I have a friend visiting who is watching her cholesterol intake and so each morning, I make her scrambled egg whites. What this means is that each morning I am left with a couple of egg yolks. The first week I was throwing them away but then I began to feel as if I was wasting the eggs so I decided to turn the yolks into Aïoli/mayonnaise. Crèmes, custards and ice creams were options too but I like the magic of making mayonnaise.
Egg yolks work excellently as emulsifiers. An emulsifier is a substance of some kind that coats the oil droplets in a sauce and prevents them from combining with each other. Mayonnaise is an emulsified sauce. Renowned food scientist, Harold McGee describes mayonnaise as “…an emulsion of oil droplets suspended in a base composed of egg yolk, lemon juice or vinegar, water and often mustard…” I know it doesn’t sound tasty, but he’s a scientist, what did you expect? (Smile).
Aïoli versus Mayonnaise
I’m sure that you have seen the word Aïoli on menus and wondered (like me) how different it is from Mayonnaise. Aïoli is a kind of mayonnaise, there are differences in the makeup of these two egg sauces (condiments, dressing) but they are essentially the same thing. Different flavouring ingredients and how they are used is what prompts most people to make a differentiation. Think of Aïoli as mayonnaise seasoned with garlic or garlic mayonnaise.
While mayonnaise is an emulsion of egg yolks, lime juice or vinegar, mustard and a neutral tasting oil, Aïoli is an emulsion of egg yolks, fresh garlic, mustard, lime juice or vinegar and olive oil. True Aïoli, a traditional sauce emanating from Provence, is an emulsion two ingredients – garlic and olive oil. The word Aïoli literally translates to ‘garlic oil’.
Traditional Aïoli starts with a mortar and pestle and the pounding of the garlic and salt to a smooth paste. The pestle is then replaced with a whisk as the other ingredients are added and whisked consistently to emulsify and become a thick, creamy sauce. On the other hand, a mayonnaise can be started in a food processor, blender or by using a whisk and a bowl by blending all of the ingredients except the oil, first, and then slowly drizzling in the oil as the motor of the processor/blender is running.
So apart from the slight variation in ingredients and method of starting the emulsification, the other difference between Aïoli and mayonnaise is how they are used. Aïoli is more often used as a dip for vegetables and seafood; mayonnaise is used in a variety of ways such as a spread for sandwiches, mixed in with other ingredients to form a dip or sauce, and as a dressing for salads.
Both of these sauces offer the opportunity for flavouring. Just as how garlic (fresh or roasted) is added to make Aïoli, herbs can also be added: tarragon, green onions, cilantro etc. Spices such as black pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika, and saffron can also be added.
The ingredients for this sauce should be at room temperature. The warmth helps speed up the process of emulsification.
You have a number of options when it comes to tools and equipment and it really comes down to what is your preferred method and what gets you the result you are looking for – every time. A food processer, a jug blender, an immersion blender, a mortar and pestle or a bowl and whisk can all work. Personally, I like making my Aïoli/mayonnaise with an immersion blender because it allows for work in a small area (such a glass jar) and offers me control to “feel” when the sauce is done. Another plus for using the immersion blender is that the sauce is made in about 2 minutes. However, if I am looking for a physical upper body workout, I opt for the whisk and a bowl.
Each person and each recipe will give you a particular order in which to add the ingredients. For me, simplicity rules, I puree the garlic, yolks, salt, lime juice, mustard and water together, all at once, and then I slowly drizzle in the oil to create my thick, buttery, Aïoli/mayonnaise.
What I have found in making my own Aïoli/mayonnaise is that I never need to use as much oil as a recipe calls for but I always have the measured amount just in case I need it. The thing is to stop adding oil once the Aïoli/mayonnaise has reached the suggested or desired consistency.
Aïoli is generally made with a combination of regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil to give that signature taste. I’d say do this if you know that your Aïoli is going to be consumed with a particular food or foods that the flavour of olive oil would compliment perfectly. I prefer to use a neutral oil (a flavourless oil), so that I can then use my Aïoli with a variety of foods and in different ways too.
The most technical or “difficult” part of making Aïoli/mayonnaise is ensuring that the oil is poured slowly and steadily enough to properly emulsify. Once you’ve blended all the ingredients, pour the oil in a slow, steady drizzle as you whisk, beat or blend. Once at least half of the oil has been added and the mixture emulsified, you can pour a little faster, and whisk, beat or blended more briskly.
The Aïoli/mayonnaise can be used and served immediately, if not put it into a sterilized airtight container and place in a very cold part of the refrigerator. Try to use it within 3 – 5 days.
Have egg yolks? Make Aïoli/mayonnaise.
Aïoli (Garlic Mayonnaise)
This recipe garlic and saffron flavoured mayonnaise. Please read the notes below the recipe before attempting to make the Aïoli/mayonnaise. The directions in this recipe are for using an immersion blender. Don’t be discouraged if your Aïoli/mayonnaise does not turn out the way you want it to the first time. For some people, it takes more than one try to perfect it.
Yield: ¾ cup
● 1 teaspoon hot water
● A pinch of saffron threads
● 2 egg yolks, room temperature
● ¼ teaspoon salt
● 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
● 4 cloves garlic, grated
● 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or vinegar
● 1 cup canola or other neutral oil
1. Add the hot water and saffron to a small bowl and let steep until the saffron colours the water.
2. Add the following ingredients to a 16-oz/450 ml mason jar: saffron water (including threads), yolks, salt, mustard, garlic and lime juice. Pulse to blend thoroughly using an immersion blender.
3. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil, while moving the blender up and down. You may need to stop intermittently so as not to overheat the blender. Whizz/blend until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. The mixture should be thick and creamy, not runny.
4. Transfer to an airtight sterilized jar/container and refrigerate or use right away.
● Using a food processor – grate the garlic first so there are no tiny bits in the aïoli/mayonnaise then proceed with the recipe. Scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently; when working with a food processor to make certain things, the ingredients tend to get stuck at the sides of the bowl.
● Using a jug blender – one thing to look out for is that as the aïoli/mayonnaise thickens, it can slow the movement of the blades and this can result in the mixture not being completely emulsified.
● Mortar & pestle – make a paste of the garlic and salt first. Add the other ingredients to the mortar and use a whisk to continue making the sauce according to the recipe.
● Bowl & whisk – make a paste of the garlic and salt first, then add the other ingredients to the bowl and continue according to the recipe.
● Use a combination of regular olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil if you are going for the signature taste: 2/3 cup regular olive oil and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil.
● If you do not have a mason jar, any glass bottle of the same size or larger will do as long as it has a wide mouth so that the immersion blender can fit easily. A glass, 2-cup capacity measuring cup would work too.