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Old 09-18-2008, 10:12 AM   #1
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Béchamel or white sauce question

Hi,

I have a question concerning Béchamel or basic white sauce.

First, I am not a trained chef but I do work as a cook in a kitchen here in Berlin, Germany. I find that I use very often basic white sauce and have been having trouble lately with the thickness i.e. it often is not thick enough.

My basic recipe is as follows: I heat 4 l milk and water mixed (my boss insists that I mix milk & water for cost purposes). While the liquid is heating I melt 250g butter and stir in enough white flour to form a thick paste, the consistency of a dough i.e. you could make a ball of this and it would not flow or fall apart. I keep this on the stove stirring constantly to cook the flour, usually for about 5 mins. Then I ad slowly, whisking constantly, the hot milk/water mixture. I then leave it on the stove at a low heat for at least 45 mins. stirring often and trying not to scrape the pan bottom as it always burns a bit on the bottom-I am working on a large industrial stove and the gas burners are large and hot.

Now sometimes this thickens up nicely and sometimes not. I am trying to achieve a fairly thick sauce, about the consistency of a syrup.

So any tips on how to get a consistently thick sauce would be very much appreciated.

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Old 09-18-2008, 10:39 AM   #2
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I use equal parts butter and flour in a sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth like a thick gravy. Add milk and whisk until the desired thickness. If it's too thick, just add more milk. High heat will burn the sauce.

Since you're cutting the milk with water you may need more roux. And you'll have to cook that more to get the flour taste out.
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Old 09-18-2008, 10:43 AM   #3
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Hi Berlinerca,

I strongly suggest you always measure your white flour. You need 250g of it if you're using 250g of melted butter. The amount of hot liquid you add afterwards depends on the final consistency you would like. Try experimenting with using your 4 li first and increase/decrease it by measured amounts next time. Once you've achieved the desired consistency, you've arrived at your correct recipe. You just need to measure all ingredients according to this recipe everytime, if you want consistent results each time.

Good luck!
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Old 09-18-2008, 11:43 AM   #4
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Another issue may be the burnt goo on the bottom. If you're not stirring up the bottom, your thickener may be collecting on the bottom instead of doing its job. 45 min on high heat is a long, long time for a basic white sauce.
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Old 09-18-2008, 12:21 PM   #5
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After adding the milk/water, you need to bring the mixture to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. How to make Bechamel Sauce

HTH.
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Old 09-18-2008, 12:23 PM   #6
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Like others have said, it's a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour.

Over medium heat, melt the butter, add the flour and mix well, then cook the flour/butter mixture for only about 3-4 minutes. For bechemel sauce you don't want the flour to overcook.

Then slowly add your liquid, whisking constantly. The amount of liquid you use determines how thick the sauce will be. Don't add hot liquid to hot roux.

Turn up the heat and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer. You must simmer the sauce for the flour to act as a thickener.

You need only simmer the sauce for a few minutes. 45 minutes is completely unnecessary.

The sauce will thicken as much as it's going to with a few minutes of simmering. If the sauce doesn't thicken as much as you would like, it means you have added too much liquid for the amount of buttter/flour used. Adjust your recipe to use less liquid or more butter and flour.
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Old 09-18-2008, 12:25 PM   #7
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Jenny - let's say she thins the sauce a bit too much...what's the best way to thicken that back up? We kept some roux made and would add that to whatever we wanted to thicken. Is that what you would suggest?
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Old 09-18-2008, 12:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitchenelf View Post
Jenny - let's say she thins the sauce a bit too much...what's the best way to thicken that back up? We kept some roux made and would add that to whatever we wanted to thicken. Is that what you would suggest?


That would work. Also, you could add a flour and water slurry to thicken as you would a gravy.
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Old 09-18-2008, 01:19 PM   #9
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Jenny - let's say she thins the sauce a bit too much...what's the best way to thicken that back up? We kept some roux made and would add that to whatever we wanted to thicken. Is that what you would suggest?
I would thin it from being too thick just by adding more milk. It would only take 2-3 times making it before you get the hang of it. I never made one too thin. Although I have made them somewhat thin if I was going to add cheese to it.

Also, adding raw flour to the liquid will make the sauce taste like flour. You need to cook it, like Jennyema said, for a couple minutes as a roux.
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Old 09-18-2008, 01:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kitchenelf View Post
Jenny - let's say she thins the sauce a bit too much...what's the best way to thicken that back up? We kept some roux made and would add that to whatever we wanted to thicken. Is that what you would suggest?
Yes you could add more roux or you could try to reduce it, which would ential more cooking (this would be the only reason to cook it longer).

Better to add less liquid at the outset and thin it, though.

Experiment with small quantities of liquid, butter and roux and then when the consistency is what you want, xtimes the amounts.
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