How to make mayonnaise, how to fix broken mayonnaise, and how to deal with whatever you end up with.
First, if anyone ever serves you homemade mayonnaise, give them a huge hug and lots of appreciation. If they tell you it broke but they fixed it, give that poor soul a glass of whiskey. Making mayonnaise is a ridiculously delicate process and while it’s pretty straight forward, dealing with broken mayonnaise is much more frustrating than professionals make it seem.
Not to scare you away from trying this, but I spent over an hour trying to make & fix this batch of mayonnaise and it still didn’t come out right! I was so angry I wanted to throw the mayonnaise all over the kitchen.
If this happens to you, don’t take it personally. Homemade mayonnaise is like golf. No matter how professional you are, you’ll never conquer it. There are so many variables that can dictate how the process plays out, you just have to be ready to go with it. But, the payoff is worth it. Fresh mayonnaise is so flavorful and you can add herbs or garlic or spices to customize it as you want.
Ingredients: (from Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food”)
1 egg yolk
Half a teaspoon of water
Pinch of salt
1 cup of oil
*I also consulted Michael Ruhlman’s recipe (“Ruhlman’s Twenty”) that comes with immersion blender instructions, Jacques Pepin’s from “Essential Pepin” and Mark Bittman’s from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.”
Get a bowl or container that comes with the immersion blender. Separate an egg yolk from the white. Add a pinch of salt, and half a teaspoon of water. Some recipes will encourage you to add some dijon mustard. It may help with the emulsification process and it definitely adds flavor to the end result.
Now whisk together the yolk, salt, and water and start to slowly, SLOWLY add the oil. What you see me doing is too much, too fast, even though I think I’m going slowly. Literally start with a drop at a time. What you’re trying to do is to splash the oil into super tiny droplets that mix with the yolk. You will probably need to anchor the vessel to the countertop with damp rags because you only have 2 hands. You don’t have a third to hold the bowl, too.
It will develop some body, getting thicker and turning a light yellow color. We’re moving in the right direction!
For me, it all went wrong. I think I got more oil in there than the mixture could handle. It started to break. Breaking looks like separation of the oil from the other mixture. The oil sits on top of the rest.
There’s a couple options for fixing broken mayonnaise. A lot of blogs and recipe books say you can start over in a clean, dry bowl, with 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon of water and adding the broken mixture into the water a drop at a time. Basically starting over without throwing out the first mixture. The water fix didn’t work for me. The other method is to start over with another egg yolk. I had better luck using another egg yolk.
My blender started to get really hot, so I switched to hand whisking for a little bit. As my arm would burn up, I’d switch back to the blender. I also tried using multiple types of machines. Maybe this was a mistake but I was so desperate to try anything. They say you can use blenders, food processors, and immersion blenders to make mayonnaise. I was using my immersion blender with the whisk attachment.
So here’s my problem. My mixture has emulsified. But it’s thin and liquidy. Not exactly a spreadable mayonnaise. It’s more like a creamy dressing. So, I could stop here and look at what I can add to keep it a pourable dressing. Or, I can add more fat to thicken it up. I should have stopped because I already have a cup of oil invested in this. But I started drizzling in more oil just to see. It’s a solid half a cup later that I start to see the body develop again. And by now, I’ve got nearly $15 worth of oil invested. And I’m tired. So I just stopped. It’s not pourable. It’s not spreadable. But it’s tasty!
Oh, here’s a really valuable point that some recipes point out and others don’t: use something like grapeseed oil to make most of your mayonnaise. Extra virgin olive oil is too delicate for all the beating, and it leaves a bitter aftertaste. You can use extra virgin olive oil for the last quarter of the process for flavor, but it doesn’t need to be the primary oil.
So what I ended up with has enough body to use in egg salad, but it won’t stay on a knife. I added garlic & lemon juice as an attempt to stave off the bitter aftertaste. Frankly, when it’s mixed into a bunch of other stuff, it’s not noticeable. But I wouldn’t serve this as a dip with raw vegetables, like I could without the bitter aftertaste.
The best way to get comfortable with all this is to simply jump in and try it! Go super slow in the beginning. Try to have everything at room temperature before you start. And if you like the thickness you have, stop adding oil. You don’t have to use all the oil the recipe calls for.
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