Béchamel Sauce is a basic white sauce made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux.
Roux is a flour and butter mixture slowly cooked over a low heat. When a roux is cooked to a beige color it is called white roux. When it is cooked to a golden color it is called blond roux.
The thickness of béchamel sauce depends on the proportion of flour and butter to the milk.
A thin béchamel sauce would be 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour per 1 cup of milk.
A medium béchamel sauce would be 2 tablespoons of butter and flour per 1 cup of milk
A thick béchamel sauce would be 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter and flour per 1 cup of milk.
Béchamel sauce is named for Louis de Béchamel a French financier who lived from 1630 to 1703. Béchamel was a rich gourmet who served as the major domo or head butler to the French king Louis XIV. It is said that one of the king’s cooks improved upon a modest white sauce recipe and dedicated it to Béchamel (pronounced bay-shah-MEHL).
The Italian version of béchamel sauce is called balsamella. Some American cookbooks call the recipe “white sauce.”
Basic Béchamel Sauce Recipe
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter and blend in the flour.
Remove the pan from the heat or place it over hot water.
Slowly add the milk, blending it in until smooth.
Return to heat and cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and smooth.
Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.