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Wondering what Hollandaise sauce tastes like? Not sure what Hollandaise sauce is exactly?
Perhaps you’ve come across a recipe that calls for vegan Hollandaise sauce and you don’t know what to substitute for it. Or maybe you are simply wondering what all the hype is surrounding Hollandaise sauce.
From poached salmon and baked turbot to your breakfast-time eggs benedict, Hollandaise is an ingredient called for in multiple recipes. Simply put, it makes everything taste 10x better.
But what is it, anyway? And what does it taste like?
In this article, we’re talking all about Hollandaise—taste, origin, recipes, fun facts and more.
What is hollandaise sauce?
Even if you aren't French, you must know Hollandaise sauce at least by name. Remember those Master Chef episodes where Gordon Ramsay would be hovering over participants' heads not to split the Hollandaise sauce?
Many of us may not be familiar with the taste of this mother of all sauces. Still, we are familiar with how the Master Chef participants would be beating their pale yellow Hollandaise vigorously.
So, what exactly is the Hollandaise sauce?
Well, on the technical level, it is an emulsion sauce. What does that mean? We mix two liquids that otherwise do not get mixed. In an emulsion, they are combined by using an emulsifying agent.
Usually, these sauces can have temporary or permanent emulsions depending on the capacity of the emulsifying agent holding them together. In the case of Hollandaise sauce, the emulsification is permanent, so once emulsified, you cannot go back to the separate liquid bases.
We use melted hot butter and lemon juice as the base when talking about the two unmixable liquids in a Hollandaise sauce.
The emulsifying agent here is the egg yolks you're going to add to these two liquids' mixture. A compound called Lethicin present in the egg yolks binds these two liquids together. Hence, forms the Hollandaise sauce.
What does hollandaise sauce taste like?
In the most basic definitions of its taste, Hollandaise sauce tastes eggy. That's obvious because the two other liquids usually do not have a strong taste profile.
If you're having Hollandaise sauce for the first time, expect a creamy, buttery flavor with a sour undertaste and a strong egg flavor. Some people define the taste as that of wet scrambled eggs with a lemony tanginess.
However, that's not the absolute flavor profile of Hollandaise sauce.
You can have many variants which use spices like black peppercorn or cayenne pepper, making the sauce hot. Some other takes on the sauce can taste sweet and custard-like because they use sugar or maple syrup instead of vinegar (there's a question on the emulsification process in such variants, though).
In some instances, you will read about people using a wine and wine vinegar mixture instead of lemon juice in their Hollandaise sauce. However, the original recipe uses lemon juice.
If you're making the wine and wine vinegar amendment in the sauce, you're turning it into another sauce called bernaise sauce, a child sauce of the mother sauce — Hollandaise.
Anyway, the flavor profile of Hollandaise remains eggy, fluffy and smooth with variations such as spices, herbs, or even sugar.
The flavor totally depends on the additional ingredients you're going to add to the basic Hollandaise sauce you whip up.
Where does hollandaise sauce come from?
Although the name says that the sauce must be from Holland, it is actually French. No surprise there since the French have literally the best sauces in the world.
Initially, the name of Hollandaise sauce was Isigny and it could be traced back to the French culinary literature of the nineteenth century.
Isigny is a town in the French region of Normandy. Isigny had excellent cream and butter production. Hence it is supposed that the butter-based sauce got its first name from there.
The reason for the name change is uncertain.
One of the most acceptable explanations is that after World War I, Isigny couldn't manage its cream and butter production. The iconic sauce was manufactured using Dutch butter during those days. That shift in the origin of butter may be why Isigny sauce became Hollandaise sauce.
No matter what the name is, the origin of Hollandaise is French anyway, where you can find the mention of a 'fragrant sauce served with Asparagus' by the legendary French chef La Varenne. He mentioned the sauce in his work in the year 1651.
Later on, the French food revolutionist Marie-Antoine Careme cataloged his four mother sauces in the 1830s. Even though he had mentioned the Hollandaise sauce in his work, he did not include the sauce in his list of mother sauces.
The Hollandaise sauce got its place as the fifth mother sauce by the 20th-century cook Georges Auguste Escoffier.
Despite its origin and name change, the Hollandaise sauce gained popularity in the US region due to eggs Benedict. You can find the Hollandaise sauce most commonly served with this dish created by an American Chef named Charles Wanhofer, who mentioned the dish in his 1894 cookbook called Epicurean.
As eggs Benedict became famous, Hollandaise sauce also started to shine through the culinary world.
What is in hollandaise sauce
Hollandaise sauce has three essential ingredients — Egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice.
The process of emulsification of butter and lemon juice is quite a tricky one. Although egg yolks have Lecithin in them, which can work as an emulsifying agent, the temperature of butter plays a crucial role in getting the Hollandaise sauce right.
The unsalted butter doesn't only need to be melted, but it should be hot when you add the egg yolks to the butter and lemon juice mixture. Preferably, the temperature of butter should be between 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit.
To avoid coagulation, the yolks need to be cooked at a relatively low temperature, so most people use the double boiler technique to achieve a pale, smooth Hollandaise sauce. If the temperature is high after adding the egg yolks, there’s a risk of browning the sauce or even getting a curdled sauce instead of a smooth Hollandaise.
How to use hollandaise
Hollandaise sauce has a silky, smooth texture that can work well with many types of meat and vegetable-based dishes. The most common dish that you will see this creamy sauce served with is eggs benedict
Some other dishes with which Hollandaise sauce accompanies well are asparagus and crab imperial.
Eggs benedict is a popular breakfast, and brunch dish which has two halves of a toasted English muffin served with some bacon, poached eggs, and of course, the iconic Hollandaise sauce. Try sprinkling with a little paprika for added color and flavor.
The dish is easy to pull off if you're an expert in poaching eggs.
Asparagus makes another great combination with Hollandaise sauce. All you need to do is roast some Asparagus with a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper seasoning.
Then start working on your Hollandaise sauce. Once done, drizzle it generously over the crunchy Asparagus and enjoy a hearty meal.
Crab imperial is an imperial sauce-based crab meat dish that usually uses a variant of Hollandaise and gets baked to golden perfection.
Hollandaise sauce remains a crucial part of the dish, so this dish is worth the mention.
- There's a theory about Hollandaise sauce's name that a Dutch king was visiting France, so French chefs came up with a copycat recipe of a Dutch sauce, ending up in the current famous French Hollandaise sauce.
- Some old culinary books mentioned Hollandaise sauce so casually that 'put every ingredient on fire except for the lemon juice and keep stirring until you get a thick sauce' (Maybe that's how they did it back then)
- Real Hollandaise is hard work. So if you're a lazy bum, just eat your bread with store-bought mayonnaise and forget the eggs Benedict.
- If you’re not getting the right consistency of the sauce, using one more egg yolk would work. You can add that egg yolk and some hot water to the sauce to get the creamy consistency of the Hollandaise sauce.
- Another variation that you will continuously encounter on the internet is the use of a blender instead of a stovetop for making Hollandaise sauce.
- Hollandaise is best prepared right before serving. If you do have extra, store leftover hollandaise sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- While I have no experience in making these quick-fix versions of the sauce, experts suggest that these sauces will split in a matter of an hour only compared to the stovetop Hollandaise sauce preparation method.
Hollandaise sauce is the fifth mother sauce of French cuisine. Although the name suggests it to be Dutch, the sauce has its roots in the French region of Normandy.
The Hollandaise sauce typically tastes light, creamy, eggy, and lemony. The pale yellow sauce can be best served with dishes like eggs Benedict, roasted Asparagus, or Crab Imperial.
Any of the mentioned dishes will get a kick with Hollandaise sauce's tartness and rich consistency.
What are your favorite main course dishes to serve with Hollandaise sauce? Let us know in the comment section below!