Mayonnaise (often abbreviated mayo) is a thick condiment made primarily from vegetable oil and egg yolks. Whitish yellow in colour, it is a stable emulsion formed from the oil and the yolks and is generally flavoured with lemon juice and/or vinegar, salt, and sometimes mustard. Numerous other sauces can be created from it by adding additional seasonings.
Mayonnaise can be made with an electric mixer, an electric blender, or a food processor, or by hand with a whisk or fork. Mayonnaise is made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil. The oil and the water in yolks form a base of the emulsion, while the lecithin from the yolks acts as the emulsifier that stabilises it. Additionally, a bit of a mustard may also be added to further stabilise the emulsion. Small particles of the mustard serve as nucleation sites for the droplets forming the mayonnaise.
Traditional mayonnaise recipe
The traditional French recipe is essentially the same as the basic one described above, but it uses top quality olive oil and sometimes vinegar or lemon juice. Some nouvelle cuisine recipes specify safflower oil. It is considered essential to constantly beat the mayonnaise using a whisk while adding the olive oil a drop at a time, fully incorporating the oil before adding the next tablespoon. Experienced cooks can judge when the mayonnaise is done by the emulsion's resistance to the beating action. Mayonnaise made this way may taste too strong or sharp to people accustomed to commercial products.
Overworking the olive oil can make mayonnaise bitter. Therefore, it is common to use safflower oil to create the initial emulsion, then add olive oil, working it in with a wooden spoon rather than a whisk.
Rescuing split or curdled mayonnaise
With homemade mayonnaise, If you add the olive oil too quickly and the mixture separates into an oily mess, try the rescue method recommended by the award winning Spanish chef, José Andrés; "measure out 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water and add to the mix little by little until you have the creamy sauce you wanted".
Having tried the above suggestion a few times, to no avail. I would suggest adding another whole fresh egg into the split mixture, maybe a dash of nice vinegar and just blitz for a minute or so. You'll hear the difference as the curdled mixture starts to coagulate properly. This fix has worked for me, every time.
- A huge variety of different mayonnaise recipes