The first step to Hollandaise is making clarified butter.
Clarifying butter removes water and milk solids, leaving pure butterfat. Removing the milk solids means clarified butter can be cooked at higher temperatures, temperatures that would have burnt the milk solids. It also makes it easier to make Hollandaise sauce (remember water and oil don’t mix), and gives the it a creamier and thicker consistency. If you’re using regular melted butter and are getting runny sauce, now you know why!
- Small saucepan for clarifying butter (you want the butter to be deep enough you can skim and ladle without disturbing the milk solids that settle at the bottom).
- Saucepan and stainless steel mixing bowl that will set halfway in the sauce pan. (The bowl shouldn’t be small enough to fit completely inside the saucepan.)
- 10 oz (281 g) Unsalted Butter, chopped into pieces to make it melt faster
- 3 ea Egg yolks
- 0.5 fl oz (1 T) Water, cold
- 0.75 fl oz (1.5 T) Lemon juice
- to taste Salt
- to taste Cayenne pepper
Yield: ~1 cup Hollandaise or enough for 8 servings of Eggs Benedict
Warning: I know the list of steps is daunting, but it’s really not that bad!
Part A: Clarify the butter
2. From now on, do NOT stir the butter, swirl the pan, or do anything that will disturb the butter. Continue simmering while continuously skimming the froth that forms at the top. Do this until all the froth is gone, the butter is lighter and see through, and you can see an opaque white layer forming on the bottom of the pan. This is a layer of milk solids.
3. Remove from heat. Using a large spoon or ladle, carefully ladle out or pour the clear butter into another container without touching or disturbing the milk solids at the bottom of the pan.
5. Wash out this pot for the next step.
Part B: Whisk, whisk, and whisk some more
1. Add ~1″ of water to the saucepan and bring to just below a simmer. You want a steaming pot of water. The water shouldn’t be high enough to touch the bottom of the mixing bowl once you set it on top.
2. Place egg yolks and cold water in the mixing bowl and whisk until light and frothy.
3. Add a few drops of lemon juice and whisk to combine.
4. Set the bowl over the steaming saucepan (also known as a bain marie) and whisk continuously until the yolks are slightly thickened, light, and frothy.
5. Remove the bowl from the bain marie. Set the mixing bowl on a coiled up towel to prevent the bowl from moving around.
6. In one hand, hold the whisk in the mixing bowl, ready to whisk. In the other hand, collect a very small amount of warm clarified butter in a ladle. SLOWLY dribble the small ladle of clarified butter drop by drop, whisking continuously.
7. Slowly add all of the clarified butter while whisking. The most important step is to start slow. Once a small amount of butter is completely mixed in, it’s easier to add the rest.
- If the sauce starts to look greasy or starts to separate like the picture below, stop adding butter. Whisk vigorously until it is light and frothy. (The red lines show where the sauce is separating.) Once it’s emulsified again, you can continue adding butter.
- If the sauce gets thick like mayonnaise but you haven’t added all your butter yet, whisk in a small amount of lemon juice or water, then continue adding the rest of the butter.
- When in doubt, stop adding butter and whisk for a little while.
8. Once all of the butter has been added, add the remaining lemon juice, salt, and cayenne to taste (add a little and see how it tastes, adjust from there). The final consistency should coat the back of a spoon, not thick like mayo.
Part C: Keep warm until ready to use
You want to the Hollandaise sauce warm (not hot). Do not put on top of a steaming bain marie, over any direct heat, and please do not microwave. You could cover with a towel and keep near a warm stove, float the mixing bowl over a warm (not hot) water bath, or set on top of a bain marie that isn’t steaming anymore. When you’re ready to serve, reheat gently over steaming bain marie for a few seconds at a time, whisking continuously. If it’s too thick, add water or lemon juice to taste, and whisk to combine.