White Sauce Recipe with Precautions, Full Guide

Basic white sauce — generally simply referred to by its French name béchamel — consists of hot milk thickened with equal quantities of butter and flour to form a first stage roux and is flavored with onion, bayleaf and clove. This sauce forms the basis for a number of other sauces; it is also used when making cream soups and other dishes made from eggs, farinaceous products and vegetables.

Provided the roux is of the correct texture this sauce can be rectified at any stage in its production. Generally, attention needs to be paid to the consistency of the sauce whilst cooking – it should be that of double cream. If the sauce is too thick there is a tendency for it to burn, and in addition a considerable loss of volume is found during straining, especially if small amounts are involved.

Makes: 5 litres.
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
450 g butter
450 g flour
5 liters milk
1 small onion
1/2 bay leaf
1 clove

Method:
(1) Make a first stage roux with the butter and flour as in 3.3. Allow to cool,
(2) Infuse the milk and studded onion by bringing the milk to boil with the studded onion. Allow to stand over the heat without boiling for 5-8 minutes.
(3) Remove the studded onion and discard.
(4) Gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring with a wooden spatule until the milk has been completely absorbed and beating out any lumps that may appear.
(5) Gently simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring with the wooden spatule.
(6) At this point adjust the thickness of the sauce if necessary. If the sauce is obviously too thick to pass through a conical strainer thin it with a little hot milk. If the sauce is too thin, whisk into the boiling sauce a mixture of equal quantities of flour and butter made into Beurre Manié, adding a little at a time until the required consistency is achieved.
(7) When the sauce is properly cooked, strain through a conical strainer into a clean receptacle. Place a small quantity of melted butter and, if desired, greaseproof paper on top to prevent a skin from forming.
(8) Retain until required in a bain-marie of hot water.

Notes
(1) Béchamel is a foundation sauce and should not be seasoned.
(2) In order to produce a wide range of derivative sauces cream is in most instances added.

Assessment of the completed sauce
(1) The sauce should be white in colour.
(2) The sauce should be rather thick in consistency as it is a foundation sauce, like double cream.
(3) The flavour of the sauce should be a slight blend of bayleaf, onion and clove.
(4) The texture should be smooth and even.

Possible Problems, their causes and solution:
1. Sauce lacks flavor:
— sauce under-cooked; continue to cook for the prescribed time.

2. Sauce is too dark:
— roux overcolored; care must be taken to avoid overcoloring when preparing the roux as this cannot later be rectified.
— milk allowed to boil for too long before adding to the roux; care must be taken in the initial stages as this cannot later be rectified.
— sauce allowed to boil for too long; care must be taken to follow the correct procedure during cooking as this cannot later be rectified.
— aluminium utensils have been used (i.e. spoon, whisk, saucepan); aluminium utensils must be avoided as this cannot later be rectified.
— completed sauce retained in a bain-marie for too long; ensure that the sauce is made close to the time it is required as this cannot later be rectified.

3. Sauce is pink in color or curdled:
— sauce overcooked, especially in an aluminium pan; avoid using aluminium utensils as this cannot later be rectified.
— completed sauce retained in a bain-marie for too long; ensure that the sauce is made close to the time it is required as this cannot later be rectified.

4. Sauce is starchy or gluey in texture and floury in flavor:
— sauce undercooked, continue to cook for the prescribed time.
— sauce too thick, dilute with more milk and continue to cook.

5. Sauce is lumpy:
— roux too hard (i.e. too much flour in proportion to the butter); pass the sauce through a conical strainer.
— roux has dried out; pass the sauce through a conical strainer.
— milk not incorporated into the roux correctly; pass the sauce through a conical strainer.
— roux around the edges of the pan not incorporated into the milk; pass the sauce through a conical strainer.
— milk added to the roux too fast; pass the sauce through a conical strainer.

6. Excess fat on the surface of the sauce either during cooking on when holding a bain-marie:
— roux too soft (i.e. too much fat in proportion to the flour); excess fat may be sauce either
skimmed off before use.

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