View Full Version : Hollandaise horrors

Phog Allen
12-31-2006, 09:51 AM
Morning gents. I thought I'd get up and make the wife and kids eggs Benedict this morning as a nice send off to the old year. Well, the muffin toasting, canadian bacon warming, and egg poaching went just according to plan. As I'm sure you have gathererd from the title of this posting, there was one stumbling block and it was that bloody Hollandaise sauce! Now look. I'm a passable cook and while I prefer baking, it is not anethema to me to work on the stove. Many an enjoyable afternoon has been spent making lemon curd, chutneys, etc. So some things out of the ordinary American day to day tastes has crossed my stovetop. Most have been passable til I ran smack dab into this damnable sauce that really isn't Dutch. I went the whole route on the internet. Studied recipes and techniques, checked ingredient ratios(more on that later)and made sure I had everything ready. The first attempt resutled in scrambled eggs before I ever started adding the butter. Too hot I thought and lowere the temp. Much better with the next batch of egg yolks and lemon juice. They thickened slightly and I was ready to add butter. Bollocks! No matter how slow I poured or fast I whisked the "sauce", it was obvious that it had broken very shortly after the addition of the first little stream of butter. A gooey mess was in the bottom of the doulbe boiler and it went straight to the rubbish bin.

Okay, now that I'm done feeling sorry for myself, would someone hazard their opinion on what I'm doing wrong(or right)? I've seen the pictures on the web of perfect Hollandaise and trust me, mine was NOT so. I even tried Wiki for the lowdown and I'm telling you, ingredients are all over the place for this sauce. Wiki says about 4-6 Tbsp. of butter per 1 egg yolk. Other sites say 6-8 Tbsp. per 3-4 egg yolk! See what I mean? That's a huge difference. Of course the main admonition is technique and heat that is not too low but definately not too hot. I had the water in my double boiler at barely a simmer. I would really like to make this sauce properly and would be grateful for any help offered.

BTW, we went ahead with the rest and added a slice of melted american cheese to the muffin, then topped with the bacon and poached eggs. Sort of a(heaven forbid)topless Egg McMuffin. Albeit a heck of a lot tastier and the ingredients much better. My wife did the egg poaching for me and she turns them out perfectly.

Regards, Todd

12-31-2006, 09:58 AM
I wish I could say "this is where you went wrong" but I cannot-
so I will say Happy new year!

12-31-2006, 10:04 AM
Todd, Eggs Benedict is my favorite breakfast and dinner treat. I've made many a good hollandaise sauce but also ruined a good many as well. I usually go with the 8 yokes to about 1/2 cup of CLARIFIED butter as I make a batch big enough for leftovers, either more Eggs Benedict the next day or to put on asparagus and such.

I have found the best way to ruin it is to keep the water in the double boiler too hot. I would rather whisk for 10 minutes at a slower heat than at a high heat for 3 minutes to risk ruining it. I also start with a tepid water so it doesn't start out too hot.

If all else fails, I ALWAYS have a packet in the cupboard, just in case.

Good luck!

12-31-2006, 10:38 AM
Hi Todd. Sorry to hear about your Hollandaise travails. The scrambled version was clearly getting things too hot. The second version likely you didn't heat the yolks enough since you were gunshy after the first fiasco. If the yolks aren't heated properly in the first stage, they will not be able to absorb the butter. The sabayon mixture should be heated and mixed until you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk. Then, and not before, the butter can be added off heat. Don't listen to those who say you need clarified butter. I use very soft butter, not even melted, and it works great. My ratio is 6-8 ounces of butter for 3 egg yolks, yielding about a cup of sauce. This is from Jacques Pepin, who is my personal guru.

Better luck next time. Why not whip up some tonight and serve with some vegetables for your New Years Eve dinner? :wink:

12-31-2006, 10:43 AM

Don't listen to those who say you need clarified butter. I use very soft butter, not even melted, and it works great. My ratio is 6-8 ounces of butter for 3 egg yolks, yielding about a cup of sauce. This is from Jacques Pepin, who is my personal guru.


Actually Alton Brown says there's no need to use clarified butter either, but I've always used it with great results, so why fix what ain't broke??

I've never tried regular butter though, maybe I'll try next time.

12-31-2006, 12:03 PM
PM ChefChris and follow what he says.


12-31-2006, 12:04 PM
Why doesn't chefchris or the "mistress of blades" just post here for us all to see?? :thumbup:

12-31-2006, 12:29 PM
I feel your pain. We make Eggs Benedict every year on Christmas morning for too many years to mention. Many years ago I gave up on from scratch Hollandaise. It was always a crap shoot. I now use Knorr Hollandaise mix. Probably not as good a scratch but it's perfect every time.:thumbup1:


Phog Allen
12-31-2006, 01:55 PM
Well thanks guys. I will give all ideas consideration. I had seen the clarified vs. not clarified comparisons and will try each style. I like Scotto's idea of Hollandaise on steamed veg tonight.

Regards, Todd

Queen of Blades
12-31-2006, 02:08 PM
PM ChefChris and follow what he says.

I'm pretty sure sauces aren't one of his strong suits.

Why doesn't chefchris or the "mistress of blades" just post here for us all to see?? :thumbup:

It's QUEEN of Blades! :001_rolle :biggrin:

12-31-2006, 02:12 PM
It's QUEEN of Blades! :001_rolle :biggrin:

What IS his strong suit?

I know it, but I think Mistress of Blades has more mystique to it....

Queen of Blades
12-31-2006, 02:17 PM
What IS his strong suit?

I know it, but I think Mistress of Blades has more mystique to it....

Working is his strong suit. :rolleyes:

Everything else culinary is his strong suit. So I guess it is good he works so much. Otherwise I would weigh a lot more. :blushing:

I have enough mystique already! :001_tt2:

L. Martino
12-31-2006, 02:24 PM
Hi All,
There's definitely a trick to making that sauce turn out right. Gotta melt the butter at a low temp, and then add just a small amount of the butter to the yolks at a time, and then after the egg mix is a bit warmed up to prevent curdling, you dump the yolks back in the pot with all the butter.... all the time whisking like crazy, I believe. There's more to it, but that's not my point to this post. Here's a way to maybe salvage the stuff:
Let's say you find the sauce separating......breaking down. It ain't that thick, rich looking sauce you're hoping to see. Something that works VERY well (sometimes) to re combine it is adding a small amount of very hot water and whisking again. Doesn't always work, but amazing when it does in it's effectiveness. Worth a try when it looks hopeless...heh.

12-31-2006, 04:54 PM
Sometimes you can save a sauce by throwing it in a blender. Out of all sauces I have ever made I would have to say a Bernaise sauce and hollandaise are the most difficult.

12-31-2006, 04:59 PM
For years I made Hollandaise sauce by the gallon for a buffet style brunch. I literally made the Eggs Benedict a dozen at a time. To this day, I still have a hard time making the sauce a cup or two at a time because I am so used to whipping it up in large batches.

When the egg yolks curdle it's too much heat. If it doesn't thicken at all then it's not enough heat, or could use more egg yolk. The temperature range that you want for the butter while making it is about 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can get away with higher heat.

I use 3 yolks per cup of butter, a teaspoon or so of lemon juice and Tabasco to taste.

Part of the trick is to warm up the egg yolks first, usually in a water bath. The water temp should be lower than a simmer and the stirring nonstop. Don't work over a burner on the stove, too much heat! You may want to take your bowl off the water bath after warming up the egg yolks.

I use clarified butter. When starting to mix the butter in, just go a spoonful at a time to start off with, whisking it smooth each time you add some. That is the real trick here, take it slow at this stage. Even if the butter is too hot, going slow won't "shock" the yolks into curdling. You can speed up the process to a steady trickle as you go along, it takes some trial and error to get a feel for that. Once the butter is all in you can then add lemon juice and Tabasco to taste. (Some prefer cayenne pepper instead)

An alternative method that is very popular is to mix it up in a blender, a lot of people find that easier. Start with the egg yolks, lemon juice and Tabasco the blender with it running at low speed. Again, go slow with butter, just drizzle it in while it's running and it should thicken up almost instantly. I've found that the last bit of butter doesn't blend in because it's so thick the blender can't stir it anymore, so it gets dumped out and whisked.

The sure sign of a perfectly made Hollandaise Sauce is when it doesn't separate after it cools.

12-31-2006, 06:40 PM
Now take into consideration this is from a self taught cook.
I start with a warm pan. Add the egg yolks and lemon and begin whisking. As you see the yolks thicken add 2-3 pats of cold butter. Yes I know but just try it. Keep whisking. Once that butter has melted add 2-3 more. Keep adding butter just untill it looks right. If you have eaten it you will know when this is. Finish with a dash of white pepper.
I don't even use a double boiler. Just the pan over a very low heat. I find that adding the butter cold helps it from getting too hot too quickly and gives you some room for error. Small amounts of curdle can be whisked back into submission if you are aggressive.

EL Alamein
12-31-2006, 08:35 PM
I didn't see anyone offer this already but I could be wrong. Apologies if I've missed it.

Beat the egg yolks in the saucepan for a minute before you add anything and before you even start heating them. I recommend you omit the double boiler as it makes it harder to control the heat. Heat them in the saucepan directly over the open flame or on the electric element (depending on the type of range you have). Use very low heat, obviously and if they seem to be getting too hot you can very easily remove them from the element and continue to whisk vigorously to cool them.

After beating them for a moment or two you can add the lemon juice and white pepper and continue to beat them. They'll be liquidy but they'll thicken as they heat up. Heat them and once they start to thicken I think the best thing to do is to start adding the melted butter off heat a little at a time. You don't need clarified butter but can use it if desired. Incorporate it thoroughly when you add each bit before adding more. As the sauce thickens you can add it in larger amounts. Practice makes perfect. Once you master it in small batches you'll have no problem whipping up larger ones. I make hollandaise and bernaise all the time in small batches for our family so it can be done.

I recommend Jacques Pepin or Julia Child cookbooks as they are excellent sources for technique on subjects like this. Hope that helps.


Phog Allen
01-01-2007, 06:21 AM
Wow! Even more good advice. Thanks goes out all round. I will make this sauce eventually. I just have to.

Regards, Todd

01-01-2007, 06:43 AM
It is hard to imagine any topic the members of this forum don't have collective expertise on.... Amazing. :001_smile

01-01-2007, 01:04 PM
What is also interesting is that there is more than one method of achieving the desired results. (Much like shaving methods, eh?) :wink:

01-01-2007, 01:13 PM
I can not cook, which makes having a Hollandaise sauce at dinner at a nice bistro all the more special. Ok, that is my take and I am sticking to it, LOL


Jacques Pepin I like, but Alton Brown is more user friendly