White Sauce - Béchamel Sauce
Western World
2 cups  
15 min  
This very simple sauce is the base for many dishes and many sauces throughout the Western World. Before the French Revolution it was a veal velouté with a lot of cream in it, but the form given here was set down by Auguste Escoffier in 1903, and has been standard ever since.

Pepper (3)  
Cream (5)
Important: start a bit more than you need. Some will stick to the sides of the pan, and if you scrape it down you'll get lumps.
  1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, preferably a Windsor pan (flaring sides for easier stirring), make a white roux. Melt Butter over very moderate heat. There should be no browning.
  2. Stir in Flour (all purpose flour is fine). Stir constantly over very moderate heat until it has lost its raw taste but without any browning - about 1 minute. Determine this by smell, not taste or you'll burn your tongue.
  3. Take off heat. Slowly at first stir in cold Milk stirring constantly until you have a smooth sauce (Note-2).
  4. Back on the heat, bring it up gently to a very slow simmer and cook stirring until thickened, just a few minutes. Make sure it does not scald to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper. The amounts given work very well, but more or less may be called upon depending on use. Sometimes other seasonings are called for as well (Note-4).
  6. If you have mild lumps you can press the sauce through a sieve.
  1. Thickener:   The amount of butter and flour (equal weight) varies depending on use. For a very thin sauce, half as much as given in this recipe and for a very thick sauce twice as much. If you have to measure rather than weigh, 2 T butter, 3-1/2 T of flour. This recipe is about right for macaroni and cheese casseroles and similar uses.
  2. Milk:   Whole milk is best. Most recipes on the Internet call for simmering milk to be mixed with hot roux, often roux to milk rather than as I have given. Cold milk slowly stirred into hot roux is less risky, and is the way called for by Mapie, Countess of Toulouse-Lautrec, Dione Lucas and Alma Lach, all of whom knew a thing or two about French cooking.
  3. Pepper:   Pepper is a "non-optional" ingredient. Usually white pepper is used for more even color and to provide a more aromatic flavor, but black pepper can be used if you don't mind the black specs in the white sauce.
  4. Seasonings:   The most common additional seasoning is a pinch of nutmeg. If you have used white pepper it will already have a suggestion of nutmeg. Many recipes simmer the sauce 20 minutes with a small onion stuck with a clove and bay leaf (from Escoffier).
  5. Cream:   If the sauce is to be "stand alone", it should be made a little thicker and cut with cream for richer flavor.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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