Béarnaise sauce

The béarnaise sauce is similar to the hollandaise sauce but is enhanced with shallots, tarragon, and vinegar. These two are the most celebrated of emulsified sauces and consist of a stable mixture of two liquids – vinegar or lemon and butter – that normally separate from each other. To keep them together they need an emulsifying agent that occurs naturally in many animal substances such as egg yolks (lecithin), milk (casein) and blood. In fact, a small quantity of casein in regular butter does, to a slight degree, help emulsify your hollandaise sauce. These agents work in three different ways: they coat the oil droplets, reduce water’s surface tension and give the oil droplets identical electrical charges.

So, the stability of an emulsion is threatened if:

  • temperatures are too extreme (separates when frozen, curdles when heat reached 190°F)
  • there is excess agitation – overbeating destabilizes the emulsion.
  • a nasty thunderstorm strikes!

2 Tbsp of finely chopped shallots
1 Tbsp of red vinegar
1 Tbsp of water
1 Tbsp of fresh tarragon
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1/4 tsp of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter at room temperature and cut up in small pieces

  • In a thick-bottomed saucepan mix the vinegar and the shallots.
  • Cook on low heat until vinegar is evaporated.
  • Add the water, the yolks, the tarragon, the salt and the cayenne.
  • Beat with a whisk until just blended.
  • Improvise a double boiler with 1/2 inch of water brought to a simmer in a large pan.
  • Set the saucepan with the egg mixture in it.
  • Cook for 1 or 2 minutes until yolks thicken.
  • Beating constantly, gradually add increasing quantities of butter.

Pâte brisée

This dough can be made with 1-1/2 cups of regular flour rather than the cake flour, but it might require a few more drops of water to hold together. Don’t be discouraged when the dough does not seem to stick together at first and be tempted to add water too quickly.  However, it should stay together when gathering it by hand to form a ball. Also remember that the gluten will do its job of bonding while you let the dough rest for a few hours in the refrigerator.

It is important to not overwork the dough: tiny pieces of butter should still be visible for the crust to be light and flaky.

Finally, the golden rule it to keep the dough refrigerated between all steps. A warm dough becomes elastic and does not respond well to rolling. Furthermore it will shrink while cooking if it is not very firm and cold before going in the oven.

This dough can be used for dessert as well as appetizer. Only the amount of salt and sugar will change.

1 cup of bleached flour
1/2 cup of cake flour
1 stick & 3 Tbsps of soft butter cut into pieces (use frozen butter for food processor)
1/2 tsp. of salt, pinch of sugar in 1/3 cup of iced water
(for sweet dough: 1 tsp of sugar, pinch of salt) 

  • Place flour and butter in a large mixing bowl.
  • Rub flour and butter together until it resembles coarse meal.
  • Pour water in and blend lightly.  (All the steps above can be done at once in a food processor, just pulse the flour and butter 8 to 10 times then add the cold water and pulse a few more time. Put on a board or counter)
  • Then do a final blending with the scraper if needed.
  • Press into a small ball, sprinkle with flour and let rest for at least two hours.
  • Divide the dough in half if you want to do two 10½ inch pies, reserve the other half in the refrigerator for later use. For a much larger pie roll the whole dough and save the left over for individual pies.
  • Roll the dough.  Gently press it in the pie pan to avoid air bubbles. While it cools back in the refrigerator, preheat oven to 450°F.
  • After 10 minutes or more, take the pie out of the refrigerator and cover with foil pressing tightly in the corner between bottom and side. Spread some weight on on top of the foil.(I use some small stones)
  • Precook for 8 to 10 minutes at 450°F. After 8 minutes you may lift the foil and weight and let the pie bottom cook 1 or 2 more minutes. If it bubbles up push back down gently.
  • Let cool and freeze or use right away.