What Is In A Mayonnaise Recipe?

A breakdown of what is occurring in the process of emulsifying sauces such as mayonnaise.

When you ask the question,"What are the ingredients in mayonnaise?",many times you will get the response of "cream" as one of the ingredients, and this is understandable in that mayonnaise has a creamy texture. It is interesting to note that both cream and mayonnaise are emulsions. Emulsions are, according to food scientist Harold McGee in his book On Food and Cooking, "...a colloidal system in which one liquid is dispersed in a form of fine droplets throughout another liquid with which it can not evenly mix." Example, oil and water(or vinegar). Put the two in a bottle and shake, what results is a thicker liquid that eventually separates into two separate thinner masses, oil on top, because it's lighter, water on bottom. Two different substances, with two different surface tensions, two different masses that will not stay together with out help. That help comes in the form of an emulsifier.

We will explain this by use of the sauce, mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is made up primarily of a water based acid (i.e. vinegar and/or lemon juice) and oil, and other ingredients primarily for seasoning. The "magic" comes in to play with the key ingredient in mayonnaise, egg yolk. (the whole egg may also be used for a some what lighter product) The main emulsifying ingredient in egg yolk is a substance called lecithin. Lecithin actually imbeds itself into the water droplets and has a head that protrudes out of the droplet. So imagine a droplet of water that looks sort of like a mace, remember those Medieval spiked iron balls on a chain? Now with the lecithin embedded into the water or constant phase of the emulsion, then the oil can now, slowly at first, be whisked in. The protruding lecithin now prevents the water droplets from coming together to form one big mass so they become evenly dispersed with the oil droplets which are being trapped in this process. The more oil that is added the more viscous the emulsion becomes until a point is reached where no more oil can be packed in to what little liquid there is and the sauce will break, or coalesce back into their oil and water pools. You would want to stop before you reach this point. The addition of mustard into the water (lemon, vinegar) phase will also add stability to the emulsion in that the ground mustard actually physically gets in the way of the droplets trying to coalesce. If made properly what ensues is a viscous emulsified substance that now can be seasoned and enjoyed on two planes of carbohydrates with the protein in between (Sandwich).

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