Hollandaise is one of the five "mother sauces" in classic French cooking. It’s extremely easy to make, though it has a reputation of being difficult because the emulsion can quickly break if the mixture is heated at too high a temperature.
To avoid breaking the emulsion and ensure a perfect hollandaise every time, always whisk the eggs over barely simmering water, remove the eggs from the heat while whisking in the butter and when the sauce is finished, keep it warm in a thermos or travel mug instead of over simmering water (as some recipes recommend).
Place 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a glass bowl, or as we’ve done here, in a glass measuring cup. Microwave 30 seconds at a time until the butter has melted. Let stand 10 minutes to allow the milk solids to sink to the bottom – the liquid on top of the milk solids is clarified butter. Do not stir.
Over a small bowl, separate two whole eggs, allowing the egg whites to fall away from the yolk. Place the yolks in a medium stainless steel or glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate the egg whites for other recipes.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of water to the egg yolks; whisk the mixture until pale and foamy. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Continue to whisk until egg yolks become thick and coat the back of a spoon, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stream in clarified butter while whisking, being careful not to pour the milk solids into the mixture. Continue to whisk until all of the clarified butter is incorporated and mixture is thick. Discard milk solids.
Add kosher salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve warm over eggs, vegetables or meat.
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