I am a mayonnaise lover and stopped buying the supermarket kind about ten years ago. Since oil is the main ingredient in the mayonnaise (upto 70 percent), I can’t suffer the idea of just any ol’ oil being employed, and don’t even get me started on the quality of the eggs. This may make me a food snob in your eyes but I can tell you that I am not an eager-beaver, work-till-I-drop snob. I like any short cuts and tips that help the cooking process along.
Method number 1 is to make the mayonnaise by hand. The eggs have to be at room temperature. More about this later.
Method number 2 – The easiest way to make mayonnaise was taught to me by my friend Rossella about five years ago. She herself got it off a television programme. It is all about placing 3 egg yolks (no egg whites) and 300ml of oil (she uses sunflower seed oil) in a jug. A hand-held immersion blender is inserted, down to the very bottom of the jug or long plastic or glass beaker. The electricity is switched on, the blender has to move continuously in an upward direction and then down again, the way one would when one wants to unplug an obstructed drain in a basin with a suction movement, and … in less than 1 minute (!) … a beautiful mayonnaise appears right before one’s very eyes. Magic. At that point, I usually add salt and a little squeeze of lemon juice and baby drops of water depending on the amount of mayonnaise. I was taught that the water helps to stabilise the mayonnaise. I don’t add mustard. And I only use extra virgin olive oil (evoo) for the most part. Sometimes I use half and half (half sunflower oil, half evoo).
Again, as with method 1 above, this way of making mayonnaise stressed the importance of utilising eggs that were at room temperature. If your eggs weren’t, then that could be remedied by putting them in a bowl full of hot water for a little while, to bring their temperature up without cooking them.
This way of making mayonnaise always worked for me until … one day it didn’t. I found a way of solving the problem and saving the mayo but still it perplexed me. It happened again a second time. And then it happened yet again and this time I had to get to the bottom of this. Why would it work sometimes but not every time? I didn’t seem to have done anything wrong … And yes … I had made sure that the eggs were at room temperature. Most puzzling.
And it was then that I discovered that fresh eggs were the problem! Eggs that were a few days old worked, but not fresh eggs. A pasticcere (pastry maker) I know told me this was common knolwedge to cake and pastry bakers. So … good … now we all know.
Method Number Three
This is the whole point of this post. This morning I watched a video of Melissa Clark making mayonnaise by hand http://video.nytimes.com/video/2012/05/21/dining/100000001554994/making-mayo-by-hand.html) and then read an article she wrote on the subject last week (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/dining/easy-homemade-mayonnaise.html?_r=1&ref=melissaclark) and all I can say is that she had me dumbfounded and stimulated at the same time. I am sure the mayonnaise she made was delicious (if a little too runny for my liking) so that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about how labour intensive her method seemed to me the viewer, despite talk of ‘tricks’ such as adding a little bit of water to stabilise the emulsion which I knew about anyway. She didn’t convince me one bit and all I could think was that she would put people off even trying, despite her nice manner and encouraging words.
My blog is called Home Food for a reason. I am not a restaurant and have to cook every day (usually) and find ways of preparing food that will allow me and my family, and friends when they are with us, to enjoy a tasty meal without my going crazy preparing it. I wouldn’t dream of making home-made mayonnaise unless it were fairly simple to prepare.
And though I am not a scientist by inclination, and though I am not particularly interested in the science of cookery as such, my stubborn quest for finding easy or simple ways of obtaining satisfactory results in the kitchen leads me to read articles, sometimes, that I would not normally want to bend over backwards to read.
One such article was by a Sicilian cook called Alessia Vicari on a blog called Puntarella Rossa (which I thoroughly recommend if you speak Italian) who has also appeared on the Gambero Rosso Television channel. Alessia Vicari was writing about the pasta dish with a Carbonara sauce (http://www.puntarellarossa.it/2011/12/07/la-carbonara-con-uovo-congelato/) and mentioned how it was now the rage to add some ice-cold sparkling water to the egg yolks to make the sauce creamier etc. and is the outcome of thermal shock.
She then paid homage to one Dario Bressanini and the scientific ways of his blog … and a photo she espied of a frozen egg yolk being able to hold up a teaspoon. This was her Eureka moment. She decided to freeze the egg yolks before bringing them back to room temperature for her Carbonara sauce — and the result, she enthusiastically acclaimed, was impeccable. And this all because the egg yolk’s volume increases I don’t know how many times simply by the act of being frozen. Brilliant!
I actually experimented her unusual recommendation last January in London when cooking 1 kg of carbonara pasta for my son and some of his friends in a tiny student kitchen that was ill equipped even to make toast. I was so happy. Not only did it work, the carbonara sauce did not overcook and become like scrambled eggs, and the taste was great. Now, THAT’s the kind of ‘science’ I like!
And today I had MY Eureka moment. “Hang on a minute”, I said to myself when Ms Melissa Clark exhorted her viewers to make sure the eggs and other ingredients were at room temperature, “What if, instead, I froze the egg yolks the way I did for the carbonara … what then?”
I rushed to the fridge, took out one egg, broke it and placed the egg yolk in a bowl and put it in the freezer for 5 full minutes. Meanwhile I poured 100ml evoo into a measuring jug. I was so excited! What fun! My daughter who happened to be around looked at me fondly, the way an indulgent mother would towards her toddler discovering the delight of some new discovery. Sometimes our roles are reversed.
What can I say!!! It worked!!! Yes! Easy peasy … please go and try for yourself straight away (that’s if you like mayonnaise obviously).
Thank you Mr Dario Bressanini! Thank you Ms Alessia Vicari! Thank you Freezer! But most of all, thank you Ms Vanessa Clark: without your article and your love of mayonnaise, I would not have made the Newtonian connection between frozen egg yolk and easy-to-make mayonnaise!
The photos are not very good …. I was too busy concentrating on the experiment. I do hope they convince you, however.
Here is the solitary egg yolk, just pulled out of the freezer after spending five minutes in it.
I whisked for a few seconds and it started thickening beautifully! so much so that I added one teaspoon of olive oil. I whisked again to incorporate this small amount of oil. Once that oil got asborbed, I added another teaspoon of evoo and repeated the procedure.
Time to get the other ingredients. Some salt, a squeeze of lemon and a little water.
I don’t know how long this took, but it was definitely less than five minutes (not including the five minutes of the yolk in the freezer).