Hollandaise or Bearnaise Sauce



To make the hollandaise:

  • 4 ounces butter, clarified and cooled somewhat
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and cayenne pepper


To make the bearnaise:


  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon leaf
  • 4 ounces butter, clarified and cooled somewhat
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and cayenne pepper



Step 1: Clarified butter is unsalted butter that has the milk solids and water removed so all that remains is pure liquid golden-yellow butterfat. It is used to make hollandaise and béarnaise sauce because water in ordinary butter tends to make the emulsion break. Clarified butter, with the water removed, eliminates this problem. To clarify the butter: Gently melt 1 stick unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low heat. (We doubled the recipe in the picture below).
Step 2: The foam on the surface is the butter's water content boiling off. The white residue on the bottom is the milk solids separating out from the butterfat and water.  In the middle is a pure golden-yellow liquid called clarified butter.  When you have skimmed all the white foam from the surface of the clarified butter, and it has stopped bubbling, remove the saucepan from the heat.   
Step 3: Let the butter sit a few minutes to allow the milk solids to further settle to the bottom, and then strain the mixture through a fine sieve or  a cheesecloth-lined strainer.  The liquid collected is the golden-yellow clarified butter (butterfat) that can be covered and stored several months in the refrigerator.  Chilled clarified butter does become grainy.

Step 4: To make the hollandaise: Break up eggs with a teaspoon of warm water.

Step 5: Whisking over simmering water, add the butter in a slow stream to the eggs, removing the pan from the heat as necessary.
Step 6: Once all the butter has been incorporated, season the sauce with lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve, but do not hold at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

To Make the Bearnaise Sauce

Step 1: Combine vinegar, wine, shallots, black pepper, and 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon in a small saucepan.
Step 2:  Cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 tablespoon, 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 3: Add egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of water to reduced vinegar mixture.  Whisk until thick and pale, about 2 minutes.
Step 4: Set pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed reaching all over bottom and insides of pan, where eggs tend to overcook.
Step 5: To moderate heat, frequently move pan off burner for a few seconds, then back on.
Step 6: As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, then thicken. When the bottom of the pan is visible in the streaks left by the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from heat.
Step 7: Slowly add butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each. As the emulsion forms, add butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed.
Step 8: Season with salt, remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped tarragon and, if desired, pepper. Add a few droplets of lemon juice if necessary.
Repairing a broken hollandaise: Hollandaise sauces may break for the following reasons:
  • The eggs got too hot over the simmering water
  • The butter was too cold to be emulsified
  • The butter was too hot (not cooled sufficiently after being clarified)
  • The butter wasn't incorporated properly (whisked in too quickly or whisked insufficiently during incorporation)
To repair a broken hollandaise, begin with a little warm water in the bottom of your bowl.  Add the hollandaise, whisking constantly and vigorously, until reincorporated. Alternatively, use a blender in the same fashion.