Sunday, January 1, 2012

Béchamel Sauce

First things first... Happy New Year everyone!!! I hope that everyone had a fantastic New Years Eve and wish everyone a healthy and happy 2012.  For the first year in many, Jerome and I had a quiet New Years Eve alone at home.  Though we've had parties in past years, the celebration of New Years isn't overly important to either of us and I was just as happy to enjoy dinner and a movie at home and hit the sack prior to midnight!!

Now on to cooking news... I've finally learned how to make a béchamel sauce! Well, sort of.  Actually, not quite.  But I'm a step closer.  My husband, being from France, is the béchamel maker in this house.  We don't usually eat a ton of béchamel, but we've been feeding Logan loads of soufflé lately (given that it's one of the few meals he will eat).  And a soufflé begins with a béchamel sauce, so I've been needing them a lot more frequently than before lately.  So I figured that it was time to buck up and learn how to make one myself. 

However, my béchamel-making adventure turned out to be a bit of a fail, as Jérôme had to rescue my sauce.  Even though he stood over me showing me how to do it,  I somehow still managed to mess it up.  But I guess that's what cooking is all about.  And I think that next time should be a success all on my own (will let you know about that).  I didn't have enough of the roux for the quantity of milk (even though I'd followed Jerome's recipe exactly), so the milk wasn't thickening enough.  I think a lot of the success of a béchamel is getting to know what it is supposed to look like, so that you know if you need to add more butter, flour or milk...

We use a béchamel sauce in a few different recipes, which I will post over the next little bit.  But I wanted to post this recipe here so that I could refer back to it each time I post a recipe using a béchamel.

The recipe is in grams, as it is a French recipe. But you can buy a food scale for relatively little these days.  And I highly recommend you do so, so that you can make Jérôme's other delicious French recipes on this blog.  Jérôme often uses all-purpose flour for his béchamel sauces, but I've been able to convince him on occasion to use whole-wheat flour instead, and I find that it turns out pretty well too.

30g of flour 
30g of butter
2 C milk

1.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over very low heat.

2.  Progressively add the flour to the butter, mixing with a whisk until well blended.

3.  On medium heat, cook the butter/flour mixture, to make a roux.  You need to cook it a good 5 minutes or so, whisking the whole time, to be sure that the mixture doesn't burn.


Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of what the mixture needs to look like before adding the milk.  But I'll be sure to add one on here the next time we make a béchamel. It was a bit tough juggling both parents being busy making the béchamel and taking pictures, with two little ones underfoot!  So you'll have to excuse the oversight. But basically, you want the mixture to start forming into a ball (or a few small balls) prior to adding the milk.  If you are finding that your mixture isn't forming into a ball, you either need to turn the heat up a little bit and cook it awhile longer (being careful not to burn it!), or add in a bit more flour.  That was the problem with the sauce that I made...

4.  Pour the milk into the roux and whisk until smooth.  If you heat your milk in the microwave prior to adding it to the saucepan, this will speed things up a bit.

5.  Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce becomes thickened.  This can take a good 10 minutes or so.

Be sure to continually whisk the sauce
so that it doesn't burn
The thickness of your sauce will depend on the quantity of roux vs. milk.  If your sauce is too thick, whisk in a bit more milk.  If it is too runny, make another small roux and whisk that into the mixture, cooking for a few minutes longer.

This should be the consistency of your
béchamel when it is done
Over the next few days, I will post a few recipes using this delicious béchamel sauce.  Though one thing that you can do with it (that we've never actually done) is to add a bit of salt and pepper and some grated cheese into it while it is hot and stir until melted.  You can then serve this as a cheese sauce on veggies. Maybe that'd get Logan to eat some veggies???

My sister had asked me a long time ago to start indicating the difficulty level of each recipe.  I guess this is pretty subjective, particularly since I'm someone who has been cooking/baking for years and so, for the most part, everything seems relatively simple (if not just time-consuming) to make.  That being said, I'm going to start taking a stab at guessing difficulty levels, in case this may help guide people in their recipe selection.  If you try something and find it much easier/more difficult than I've indicated, please let me know so that I can adjust my ratings.

Difficulty level: moderate to difficult 

Happy New Year everyone!!!!!

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