Is a White Sauce Easy to Make?
You bet it is!
I have heard and seen a lot of advice on how to make a white sauce, but the method that I use is a combination of simplicity and best results.
A good white sauce should have no lumps in it, which will let it spread throughout the soup and help thicken it. Flour is a great thickener, almost too great. It reacts immediately to moisture and begins to clump.
In a white sauce, we use fat and milk to help slow this thickening process down.
White sauce starts with an equal amount of butter (or margarine or oil, but butter is the best) and flour. For a soup that feeds 6 people you should start with about 2 tablespoons of each. You can adjust this depending on how thick you want your soup, or how much you are making.
Begin by melting the butter over low heat, the slowly add the flour in. As you add the flour, stir with wooden spoon or spatula to get rid of clumps. The earlier you get rid of lumps and clumps, the easier it is!
When you have added all your flour you should have a mass that has the consistency of toothpaste, or a little less solid than that. Cook it while stirring for about 2 or 3 more minutes, and then remove it from the heat.
Now you want to stir in your milk, but not all at once! First, your milk should be at room temperature, or a little below that. Second, you want to add just a little at a time, and stir it in.
When you first start adding the milk, it will get absorbed by the flour-butter mixture (also known as a roux. Makevery sure to get rid of all lumps before adding any more milk!
Eventually the flor will have absorbed all the milk it can, and the sauce will start to become a thick liquid. Keep adding the milk slowly and stirring to remove lumps. Eventually you can add all the milk at once.
How much milk you add again depends on taste. The only hard and fast rules are: equal amount of butter and flour, and keep the lumps out! I usually add about 2 to 3 cups of milk, knowing that there will be a lot more liquid in the soup.
Seasoning the white sauce is important too. Typically, a white sauce should have salt, white pepper and nutmeg. However, you might want to skip the nutmeg depending on the type of soup you are making. Also, there is nothing wrong with black pepper, but the classic recipe calls for white so it blends in with the white color of the sauce.
When the milk and seasonings are added, put it back on the heat for a few minutes to bring it up to temperature. Once it is hot, it is ready for the soup! It is a good idea to pour some of the soup broth into the white sauce first, in case the soup is significantly hotter than the sauce. That way you prevent curdling, and – yep, you guessed it: lumping!
Again, depending on taste and desired texture, you can decide whether to add cream to the soup. This can add a nice richness to the soup, and with the white sauce already in the soup it will mix nicely.