bechamel breaking

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Joined Feb 17, 2014
Hello Chefs!

I am looking for feedback and tips for successful dishes containing béchamel, specifically casseroles. Whether its mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes, etc... lately our béchamel breaks during the process of baking.

We bake pretty low, 250-275. Béchamel looks good going into the oven.

Any help is much appreciated!
 
1,140
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Joined Sep 5, 2012
Are you weighing your ingreadents for your sauce or just eyeballing? Being unbalanced with your measurements could be the issue.

Or

Have you changed any of the ingreadents,ie milk fir full fat to 2%? Typt of fat or flour in your roux?

Just some food for thought.
 
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1,086
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Joined Jun 6, 2007
Are you weighing your ingreadents for your sauce or just eyeballing? Being unbalanced with your measurements could be the issue.

Or

Have you changed any of the ingreadents,ie milk fir full fat to 2%? Typt of fat or flour in your roux?

Just some food for thought.
Those are usual suspects...

if you changed cheese and went for a more aged and harder cheese, these tend to break up and release their fat more easily than soft cheeses.

Luc H.
 
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Joined Sep 5, 2012
Missed thst one Luc_H. On my second glass on cheap french wine so only running on 7 cylinders as I typt. [emoji]128517[/emoji]
 
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Missed thst one Luc_H. On my second glass on cheap french wine so only running on 7 cylinders as I typt. [emoji]128517[/emoji]
You had the actual right answers since the OP seems to allude that they did not change any ingredients per se.

I added to the conversation in case the cheese was switched.

Enjoy the wine!!

Luc H.
 
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Joined Feb 17, 2014
Thank you for the feedback!

roux always by weight, whole milk, and no matter what cheese I use I am experiencing the same issues...
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Let's start by reviewing the basics. First, you make the béchamel. Which means you make a béchamel so it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, run your finger through it and the swiped area remains. Strain the béchamel to remove any impurities, lumps and whatnot. Then add the cheese. Then use it for your dish. 

As the flour in the roux is what typically prevents the milk and sauce from breaking, my thought was that the béchamel is too thin before adding the cheese. So maybe more roux for a slightly thicker béchamel. 

       Fwiw, I used to make a special cheddar cheese sauce for a dish we served but it kept breaking. We kept the sauce hot in a bain marie during service. After some experimentation and a few questions to our cheese guy, he told me it was because the cheddar we used was too aged. The more aged the cheese, the drier it was. The younger cheddars had more moisture and wouldn't break the sauce. Right or wrong scientifically, we switched to a younger cheddar and the sauce stopped breaking. I never really understood why it worked but it made life a lot easier. 
 
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1,086
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Joined Jun 6, 2007
 
Thank you for the feedback!

roux always by weight, whole milk, and no matter what cheese I use I am experiencing the same issues...
So you are saying it worked before but now it's breaking, correct?

How do you describe <breaking>, clumps and water or clumps and oil or a combo?

Are the noodles fully cooked and cold or partially cooked and cold?

Luc H.
 
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Joined Jun 6, 2007
The more aged the cheese, the drier it was. The younger cheddars had more moisture and wouldn't break the sauce. Right or wrong scientifically, we switched to a younger cheddar and the sauce stopped breaking. I never really understood why it worked but it made life a lot easier. 
As cheese age it loses water (by salting and drying from the surface).  As the amount of water decreases from the curds of the cheese, the acidity increases because most acids are not volatile.  High acidity curls the milk (proteins tighter) curds firmer. Firm cheese proteins are under more tension than soft high water cheese.  When heat is applied the proteins do not unravel as easily as soft moist cheeses in water.  Hard cheese require higher temperatures to melt than simmering water.

(the actual science is more complicated and not entirely understood but this is the essence of it)

Luc H.
 
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Joined Feb 17, 2014
Today for example, for our scalloped potatoes: made a thick béchamel (no cheese in the actual sauce at all), layered potatoes with cheddar, parm, and the béchamel. baked at 275 for 30-45 minutes. sauce looked separated like curds and whey. tasted great though!

Thanks again for all the help!
 
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Joined Jun 6, 2007
You did imply that these recipes worked in the past and now they no longer work correct?
 
Today for example, for our scalloped potatoes: made a thick béchamel (no cheese in the actual sauce at all), layered potatoes with cheddar, parm, and the béchamel. baked at 275 for 30-45 minutes. sauce looked separated like curds and whey. tasted great though!

Thanks again for all the help!
In this example a thick béchamel will work against the introduction of cheese. Is the cheddar aged? if yes then you have 2 firm cheeses (parm and cheddar) working against the béchamel.

do you cook covered or uncovered?

is the casserole boiling when you remove from the oven? long simmering/boiling will break a béchamel also.

Maybe going with a more flowing béchamel will work better in this recipe with some previous introduction of cheddar (maybe half) and only place the parm on top. (just a suggestion)

Luc H.
 
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another thought...

some recipes call for adding butter cubes amongst the potatoes for scallop potatoes.  That loose melting free flowing fat often wrecks havoc on the béchamel.

Luc H.
 
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Sounds like to much butter

As Chef Layne stated above , a little cream cheese may help as a stabilizer.
 
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You might also try a thinner initial liquid to account for reduction and splitting. If the sauce gets too reduced in the casserole it can separate out that way. If anyones every over-reduced an alfredo or other cream sauce you might know what I mean. 

Flour should give you some protection against splitting but it won't last forever. You also might try adding a bit of cream to the mix as well...it has natural emulsifying agents that may work with the cheese and other fats in the sauce to help bind it. 
 
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If you keep bechamel hot for an extended time it will split and look a bit brownish called dextrinization and If you freeze bechamel it will often split I usually add some cornflour (Cornstarch) If I am freezing it.
Geoff
 

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