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Old 09-01-2009, 10:16 PM   #1
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Cheese sauce problems (bechamel)

Hey everyone... After my third failed attempt I figured I would ask here to see what Im doing wrong. My research is not helping any.

I am attempting to make a basic cheese sauce using a bechamel. Everytime I do it comes out grainy and not tasting "right". It has a horrible feel when you eat it too... almost cottony?

I take 2 tbsp (27g) of butter, melt it in a stainless steel pot completely (not browned, but not bubbling anymore). Add equal amount of unbleached AP flour (27g) and stir continuously for about three minutes. It turns into a tanish brown, watery looking paste. I add 1 cup of milk and stir it for about 5 minutes. I do notice it turns thicker ( I can eventually see the bottom of the pan as my wooden spoon moves along the bottom ).

I remove it from the heat, add 4 oz of cheese (tried mild cheddar twice and monterey pepperjack tonight) and stir in salt.

Like I said before, has a really bad texture to it... i left my second batch out overnight and it literally could be turned upside down the next morning and didn't budge.

Any help? The only thing I can find online is that my heat is too high and cheddar by itself is hard to melt and not make grainy... But I keep lowering my heat and is not making a difference.

Any help is greatly appreciated... thanks in advance everyone!

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Old 09-01-2009, 10:42 PM   #2
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The bechamel should not be as thick as paste before you add the cheese. It should be similar to heavy cream.

While you have to bring the bechamel to a boil to determine its final thickness, it has to be cooler when you mix in the cheese.

Add the cheese off the heat as you have been and do not reheat it.

So, looser bechamel boiled and diluted with more milk if necessary, add the cheese off the heat gradually while stirring, do not heat after adding the cheese.
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Old 09-01-2009, 11:30 PM   #3
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u could improve the taste before you add the cheese.

With your butter, add some chopped onion, or/and garlic
don't let the butter go brown as that will give a more ''burned/tanish'' taste

for more taste to the sauce you also can add some bay leave
and add some pepper (corn). basically anything you like.. (chilly, turmeric, spices, tym, basil etc etc..)

once you add the milk and slowly boil this for a couple of minutes, strain the mixture

then add the cheese, way not some mozzarella??

also using real cheese and not processed cheese would work better
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Old 09-02-2009, 08:05 AM   #4
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Odd that you should have a watery paste after the addition of the flour. Do you use butter with a high water content?
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Old 09-02-2009, 08:37 AM   #5
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Snoop Puss - I don't think so... perhaps not all the water is gone when I add the butter? im not sure... is there a way to determine the water content? I assumed all butter is 20% water.

Bert - Sounds good in the taste department and I will certainly try those. However, I think my initial problem is getting the technique down and the texture right. I would be happy with a sauce that tasted like crap but looked right and had a nice smooth texture to it (at least for this step).

Andy - the bechamel looks like a cream before I add the cheese... the pastey look I was referring to was for the roux. However, I am not bringing the roux and milk mixture to a boil prior to adding cheese, just keeping it over low heat for a few minutes. Could this be my problem? How long should the bechamel stay off the heat before I add the cheese?

Thanks for all the input everyone
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Old 09-02-2009, 08:52 AM   #6
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It takes a bit of cooking the bechamel to get the flour feel out. You know, that feeling on the tongue. Taste the bechamel, when it no longer tastes or feels like flour, then add the cheese at a low heat (or off), just to melt.
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Old 09-02-2009, 09:40 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elitecodex View Post
... Could this be my problem? How long should the bechamel stay off the heat before I add the cheese?

Thanks for all the input everyone

It could be. That's easy enough to test for. Just bring the sauce to a boil after adding the milk. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, then remove from the heat. You don't have to wait for it to cool down before adding the cheese. Just whisk the cheese in a little at a time and you should be OK.
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Old 09-02-2009, 09:47 AM   #8
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Thanks alot everyone... I will try cooking the bechamel as Andy suggests for a little bit on my next attempt.
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Old 09-02-2009, 11:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
It takes a bit of cooking the bechamel to get the flour feel out. You know, that feeling on the tongue. Taste the bechamel, when it no longer tastes or feels like flour, then add the cheese at a low heat (or off), just to melt.
Exactly what I was thinking. Not cooking off the flour. Good call.
Then the Mornay sauce should be just right.
Also was thinking clarified butter would be good. Equal parts butter/flour.
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Old 09-02-2009, 01:27 PM   #10
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I think clarifying the butter is an unnecessary step. If the heat is low enough when the butter is melted, that "tanish" color should not be a problem. You do need to make sure your flour is mixed in very well. I often whirl the flour in the food processor to "Wondra-ize" it, so it mixes in more easily, but this is not necessary either. And yes, you always have to cook your bechamel thoroughly before you add the cheese, or you will have a watery mess, as you found out.

Both my mother and Aunt Eleanor made ethereal bechamel (they called it "white sauce" ) and never clarified their butter nor "Wondra-ized" their flour, either!

Oh yes, and the other thing you have to do is Keep Stirring! Don't walk away from your pan while you're making this. (If you have a five-year-old who can stand on a stool and stir, then you can be free to do other things/)
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