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White sauce

2 oz (60 g) butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup milk
possible flavorings include: salt, black pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, mustard, onions, cheese

Add any aromatic spices (nutmeg, cayenne, pepper, etc.) with the flour. The bubbling butter will release their flavor.

Make a light roux (roux blonde): melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan; add the flour. Stir and cook gently for 30 seconds. The roux should be quite moist; it should bubble, but not color.

The other method is to remove the roux from the hob, and add the milk gradually, stirring all the while to prevent lumps. For a richer dish mix your béchamel into a beaten egg or a few egg yolks.

Take the pan from the hob, stir briefly until it stops bubbling. Add the cold milk, all in one go. Stir well; return to gentle heat until the sauce thickens, then cook for 30 seconds longer.

For a cheese sauce, add grated cheese (gruyere for preference, but cheddar or monterrey jack will do).

For a onion sauce, sweat the finely diced onions in the butter—long and slow, without browning—then add the flour and proceed as above. Flavour with nutmeg, bay-leaf, clove, allspice or pepper, to taste.

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