Why It Works
- Starting with warm butter and cool eggs, then blending them together with an immersion blender, is a foolproof way to make hollandaise.
- Using melted full butter, instead of clarified, removes a step from the recipe and doesn't change the final result.
I'd read about hollandaise, I'd eaten hollandaise, I'd even tried to make hollandaise as a very young cook, but it wasn't until I actually had to make it for paying customers that I really got the hang of it. Somehow, making a couple quarts of it every single day for four months will drill it into your head.
Difficulties With Traditional Hollandaise
Traditional hollandaise, made by emulsifying melted clarified butter into egg yolks and lemon juice, is notoriously difficult to make. You not only have to take the same care in its construction as you take for oil-in-egg-yolk mayonnaise, but you also have to deal with the fickle nature of hot eggs and butter. Cook the eggs too much and you get scrambled eggs. Don't cook them enough, and your sauce won't thicken. Allow your sauce to cool as you make it, and your butterfat will crystallize, breaking your sauce.
But there's a super easy way to do it at home that requires no whisking, is completely foolproof, and produces a hollandaise that's indistinguishable from one made using traditional methods.
The Workaround: Reversing the Traditional Technique
It stems from the realization that rather than heating your eggs then adding relatively cool butter, you can just as easily heat your butter and add it to relatively cool eggs, cooking them as the emulsion forms. It's a sort of backwards way to think about hollandaise, but there's no denying it works.
You'll notice that the construction method—using a cup and a hand blender to form a vortex that gradually pulls down fat—is very similar to my Two-Minute Mayonnaise. That's because mayonnaise and hollandaise are kissing cousins, nearly identical in structure.
Some folks may comment on my use of full butter as opposed to clarified. I find that the milk solids that form the upper layer of melted butter do not impact the sauce at all, while the liquid and milk solid phase at the bottom of melted butter can be poured selectively to thin the sauce to whatever consistency you desire. Usually, I just dump the whole thing in and nobody is the wiser.
Check out the video below to see precisely how it's done, then go back and check out our recipe for easy poached eggs. With the two methods combined, my brunch has never been easier or more consistent.
Here's the full transcript, in case you're stuck at work or perhaps hiding behind enemy lines.
"If there's one recipe that strikes fear into the hearts of cooks, one recipe that has a reputation for being difficult, it's hollandaise sauce.
"Like mayonnaise, hollandaise is a fat-in-water emulsion. Normally, when you combine fat and water, the fat separates and forms a greasy layer that floats on top. The key to a successful emulsion is to break that fat up into individual droplets so small that they disperse evenly in your liquid.
"Now traditionally, you'd this by whisking egg yolks and lemon juice over a double boiler until they're hot and frothy, then slooooowly whisking in butter in a thin, steady stream. The butter breaks into minute droplets, while the egg yolk acts as an emulsifier, helping to keep those droplets dispersed, as well as thickening the sauce. What you get is a creamy, smooth sauce with a rich texture and mild flavor, perfect for topping eggs, fish, or vegetables.
"But there are a lot of ways things can go wrong. If you don't whisk fast enough or pour in your butter too fast it'll turn greasy and broken. Don't cook the eggs enough and it won't thicken properly. If you cook the eggs too much and you'll end up with clumpy, greasy, scrambled eggs.
"The reality is that if you're going to learn how to do it the traditional way, the road to perfect hollandaise is going to be paved in broken sauces.
"But here's the good news: there's an alternative method that is completely foolproof, produces a hollandaise that is every bit as good as the traditional version, and takes about one minute start to finish. All you need is a small pot, a glass measuring cup, and a hand blender with a cup that just barely fits its head.
"We start by combining a couple of egg yolks in the base of the blender cup along with a teaspoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of water, and a pinch of salt. Next, we heat up a stick of butter on the stovetop until it is completely melted and bubbling. It should register around 220°F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour that butter into the measuring cup.
"Now all we do is stick the head of the hand blender at the bottom of the jar, start it running, and slowly pour in the butter. As the hot butter hits the eggs, they start to cook. By the time all the hot butter has been added about 30 seconds later, you've got rich, smooth, creamy, hollandaise sauce that's completely indistinguishable from sauce made using the traditional whisk method.
"Hollandaise will be at its best right when you make it, but If you want to store it, your best bet is to keep it in a small, lidded pot in a warm spot near your stove and make sure you use it within a couple hours."
The Food Lab: How To Make 2-Minute Hollandaise
1 egg yolk (about 35g)
1 teaspoon (5ml) water
1 teaspoon (5ml) lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons; 113g)
Pinch cayenne pepper or hot sauce (if desired)
Combine egg yolk, water, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a cup that barely fits the head of an immersion blender. Melt butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling constantly, until foaming subsides. Transfer butter to a 1 cup liquid measuring cup.
Place head of immersion blender into the bottom of the cup and turn it on. With the blender constantly running, slowly pour hot butter into cup. It should emulsify with the egg yolk and lemon juice. Continue pouring until all butter is added. Sauce should be thick and creamy, able to coat a spoon but still flow off of it. If it is too thick, whisk in a small amount of warm water, 1 tablespoon (15ml) at a time, to thin it out to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce (if desired). Serve immediately, or transfer to a small lidded pot and keep in a warm place for up to 1 hour before serving. Hollandaise cannot be cooled and reheated.
Immersion blender with a cup that barely fits its head
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 8g||11%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||25%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|