Eggnog

Okay, it’s the holidays, who doesn’t love eggnog? Of course you could buy all the eggnog you want from the store, but that’s boring. Searching through the cookbooks we have, I found no fewer than three different eggnog recipes. The one that appeals to me the most is a combination of an egg custard and whipped cream; the others use uncooked eggs and while I know there’s almost a zero chance of getting salmonella from properly handled and stored eggs, the thought of consuming anything that’s mostly raw egg just doesn’t sit well with me.

Here’s the preferred recipe, from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook. It says it makes about 10 servings of ½ cup each.

Ingredients for the egg custard:

  • 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 2½ cups milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix eggs, sugar and salt in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture just coats a metal spoon; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Place saucepan in cold water until custard is cool. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

Ingredients for the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup rum (subsitute 1 tsp. vanilla for non-alcoholic)
  • 1 to 2 drops yellow food color, if desired
  • Ground nutmeg

Beat whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Gently stir 1 cup of the whipped cream, the rum and the food color into custard. Pour custard mixture into small punch bowl. Drop remaining whipped cream in mounds onto custard mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately. Refrigerate any remaining eggnog.

Sounds pretty good to me. Now, here’s an old recipe for a single serving of eggnog, from the 1956 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook:

  • Beat together 1 well-beaten egg and 2 tbsp. sugar.
  • Beat in 1 cup chilled rich milk and either ¼ tsp. vanilla or 1½ tsp. sherry flavoring and 1 tbsp. brandy or rum.
  • Serve cold in a tall glass sprinkled lightly with nutmeg.

Yeah. Not sure about that. Anyway, that’s one variation; the other, from The Joy of Cooking, calls for separating the yolks from the whites, beating the whites to stiff peaks and folding them back into the mixture:

  • Beat until light 12 large egg yolks.
  • Gradually beat in 1 pound powdered sugar.
  • Add very slowly, beating constantly, 2 cups dark rum, brandy, bourbon or rye, or a combination.
  • Let stand, covered, for 1 hour to dispel the eggy taste.
  • Add, beating constantly, 2 to 4 cups chosen liquor(s) and 8 cups heavy cream.
  • Refrigerate, covered, for 3 hours.
  • In another large bowl beat until the peaks are stiff 12 large egg whites.
  • Fold the egg whites gently into the other ingredients.

The recipe claims this makes 40 servings! My favorite part is the “dispel eggy taste.” That just sounds nasty.

Otherwise, drink up! And if it tastes too eggy or you get salmonella, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Recipe: Holiday Fruitcake

I mentioned the other day that I’d post the fruitcake recipe I make each year, so I’m now getting around to it. What I like about this recipe is that there’s a higher ratio of batter-to-fruit than you’ll find in most modern recipes and commercial fruitcakes; they tend to be almost all candied fruit and nuts, loosely held together with the batter. Those are, in my opinion, too sickly sweet and more of a candy than a cake.

This recipe is much more of a cake consistency, with more of the spicy batter to offset the candy-sweet of the fruit. It’s still quite dense, and despite what my wife will tell you, quite good.

Adapted from the 1956 Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soft shortening
  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. mace
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ¾ cup strong coffee
  • ½ cup tart jelly
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1½ pounds candied fruit
  • ½ pound seedless raisins
  • ½ pound chopped dates
  • ½ pound dried cranberries
  • ½ pound of nuts
  • grated rind and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon

Directions: Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and spices in a bowl. Set aside. Combine coffee, jelly and molasses in another bowl and set that aside also. It’s also helpful to zest and juice the lemon and the orange ahead of time.

Preheat the oven to 300°. Prepare three 3 loaf pans by lining them with foil (leave the edges longer than the sides of the pans, so it will be easier to remove the loaves) and spraying with non-stick spray.

Cream the shortening and brown sugar together until fluffy. Butter is good, though this year I tried Crisco vegetable shortening. Next, beat in the eggs. Then you will want to alternately stir in the powder and liquid mixtures to the main batter; I start with about a cup of the flour mixture (using an electric beater) and let that mix in, then about a half cup of the liquid. Continue until they’re all mixed thoroughly.

Now add the fruits and nuts—be sure to use a big bowl and stir them in manually rather than trying to use an electric mixer. For the nuts, I used pecans, chopped coarsely. Finally, add the zest and juice from the lemon and orange (or, alternately, you could add them to the liquid mixture earlier).

This will look like a lot of batter, and it is, but trust me, it will all fit into the three loaf pans (these are standard size bread loaf pans). Fill them up equally, then bake them in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine were done after 2½. Cover them the last hour loosely with foil.

Out of the oven, you can remove them from the loaf pans to a rack to cool completely. Then, the magic: wrap them in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, then plastic wrap (waxed paper, I’ve noticed, tends to dissolve a bit with exposure to the alcohol; this is the first year I’ve used regular plastic wrap so I can’t report on it substantively yet) and foil, and store in a cool, dry place. The brandy will keep the cakes moist as they mellow with age.

You could use other liquors, too, or even a strong wine (port might be very good). You’ll want to choose something that will complement the dark, spicy, fruity taste.

A note about the candied fruits: I like to pick up the artificially colored stuff from the grocery store, just because it’s so festive and cheesy and tasty. This is generally made from dried pineapple, dried papaya, maraschino cherries, and citron (candied peel from citrus fruits), dyed with bright green and red colors. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s convenient and works great. However, this year I toyed with the idea of skipping this pre-made stuff and going to the source: bulk dried pineapple and papaya, and maraschino cherries (though I may still buy candied citron, because I’m not sure how to get it otherwise—if I use it at all) and chopping them up myself. I may do this next year.

And the other fruits I added—raisins, dates, and cranberries—can be varied, too. The original recipe called for currants, and I’ve seen recipes with blueberries, dried apricots, and dried cherries. Get creative, but stick with fruits that have low acidity and dry well. Dried apples, mango, figs, coconut, perhaps even cantaloupe could all be interesting.

And if you’ve read this far, a couple of links: Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake recipe from Food Network, and Wikipedia’s Fruitcake article.

Recipe: Cream Cheese Pie

This recipe is one we found years ago—it actually comes from Cool Whip, and is really quite good (and quite decadent). It originally came from the back of the lid label on a Cool Whip container. I’m posting it here because we had a hard time finding it the other day, and I couldn’t find the exact recipe online anywhere either. So, enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (8 oz.) of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups Cool Whip (8 oz. tub)
  • 9 oz. graham cracker crust

Directions: Beat cream cheese until smooth, and gradually add sugar. Blend in the sour cream and vanilla. Fold the Cool Whip into the mixture, blending well. Spoon into the graham cracker crust, and chill for at least four hours.

Recipe: Graham cracker chicken

This is a recipe I came up with recently for my wife: Graham cracker chicken.

Ingredients (per chicken breast):

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 squares of graham crackers
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Dash nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Dash lemon juice
  • Drop of vanilla
  • Optional: grated cheese (parmesan will do)

Directions: Mix the liquid ingredients together in a shallow dish. Crush the graham crackers and add the dry ingredients into a separate shallow dish. Dip the chicken breast into the liquid mixture, coating thoroughly, then bread completely with the graham cracker mix. Place on a greased shallow roating pan and put into a 350° oven. Bake at least 30 minutes.

Optional: Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese before baking. Experiment with other ingredients; you can replace the yellow mustard and honey with 1 tbsp. honey mustard (duh!), for instance.

Enjoy!