Hollandaise sauce is a classic French sauce that is often served with dishes like eggs Benedict, asparagus, artichokes, fish and more. It has a rich, creamy, buttery flavor with a smooth and silky texture. The key ingredients in hollandaise sauce are egg yolks, butter, lemon juice and seasoning.
Proper preparation of hollandaise sauce requires the sauce to be gently heated as the butter is emulsified into the egg yolks to thicken the sauce. This gives hollandaise its signature creamy luxurious texture. So traditionally, hollandaise sauce is always served warm. However, there has been some debate around whether it must be served warm or if it can be served at room temperature or chilled.
Should Hollandaise Sauce be Served Warm?
Here are the main pros and cons of serving hollandaise sauce warm versus at room temperature or chilled:
Pros of Serving Hollandaise Sauce Warm
– Brings out the full rich, velvety texture – Hollandaise is an emulsion, and the butter and egg yolks emulsify best when warm, giving the sauce its characteristic smooth, creamy texture. Serving it cold dulls this texture.
– Warm temperature enhances flavor – The lemon, butter, and egg flavors taste more vivid and bright when the sauce is served warm. The chill of cold hollandaise dulls the flavor.
– Prevents sauce from breaking – Warm temperature helps stabilize the emulsion and prevents the sauce from “breaking” and curdling or separating. Cold hollandaise is more prone to breaking.
– Matches temperature of food it accompanies – Most dishes served with hollandaise, like eggs Benedict and asparagus, are served warm. Serving warm hollandaise matches the temperature of the foods.
Pros of Serving Hollandaise Sauce Cool or at Room Temperature
– Allows making ahead – Hollandaise can be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated for serving later at room temp or chilled. Warm hollandaise must be prepared last minute.
– Easier to transport – Hollandaise can be transported to parties or catering events without a heat source if served cool or at room temp. No need to keep it warm.
– Less rich flavor can be desirable – For some, warm hollandaise can be too heavy or rich tasting. The flavor may be more approachable at cooler temperatures.
– Can be used in cold dishes – Hollandaise can be used to make creamy salad dressings, cold seafood dipping sauces, etc. when served chilled.
Best Practices for Serving Temperature
Given the pros and cons, what is the best practice for serving hollandaise sauce? Here are some recommendations:
– For classic plated dishes like eggs Benedict, always serve hollandaise warm, right at finished cooking temperature. This provides the best texture and flavor.
– For buffet service, keep hollandaise in a bain marie or heated server to maintain a warm serving temperature if possible.
– If making ahead, reheat sauce very gently over low heat or double boiler right before serving. Take care not to overheat or sauce may break.
– For transport to events, pack in insulated container and serve at room temperature within 2 hours.
– For cold applications, cool finished hollandaise completely in refrigerator before using. The flavor will be more mild.
– When reheating hollandaise, use lowest heat possible and whisk or blend vigorously to maintain emulsification.
Methods for Keeping Hollandaise Warm
When serving hollandaise sauce warm, it’s important to keep it at proper serving temperature. Here are some effective methods:
A bain marie, or hot water bath, is ideal for keeping hollandaise warm for service. Place the container of hollandaise in a saucepan or chafer dish partially filled with simmering water. This gentle heat will keep the hollandaise warm without risking overheating. Use a thermometer and keep water below 160°F.
A double boiler has steam heat from simmering water in the bottom pot gently warming the top pot holding the hollandaise. It maintains the perfect temperature for warm hollandaise. Monitor water level and keep below a simmer.
Transport hollandaise for off-site service in insulated food containers. This will keep the sauce warm for 1-2 hours without direct heat. Pre-heat the container with hot water first for best results.
Heated Serving Dishes
Electric heated chafing dishes or fondue pots can keep hollandaise warm at the table or buffet line. Adjust to lowest heat setting and monitor temperature.
Low Oven Heat
Warming drawers or low temperature ovens (under 175°F) can be used for keeping hollandaise warm if other options aren’t available. Monitor temperature closely to prevent overheating.
Tips for Serving Perfect Hollandaise
Follow these tips for hollandaise sauce at its best when you serve it warm:
– Prepare the sauce just before serving. Don’t hold warm for longer than 1-2 hours.
– Discard if sauce has broken or looks oily or curdled. Don’t try to re-emulsify.
– When reheating, use very low heat and constant whisking in a double boiler or bain marie set-up.
– Never microwave hollandaise; this will break the emulsion.
– Ladle sauce into pre-warmed bowl or gravy boat for serving.
– Clean rim of serving vessel regularly if sauce drips down sides.
– Check temperature periodically with thermometer and adjust heat source as needed.
– If serving from a communal bowl, replace with fresh warm hollandaise every 1-2 hours.
Pairing Foods with Warm Hollandaise
Hollandaise sauce is delicious on so many warm, fresh dishes. Here are some of the best pairings:
This classic brunch dish tops a toasted English muffin, Canadian bacon and poached eggs with warm hollandaise. The egg yolks in the sauce beautifully complement the poached eggs.
Fresh tender asparagus spears dipped in warm hollandaise make an elegant starter or side. The grassy flavor of the asparagus is heightened by the rich sauce.
Steamed artichoke leaves pulled off the heart and dipped into hollandaise is a tasty appetizer. The nutty artichoke flavor works well with the buttery sauce.
Warm hollandaise pairs amazingly with delicate seafood like crab cakes, sautéed shrimp or lobster tails. Lemon in the sauce brightens the flavors.
From roasted green beans to grilled zucchini, hollandaise can elevate simple vegetable sides. Drizzle over hot veggies for instant elegance.
Troubleshooting Broken Hollandaise
Even when kept warm, hollandaise can sometimes break or curdle. Here’s how to troubleshoot:
Overheating, excessive stirring or acidity causes the emulsion to split and the liquid to separate from the fat.
– Immediately remove from heat and whisk vigorously to re-emulsify.
– Try blending in fresh egg yolk or mustard to help stabilize.
– If sauce looks oily or curdled, it cannot be salvaged. Must remake.
– Keep hollandaise below 160°F when warming.
– Warm gently, don’t vigorously boil.
– If reheating, use double boiler or bain marie with gentle heat.
– Add lemon juice gradually to the reduction to avoid curdling.
Recipe for Classic Hollandaise Sauce
This basic recipe makes restaurant-quality hollandaise sauce:
– 3 large egg yolks
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– Pinch cayenne pepper
– 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
– Salt to taste
1. In double boiler, whisk yolks, lemon juice, and cayenne until light and foamy.
2. Gradually whisk in melted butter until fully incorporated.
3. Remove from heat. Season with salt to taste.
4. Keep warm in double boiler or bain marie until ready to serve.
– Make sure butter is hot but not smoking when adding to yolks.
– Whisk vigorously when adding butter.
– If sauce thickens too much, thin out with a bit of warm water.
Storing and Reheating Leftover Hollandaise
Hollandaise sauce won’t keep long, but leftovers can be refrigerated for 1-2 days. Reheat gently using:
– Cover surface directly with plastic wrap before refrigerating.
– Use within 2 days for best quality and flavor.
– Place sauce in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
– Whisk continuously until warmed through.
– If emulsification looks broken, whisk in a fresh egg yolk.
– Freeze in ice cube trays, then transfer to freezer bags.
– Thaw cubes in fridge overnight before using.
Should You Make Hollandaise in a Blender?
Making hollandaise sauce in a blender can offer some advantages over the traditional double boiler method:
Pros of Blender Method
– Faster, easier, and less labor intensive
– Creates very smooth, emulsified texture
– Easy to slowly drizzle in melted butter
– Hands-free so you can focus on other tasks
Cons of Blender Method
– Risk of over-blending and breaking emulsion
– Requires precise timing of ingredients
– Smaller batches than stovetop method
– Have to wash blender after
Tips for Blender Hollandaise
– Use warmed blender jar and ingredients at room temp
– Start with lowest speed and increase gradually
– Drizzle in melted butter very slowly after egg/lemon mixture emulsifies
– Blend just until thickened, don’t overmix
In conclusion, hollandaise sauce is undoubtedly best when served warm. The optimal rich, creamy texture and bright lemon-butter flavor comes through when the sauce is freshly made and kept warmed at temperatures between 140°F to 160°F. While the sauce can be served cooled or at room temperature, it loses some of its characteristic smoothness and flavor nuance. For traditional plated dishes like eggs Benedict, warm hollandaise is a must. However, the sauce offers versatility for chilled applications as well. As long as the hollandaise is kept properly heated, the delicate emulsification can remain stable and the sauce can be kept silky smooth. With smart heating techniques, rich and delicious warm hollandaise can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.