Sauce Béchamel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • yield:

    1 quart

Appears in

Sauces

By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

The amount of roux per given amount of milk depends on the use of the sauce. Thick versions, used as the base thickener in traditional soufflé recipes, often call for as much as 8 ounces (250 grams) of roux per quart (liter) of milk, whereas béchamel-based soups use approximately 2 ounces (60 grams) per quart (liter) of milk. This recipe produces a medium-thick sauce, appropriate for vegetable gratins.

Ingredients

milk 1 qt 1 L
butter 3 oz 90 g
flour cup 80 ml
seasonings (salt, pepper, nutmeg; optional) to taste to taste

Method

  1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Whisk it from time to time to prevent a skin from forming on its surface (see Note).
  2. In a second 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour. Stir the butter and flour over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the flour has a pleasant, toasty smell. (A)

    Remove from the heat for about 30 seconds to cool slightly.

  3. Whisk the simmering milk into the roux. Return the sauce to the stove and bring it back to a simmer while whisking. (B)

  4. Once the sauce has returned to a slow simmer, turn down the heat and move the saucepan so that only one side is over the flame. (This will cause a skin to form on only one side of the sauce’s surface, making it easy to skim.) Cook the sauce gently for 30 minutes to 1 hour, skimming off the skin. It is a good idea also to occasionally rub around the bottom and corners of the saucepan with a wooden spoon to prevent the sauce from scalding.
  5. When the starchy taste has cooked out of the sauce, it can be seasoned and strained, depending on its final use. Béchamel should be stirred while it is cooling to prevent a skin from forming on its surface. Putting the pan over a tray of ice will, of course, speed cooling.

Variations

Use a pretreated flour such as Wondra. Simply mix the Wondra (the same amount as flour called for in the traditional recipe) in cold water until smooth (make a slurry). Bring the milk to a simmer. Whisk in the slurry. Simmer until the sauce thickens. It should be smooth, but just in case, work it through a chinois.

While béchamel is a fairly stable sauce, there are times (especially if the flour is old) when it will break. To avoid this, blend hydrocolloids into the finished sauce. Lambda carrageenan lends an authentic dairy-like mouthfeel to the sauce and is easy to use. Start by adding 1% lambda carrageenan to the sauce and build up as needed to get the thickness you want.