Set up your ingredients ahead of time
- Put a pot of water on to make a double boiler.
- 3 to 4 eggs (some say room temp is best)
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (for flavoring the sauce)
- About 9 fluid ounces (a little over a stick) melted clarified or regular butter (there is an ongoing debate about which is better...try whatever you have on hand)
- 1 1/2 fluid ounces room temp water
- Cayenne pepper (classic, but optional)
Separate the yolks
Whisk the yolks
Set up a double boiler
Continue whisking until very thick
Remove the bowl from the heat
Begin adding the melted butter (be sure its no longer very hot), starting with a very small amount and whisking constantly. This is the most important step. If the first addition of fat does not properly absorb into the yolks, your sauce will be grainy and greasy, and never emulsify.
Continue to trickle in the butter while you whisk.
Finish with the lemon juice, salt, and a teeny pinch of cayenne to taste. Or add your own touches like pureed vegetables, minced parsley, chives or tarragon, chopped cooked mushrooms, orange zest, or whipped cream.