Mayonnaise is the mother of all sauces… well almost!
Mayonnaise is the mother of cold emulsions!
Now we are not talking about that white gunk you get in a jar, ooooh no! (That is about as close to real mayonnaise, as tofu is to foie gras!) If you look at the ingredients on one of these jars you bound to find a list of at least 10 ingredients! Real mayonnaise is made from just 4; egg yolks, mustard, oil and vinegar or lemon juice.
Mayonnaise is at it’s heart a cold emulsion sauce. An emulsion sauce is made up from two liquids that do not normally mix. Usually some kind of oil and liquid, that is brought together with vigorous beating. The vigorous beating is important, as the oil must be broken up into tiny droplets and suspended in the liquid. The liquid in this case being the egg yolks, as they are made up of about half water!
This presents us with an interesting challenge; unlike other sauces, an emulsion sauce is very unstable. If you whisk oil and water together in a bowl, the mixture may hold tiny droplets of oil in the liquid for a short while, but will soon revert back to it’s original state; two liquids that do not mix! This means we not only have to successfully create an emulsion, but we also have to stopthe emulsion from coming undone by the basic nature of the two liquid’s incompatibility. We can achieve this by using and emulsifier or stabiliser, (for Mayonnaise we use mustard) which makes it much easier to create a smooth, silky emulsion.
Now we can’t rush to get a perfectly stable emulsion. A beautiful, silky mayonnaise takes time, so we need to be patient! We are going to be whisking the oil into our egg yolks, bit by bit whisking thoroughly between each addition, in order to form a good emulsion. Too much oil, too soon, and the whole mix will split/curdle and we will have to start all over. (Actually I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for correcting a split mayonnaise right down below)
We promise, making mayonnaise is not as scary as it sounds! It does take a little patience and a little practice, but once you’ve mastered it, and tasted it, you’ll never want to buy mayonnaise in a jar ever again.
— Al Brady
4 egg Yolks
1tsp dijon mustard
500ml oil, see below about oil choices
3tbsp white wine vinegar
4tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
Place the egg yolks and mustard into a bowl and beat with a whisk until well mixed. Start to add the oil a little at a time beating well between each addition. Repeat this process of adding oil and whisking thoroughly, until the mixture starts to get thicker in texture, lighter in colour and a good emulsion is beginning to form.
You want to break up the oil into the smallest droplets you can in order to create a smooth stable emulsion. If the oil is added too quickly, this may cause the mayonnaise to curdle.
As the mixture starts to thicken and a good emulsion is forming, the oil can be added a little bit quicker. The more oil you add to the egg yolks, the thicker the sauce will become. If it becomes too thick and difficult to whisk, you may need to add a little bit of white wine vinegar to thin it out or it may eventually become too thick to absorb any more oil.
Once all the oil has been added, taste and adjust the acidity with the remaining vinegar and lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. The mayonnaise should have a mild, balanced flavour that isn’t too oily or acidic. If the mayonnaise is still too thick at this stage the consistency can be adjusted by carefully adding a little bit of warm water to let it down. (There is more information on this below)
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It may seem odd that for a sauce that we do not want to be too acidic that we would add two different types of acid. White wine vinegar and lemon juice work amazingly well together. Almost cancelling out each others harsh acidic notes, marrying together to produce a fresh, zesty finish to the mayonnaise. Cutting through that oil to lift this sauce to a light, fresh finish on the palate.
SP-OIL-ED FOR CHOICE
When it comes to using oil for mayonnaise, there is a lot of heated debate around this topic! To make it nice and simple let’s just say this! Use whatever oil you like! All I would recommend is that you don’t make mayonnaise with any strong flavoured oil. So perhaps skip the toasted sesame oil for this one. Even olive oil can leave you with a particularly strong flavoured mayonnaise, but if that is your thing then go right ahead. I prefer groundnut or sunflower oil when making mine, but you could go all out and use a combination of a whole range of different oils! You might just create something amazing!
Once you have made your mayonnaise, if you find that it is too thick, you can always thin it out. Taste the sauce first to determine if it has enough acidity, because you can always added a little more vinegar or lemon juice which will in turn, thin out the mayonnaise. If the acidity is balanced but the sauce is still too thick, add a tablespoon of warm water to the mayonnaise and whisk in thoroughly. Continue to add the water, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well between each addition, until the mayonnaise is at a consistency you are happy with. Don’t forget that you may need to give it one last taste to make sure the seasoning doesn’t need adjusting after adding that water.
SLOW AND STEADY
I can’t stress enough that when making mayonnaise by hand, you have to be patient! Don’t pour in half the oil in one go and expect to whisk it to a beautiful creamy silky mayonnaise. You are more likely to end up with some kind of oily, split mess that resembles a sort of runny scrambled egg. To avoid this’ add the oil a trickle at a time and whisk well between each addition. This will ensure a gradual and even distribution of the oil within the egg yolks, resulting in a glossy, smooth, perfect mayonnaise.
If the worst should happen then fear not, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to bring that troublesome mayonnaise back together! Place a fresh egg yolk into a clean bowl and drip the curdled mayonnaise onto it, whisking continuously until the mixture comes back together. Alternatively place a tablespoon of warm water in a bowl and follow the same process until the mayonnaise is it’s smooth, silky self! Don’t forget to taste and adjust the seasoning, as adding an extra yolk or extra water may affect the final result of your mayonnaise