Wednesday, May 9, 2012


With mother's day coming up this weekend, it’s the perfect time to bring out the big guns of breakfast/brunch, eggs benedict, warm crispy toasted english muffin, topped with slices of ham (or montreal if salmon is more your thing, and if you must florentine subbing in spinach), a perfect poached egg perched on top, and lashings of that ever indulgent sauce, hollandaise. To the uninitiated, the thought of making hollandaise can seem a little daunting, but I feel I have a method that greatly reduces the risks of failure and is a doddle to make. Just don’t forget the hollandaise is all that stands between a divine brunch and a short sharp trip to the bin, so pay attention when making it.

With only three ingredients, using the best you can find makes a world of difference. Free range eggs are a must, definitely unsalted butter, and nice ripe lemons that aren’t too acidic. The lemon juice plays an important part in the sauce, it not only cuts the richness of the butter, the acid also alters how the proteins in the yolk interact, giving it a little more tolerance to the heat.

30 ml (2 tablespoons) of Lemon Juice
2 egg yolks (freeze the whites, they’ll last about 3 months)
170 grams Unsalted butter

  1. Melt the butter over a low heat, making sure not to let it brown, the butter should be quite warm.
  2. Get a pot on the stove with a little water on to simmer.
  3. In a bowl whisk to together the egg yolks and lemon juice. They should increase in volume, thicken and turn pale.
  4. While still whisking, slowly, drop by drop to begin with, pour in the warm/hot melted butter, whisking constantly until all of the butter has been emulsified.
  5. If the sauce is not to the thickness you desire place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk until thick, be careful not to get too much heat into the sauce.
  6. Pass it through a fine mesh sieve.
  7. Finally taste and season it with salt and white pepper.
  • The eggs need to be at room temperature, as egg yolks are most effective as an emulsifier when they are warm1.
  • The average egg yolk is 17 grams, or approx 30% of the weight of the egg. If you’re a food geek like me, weigh your eggs and then multiply by five to get the amount of butter you need.
  • Infusing the butter with some tarragon while it melts, and adding some of the chopped herb at the end, makes a great sauce for poached salmon
1. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McGee, page 633.

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