Bechamel Sauce Recipe
It is considered that the culinary world would be an empty place without the existence of béchamel sauce, also known as the basic white sauce. It is not only a sauce that is used in pasta or mac and cheese, but it is also widely used as a base for other creamy, rich sauces. You can whip up cheddar cheese sauce or Mornay sauce using béchamel sauce alone! Even soufflés need béchamel sauce to serve as their base.
Now that you know how important this white sauce is, it is time to learn more about it!
What is Béchamel Sauce?
As we mentioned earlier, béchamel sauce is a basic white sauce of Italian origin. Many chefs also like to call it one of the “mother sauces” of French cooking.
A béchamel sauce can be created using the most basic ingredients – milk and white roux. White roux is nothing but a paste made of butter and flour. In addition to these ingredients, a few more components like pepper and nutmeg are added to enhance the taste of this rich sauce.
This then can be used for almost any dish imaginable and our favorite ones at that!
How to Make Béchamel Sauce
The ingredients need to make béchamel sauce for lasagna, pasta or scalloped potatoes are:
- Whole milk 2 ½ cups
- Clarified butter 30 grams
- Unsalted butter (alternative for clarified butter) 35 grams
- All-purpose flour 30 grams
- Onion (peeled) ¼ of an onion
- Cloves 2 to 3
- Fresh bay leaf 1
- Kosher salt to taste
- White pepper to taste
- Nutmeg (ground) a pinch
It is not mandatory to use whole milk – any milk works. But top chefs recommend using it as whole milk forms a base for a more smooth and creamy sauce. And that is what make béchamel sauce one of the best sauces! The case is similar for white pepper – you do not necessarily need to use it. You may use black pepper instead if the sight of the black flakes in the white sauce does not offend you.
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Just like the milk and pepper have alternatives, so does the fresh bay leaf. A fresh one is used to make fixing it to the onion with the cloves, easier. A dried one is more likely to crumble under such conditions. But the sauce will be strained at the end, so, it is okay to use a dried one as well.
- Warming the milk
Grab a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Fill the pan with the whole milk and place it over the stove, setting the heat to medium. Use a wooden spoon to stir the milk every now and then. Your goal should be to gently warm the milk to a temperature of about 110° F. You may take the help of a thermometer so that the milk does not heat up too much. And make sure it is not boiling over at any cost.
- Melting the butter
In a pan, similar to the previous one, place the clarified or unsalted butter. Put this saucepan on the stove with the heat set to medium and let the butter melt. Wait for it to completely change state to a liquid.
- Making the roux
To make the roux, add the flour to the pan with the melted butter, in small portions, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Mix all of it, till the butter together with the flour, is well-combined. At that time, it should resemble a paste that is close to pastel yellow.
In order to eliminate the raw flour taste, you will have to let the roux warm up for an extra minute, over the same medium heat. You want the roux to be warm and not extremely hot or cold.
- Adding the milk to the roux
Before you start adding the milk to the roux, quickly grab a wire whisk. After that, pick up the warm milk, and gradually pour it into the yellow paste bit by bit. All the while, do not forget to whisk the two liquids together, putting as much effort as you can. This is crucial because, without the whisking, the new mix would become grainy and lumpy.
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- Putting in the onion, cloves and bay leaf
Using the cloves as nails, fix the bay leaf on the onion’s side. Without delay, dump it inside the milk and roux mix. Once that is done, let all of it cook for nearly 20 minutes. Make use of a spoon or whisk and stir time and again to avoid burning the sauce on the pan’s bottom.
If you are using a thermometer, make sure the temperature stays within the range of 180°F to 205°F. Otherwise, keep the heat constant throughout the cooking process. You will know it is done when at least 20% of the liquid has reduced, forming a sauce that is creamy and smooth.
Add in more milk if the sauce looks a bit too thick and heavy. Whisk it in and that should do it. When the sauce is sufficiently thick to cover the back of a spoon, wooden or otherwise, remove the pan.
- Straining the sauce
With the sauce done and away from the heat, it will be time to strain the liquid. Before you do that though, do not forget to remove the bay leaf-wrapped onion from the sauce. Then you can start straining it using a wire mesh strainer. If you want a sauce that is smoother than silk, cover the strainer with a cheesecloth and then proceed to strain the sauce through it. Collect the sauce in a bowl.
- Seasoning the sauce
Once the velvet-smooth sauce has accumulated in a bowl, you can start adding the ingredients that still have not been used – salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Sprinkle them lightly on the sauce and fold them in with a spoon. Do not go too heavy on the white pepper or nutmeg – too much can be very intense for the sauce.
With that, the béchamel sauce is ready! It will be better to cover and seal the bowl if you do not plan to use the sauce right away. This will keep the sauce intact.
Béchamel Cheese Sauce
For those of you who love the cheesier version of the white sauce, follow this recipe. The ingredients for this sauce are:
- Butter-5 tbsp.
- All-purpose flour-¼ cup
- Whole milk-2 cups
- Salt-½ tsp.
- Pepper-¼ tsp.
- Nutmeg-¼ tsp.
- Sharp cheddar cheese-½ cup
- Parmesan cheese (grated)-1 tbsp.
- Hot sauce (optional)-a dash
- Making the roux
On a stove, over medium heat, place a medium-sized saucepan. Then melt the butter in it.
When it has melted completely, add the flour bit by bit, stirring all the while with a spoon to make a paste. Like before, give it an extra minute or two to cook to get rid of the taste of the raw flour. Remember to keep stirring while the roux cooks.
- Adding the milk
Lightly warm the milk in another saucepan to make it easier to be incorporated into the roux. Make sure it is not boiling hot, but mildly warm.
Pour it gradually into the roux, whisking simultaneously for about 20 minutes. Make sure all of it is well-combined without any lumps. Also, keep the heat constant while you whisk so there is no chance of burning the sauce.
- Preparing the cheesy sauce
When the clock announces the end of the 20 minutes, put in the remaining ingredients – salt, nutmeg, pepper, the cheeses, and the hot sauce. Whisk all of it together and take the saucepan off the heat once all of the cheese has melted and a smooth, rich sauce has formed.
Now you know how to make white sauce and not only the original version but also béchamel cheese sauce! It is a simple yet demanding on its own. However, the taste will definitely be worth it.
If you have leftover sauce or do not want to use it immediately, refrigerate it to keep it fresh. This should last for almost 2 days. Unfortunately, refrigerating comes with a cost itself – the sauce becomes very thick and a film forms on its surface. To keep that from occurring, place wax paper or plastic on the very surface of the sauce.
However, if you have not done that, all can be fixed with a little bit of re-heating and adding a bit of milk. Then the sauce can be used once again!