We’re not going to lie. Making sauces is a long and tedious process; they need to be flavourful and concentrated yet not overpowering, all while balancing a very precise consistency and temperature. Otherwise, they’re probably no good and should be headed straight to the bin. However, the beauty of creating sauces also lies in the process. There are an endless number of sauces you can create and discover on your own. All you need is some imagination.
Here’s a rundown on what actually goes into making a sauce, and how to create new ones by layering it with different flavours.
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The main component of a sauce is its liquid base. This is usually some type of stock, dairy product (milk, cream or butter) or tomatoes mashed up into a liquid consistency.
The thickening agent helps to increase the viscosity of the liquid without changing the main flavour profile too much. There are various types of thickening agents such as roux (clarified butter and flour), starches and a liaison. Starches such as cornstarch and arrowroot are commonly used, while a liaison is a mixture of egg yolks and cream that thickens the sauce while giving it a rich mouthfeel.
Seasoning and flavours
The combination of the liquid and its thickening agent will give you a leading sauce. Once you have that, it’s time to layer with flavour. The addition of herbs, spices, essences and liquor produce secondary sauces, and this is where you can get creative.
Evolving classical sauces
Below are some of the famous Mother Sauces, and how you can evolve them by adding various flavour profiles and ingredients.
Turn it into cheese sauce: add cheddar cheese, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and season with cayenne pepper.
Turn it into herb white wine sauce: add white wine, cream, butter, fresh herbs, season and lemon juice.
Espangole or brown sauce
Turn it into mushroom sauce: add sliced fresh mushrooms, minced shallots, sherry, lemon juice and butter.
Turn it into Béarnaise sauce: add finely chopped tarragon, wine vinegar, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.
These sauces make up the building blocks for many secondary sauces to be birthed from. Think of them as the base of a pyramid that allows for an infinite number of sauces to be built upon them. For example, add a little dash of finely chopped tarragon to your hollandaise and voila, you have a béarnaise sauce.