Hundreds of years after its rumored beginnings in France, mayonnaise has undergone a series of culinary reputations in America — from our grandmothers’ questionable salad combinations, such as pear, mayo, and cheese on a leaf of iceberg, to today’s hand-whipped dip for pomme frites, also known as French fries.
In celebrating traditional Southern cuisine with a distinct modern flair, mayonnaise shows up in a number of recipes. It is the celebrated base for many a chilled salad at any potluck, and it is the glue that holds together some of the best pimento cheese in South Carolina. In fact, where would chicken salad, deviled eggs, coleslaw, or potato salad be without mayonnaise? It’s often blended into dressings for farm-fresh salads, but how about as a secret ingredient in super-moist chocolate cake?
If the sound of mayonnaise in dessert sounds questionable, consider the ingredients. At its most simple, mayonnaise is egg yolks emulsified with water and flavorless oil. From that basic combination, the flavor of mayonnaise can be taken in a number of directions as seen in the variety of brands on grocery store shelves. Whether the favored brand comes with a yellow top or blue, homemade mayonnaise might just knock the socks off of either option. Why? Well, not only does it ensure an unparalleled freshness, but homemade mayonnaise can also be tweaked or completely altered to personal taste.
When making homemade mayonnaise, the flavor can be customized, but understanding the science is the key to the right texture. Frankly, it’s a wonder that mayonnaise was created before immersion blenders and food processors. Achieving this condiment with nothing more than the power of elbow grease is both time consuming and tiring. Fortunately, electric blenders are here to help. Emulsifying the oils and water in this recipe gives homemade mayonnaise its creamy texture. Unlike when we shake a vinegar and oil dressing, adding the oil slowly enables tiny droplets of oil to remain suspended in the mixture, giving mayonnaise its thick, consistent texture.
Classic Homemade Mayonnaise
1 cup canola oil
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon water
Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, and water into a glass jar. Pour the canola oil on top, careful to keep the layers separate. Insert an immersion blender to the bottom of the cup and turn on. As the blender pulls the oil down, creamy mayonnaise will begin to form. Slowly bring the immersion blender up, incorporating all of the oil. This process should take no longer than 60 seconds.
Once the mayonnaise has been made, stir in custom ingredients by hand, such as ground mustard, minced garlic, salt, and a bit of extra virgin olive oil, to create a classic sandwich mayonnaise. Or, add fresh herbs for an herbed variety. If using the mixture for baking, unflavored mayonnaise works well. Add a little heat by sprinkling in cayenne pepper, salt, and lime juice. Refrigerator safe for 2 weeks.
Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 slices of sourdough bread
Extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Spread preferred mayonnaise, to taste, on both sides of the sourdough bread so that there will be mayonnaise on the inside and outside of the sandwich. Place slices of extra sharp cheddar in between the slices of bread and place in the skillet. Cook until the bread is browned and crispy and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes on each side.
Extra Moist Chocolate Cake
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
5 tablespoons boiling water
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk, divided in two
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips. When the chocolate has melted, add 5 tablespoons of the boiling water to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Scrape from the sides of the bowl and add mayonnaise and sugar. Beat until thoroughly combined. With the mixer on medium speed, beat in one egg at a time. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture. Add half of the flour mixture; beat until combined. Add 1/4 cup of milk and again beat until combined. Continue alternating between adding dry ingredients and milk until they are all incorporated.
Grease three 9-inch baking pans and place parchment paper in the bottom. Divide the batter between the three pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to sit for 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool on a wire rack.