If you love a good hollandaise sauce, whether it's over eggs Benedict on Saturday morning or a plate of asparagus at Easter dinner, then you're a friend of mine. Maybe you didn't even know that this creamy, buttery, slightly tangy sauce that you love so dearly could be made at home in about two minutes using just a blender. Want to impress your friends this weekend? Invite them for brunch and tell them you're making hollandaise sauce.
What Is Hollandaise Sauce?
Hollandaise is one of the classic French mother sauces, along with bechamel and a few others. It's a sauce that could only have been invented by people with a healthy respect for butter and all its wonders — to make a hollandaise, you whisk warm melted butter into egg yolks to make an improbably thick, creamy, and luxurious sauce. In French cuisine, a vinegar reduction adds some punch and helps keep the emulsified sauce stable, but at home, a squeeze of lemon juice does the job just fine.
Steamed asparagus, salmon, and perhaps most famously eggs Benedict are all classic dishes to pair with a hollandaise sauce, but there's no need to stop there. A hollandaise turns just about any steamed or roasted vegetable into something dreamy, and it's a mighty-fine sauce to serve over everything from roast chicken to steak.
Use a Blender for Easy Homemade Hollandaise
A good hollandaise depends on the technique of slowly emulsifying warm butter into egg yolks and vinegar or lemon juice. This can be accomplished with a whisk and some arm power, or you can choose the easier, faster route: a blender. Just combine the yolks and lemon juice in a blender, stream in the melted butter, and a few minutes later, your hollandaise sauce is ready for draping over your item of choice.
Using a blender also gives you some insurance when making this notoriously finicky sauce, which can quite easily "break" into a buttery, egg-flecked mess if the emulsion doesn't happen properly. The blades of a blender are far faster and more powerful than even the strongest arm-wrestler, and they can whip the butter into the yolks better than anything else. With a blender, you can promise hollandaise sauce for Easter brunch with real confidence.
Butter Makes the Sauce
How much butter you add depends on how thick or thin you like your sauce. As you whiz in the butter, it will start off very thick, then take on the consistency of mayonnaise, and then gradually thin into a silky, pourable sauce. You can stop the blender and check the consistency as you go. Stop adding butter as soon as you are happy with the sauce.
I like to start with two egg yolks when making a hollandaise sauce, which will make enough for about four people. You can double the recipe if you are serving a larger crowd. For this number of yolks, I use between eight and 16 tablespoons of butter (1 to 2 sticks), depending on how I'm planning to use it. Eight tablespoons gives me a nice dip for steamed artichokes, and 12 to 16 tablespoons makes a pourable sauce for fish or eggs Benedict.
Warm Butter, Warm Sauce
Hollandaise is meant to be a warm sauce, and it's best if used as soon as its ready. Since making hollandaise in a blender is so fast, I usually wait until everything else for the meal is ready and on the table, then I melt the butter in the microwave and make the sauce.
If you need to, you can hold the sauce for about an hour if you keep it warm. The best way to do this is to transfer the sauce to a double-boiler and place over low heat, but you can also try transfering the sauce to another container and keeping it submerged in a bowl of hot water. The more loose and sauce-like your hollandaise, the more it has a tendency to break. You run the same risk if it gets too cool or sits for too long. The solution here is to make a thicker hollandaise.
Why Your Hollandaise Broke & How to Fix It
A hollandaise can "break," or separate back into a layer of butter with floating grainy flecks, for a few reasons — if the butter is added to quickly; if the sauce gets too cold or too hot; or if you've waited too long before serving. Making your sauce in a powerful blender makes a more stable sauce that's less prone to breaking, but even so, it happens.
If your sauce does break, all is not lost. Here are a few things to try, in order of desperation:
First, stop adding more butter, and let the blender run for about 30 seconds. If the sauce looks good, you can continue adding butter.
Second, try blending in a few teaspoons of hot water. Run the blender for 30 to 60 seconds. If the sauce looks good, you can continue adding butter.
Third, add another yolk: Pour whatever you have in the blender into a measuring cup. Add a yolk and a teaspoon of water to the blender, and start it running. Slowly stream your broken sauce into the blender with the new egg yolk. If it looks good, then you can keep adding the remaining butter.
If the finished sauce breaks before you serve it: It can be tricky to rescue a finished sauce that has broken during its wait for the breakfast table, but there are a few things you can try. If the sauce is still warm, transfer it to a blender and blend for 30 to 60 seconds. If the sauce has cooled, warm it for a few seconds in the microwave until it feels warm (not hot) when you touch the liquid with your finger, then blend it for 30 to 60 seconds. Serve this hollandaise sauce immediately.
Butter and eggs the key components of Hollandaise. Extra flavor comes from salt, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice.
How To Make Easy Hollandaise Sauce in a Blender
Makes about 1 cup, serves 4 to 6
What You Need
8 to 16 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne, optional
Microwave-safe measuring cup
Melt the butter: Use 8 tablespoons of butter for a thick hollandaise for dipping or dolloping; use up to 16 tablespoons to make a thinner, pourable sauce. Unwrap the butter, cut it into a few large pieces, and transfer it to a microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave in 30-second bursts until the butter has completely melted. Use the butter when it is no longer piping hot, but is still very warm; if it has set for too long and is no longer warm, re-warm the butter in the microwave. (Alternatively, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.)
Blend the yolks, lemon juice, and salt: Combine these ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine.
With the blender running, slowly stream in half the warm butter: Start the blender running and leave the top open. Slowly stream in the warm butter — start with a few drops, then a thin drizzle. Once you've added about half the butter you intend to add, check the sauce (you can stop the blender if you need to). If it looks grainy or separated, see "Fixing a Broken Sauce," above.
Continue adding butter in a steady stream: If the sauce is looking good, you can pour the butter a little more quickly in a steady stream. Continue pouring the butter and occasionally checking the sauce until the sauce is as thick or thin as you'd like, or you've added all the butter. When done, the hollandaise should be light yellow with a smooth, uniform consistency.
Taste and adjust the sauce: Stop the blender and taste a small spoonful. It should taste rich, buttery, and slightly tangy. Stir in a little salt, cayenne, or lemon juice, if needed. If the sauce seems a little too thick to you, blend in some water a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is as thin as you like it.
Serve the sauce: Hollandaise is best served as soon as it's ready, while still warm. If you need to, you can transfer the sauce to a double-boiler and keep it warm over low heat on a back burner, or set over a bowl of very hot water, for about an hour. The thicker and more mayonnaise-like the hollandaise, the more stable it tends to be; thinner sauces will break more easily — especially if they are held for too long before serving or if they get too cool. See "Fixing a Broken Sauce," above, for more information.
(Image credits: Quentin Bacon; Hali Bey Ramdene)