, which will scramble the yolks, not what you want. If you're going to use a bain marie, do it over barely simmering water, as hotoynoddle suggested, below 180*. If your yolk mixture gets hotter than 180*, they'll set. Possibly you added more butter to the egg yolk than it could absorb for the emulsification; the usual formula is one yolk to 2/3-3/4 cup clarified butter. To repair the sauce, start with a clean bowl, whisk an egg yolk, then whisk in the broken sauce slowly. This will bring it right back to life. I use the egg yolk rather than water to maintain the density and another egg yolk goes further than water in making the sauce more stable.

            Actually, you can make gallons of hollandaise with one yolk, but the big rule is not to scramble the yolks (not too hot) and add the butter slowly. Are you adding the lemon juice to the yolks before the butter? You should be.

            A food processor makes great hollandaise and mayo, no breaking and you can add the butter faster.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Bushwickgirl, you're probably going to think I'm crazy, but my recipe says to whisk the lemon juice, the yolk(s), and the salt & pepper, and then add the butter. It doesn't say to melt the butter first, or to clarify it, so I've been (don't scream) adding small cubes of butter and whisking while it heats up. It sounds like I need a better system. Although I can whisk it back into a creamy sauce after it's done cooking, I'd rather have it come out right the first time. Can you tell me more specifics, especially about the butter and the food processor part? Thanks!

              1. re: drariella

                Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I'm off Chowhound these days, taking a break from all things culinaire.
                I always melt the butter first to clarify it, and I don't bother skimming the butterfat. I don't use the whey (water) that collects in the bottom of the pan under the melted butterfat in hollandaise, as it contains all the salt from the butter, which you may not want in your sauce. I recommend using unsalted butter and adding the whey for the extra water you need in hollandaise to aid in the emulsion process. If you're using salted butter, add a teaspoon of water per egg yolk to the yolk/lemon juice mixture.
                For a food processor method, put you egg yolks and lemon juice in the processor, turn it on and drizzle in your clarified butter, which actually should be quite hot (under 180*) because you're not gently heating the egg yolks first. You'll get a very stable hollandaise due to the whipping action of the FP. The formula is the same for hand whisked or FP procedure.
                I have seen recipes that call for small pieces of whole butter to be whisked into the yolk/lemon juice mixture but I've honestly never done it that way, can't comment, as I almost always use a bain marie or FP. My feeling is that you can make hollandaise this way over an open flame, such as janniecooks describes downthread, and as long as the heat is controlled between 160-170* and the butter is room temp, your sauce won't scramble.
                The more yolk-to-butter ratio you use, the more "eggy" the sauce will be. An egg yolk can hold about 2/3 to 3/4 cup fat. I think I wrote that here already but it's good to know the ratio, although I've seen sauce formulas for up to 1:1/2 butter to egg yolk. The lemon juice should just accentuate the flavor of the sauce, not dominate it.
                I would wait until I have the sauce made before seasoning, and I always add a few drops of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne, not for heat, but to perk up the flavor.
                In culinary school, I was instructed to add the lemon juice to the egg yolks first and whisk well to blend, as there is a chemical reaction and the acid "cooks" the yolks, much like fish in an acidic juice marinade when making ceviche, causing the protein chains in the yolk to unwind trather than ball up, or curdle, and you can actually bring the temp up higher than 180* without the sauce breaking.
                Here's a link with some info. I read through it and basically agree with everything the author had to say:

                The thing about hollandaise is, just follow the simple rules, practice, and the more you make it, the easier it'll become.
                Then if you learn how to fix a broken sauce, as I outined above, and which will happen occasionally, you'll be God-like. Good luck.

          2. I never use a bain marie to make hollandaise. I use a heavy stainless saucier directly on the burner at very low heat - you should always be able to place your hand on the outside of the pan while making the sauce. The butter isn't melted, either. It only takes about five minutes! Once made, if you keep it warm, keep in mind that the sauce will curdle if the temperature is allowed to exceed 180 degrees F.

            2 egg yolks
            2 teaspoons cold water
            1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, diced
            1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

            Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless steel saucepan over low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly.

            Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next. The mixture will gradually thicken but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a tablespoon or two of cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made.

            Finally add the lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

            Tip: if you are making hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the sauce. If you are making hollandaise for the first time, keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.

            1. I know people will scoff, but I make perfect hollandaise *every*single*time in the blender.

              I received a Sauces and Gravies book from Cooks Illustrated a few years back, and it described the many efforts to make perfect hollandaise and bernaise. It goes like this:

              Add aromatics and yolks to blender. Start whizzing, and in a thin stream, add HOT butter- not scorched, but hot. Use the usual proportions. Perfect every time. Never breaks, no whisking.

              I was unimpressed on the reading of the recipe, but after trying it, I wouldn't go back to the whisking method ever again.

              4 Replies
                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Thank you all so much. I intend to practice. Artichokes, here I come!

                2. re: cheesemonger

                  OMG, cheesemonger, you're absolutely right! It's smooth and perfect. I just have to figure out how to drizzle the hot butter in without spraying hollandaise all over the kitchen. Taking the little cap off the lid made too big a hole, so I put my hand over it. Ouch!

                  1. re: cheesemonger

                    Someone on this board, probably you, told me about this little trick, I do it all the time and have perfect results! The thermos is the other keeper, holds the hollandaise just right.

                    For some reason I lost my touch making hollandaise and bernaise and it was really bothering me. Not any more, this is easy and fast and less waste.