Cooks Corner

cookingAmong the holiday season’s traditions, a popular standout has got to be eggnog. Like sugar cookies and fruitcake, egg nog is so well-liked it is now available in stores and by mail order.

Some of the retail ‘nog is quite good, but making your own allows for quality control and customization — including using recipes that call for cooking the egg mixture, to decrease the chance of contamination from raw eggs. So below is a traditional eggnog recipe that requires cooking and a recipe just for the underage guests at the party or table.

But serving eggnog is not the only way to enjoy the uniquely rich taste of this tradition. Try the eggnog desserts, too. Perfect for parties from the holidays through the Super Bowl, these tasty tidbits make great homemade gifts or offerings at potluck suppers.

Happy Holidays!

EGGNOG CHEESECAKE SQUARES
From a Martha Stewart recipe, these are deliciously rich

1 1/2 C finely smashed ginger snaps (10-oz bag minus10 snaps) OR graham crackers
3/4 C plus 3 Tbls sugar
1/2 a stick of butter, melted
1 lb cream cheese at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 C eggnog
1 heaping Tbls flour
1 Tbls brandy (or whiskey) OR 1 1/2 tsp rum-flavored extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

Heat the oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (or butter it). Stir together the ginger snap crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the melted butter. Press this mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake 12 minutes and let it cool. While crumb bottom cools, beat the cream cheese with the remaining sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the yolk, eggnog, flour, liquor, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt; beat until smooth, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there’s no unmixed cream cheese. Pour the filling over the crust, then set the pan in a roasting pan, and add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of baking pan. Bake until just set, about 45 minutes.
Remove the baking pan from water bath and transfer it to a wire rack. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Use a very sharp knife to cut it into 16 squares, then dust with more nutmeg before serving. Makes 16 bars.

EGGNOG COOKIES

From northpole.com, these are not too sweet and smell so great while baking.

2 1/4 Cs flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 Cs white sugar
3/4 C butter, softened
1/2 C eggnog
1 tsp vanilla
2 large egg yolks

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients together. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until it resembles a grainy paste. Add eggnog, vanilla and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until blended. Do not over mix.
Drop by teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Sprinkle lightly with additional nutmeg. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown. Transfer from pans immediately to cool. Makes about 3 dozen.

BASIC EGGNOG

This eggnog is cooked, for safety measures.

6 eggs
1/2-1 C sugar (depending on your tastes; start out with 1/2 C; you can add more later)

2 C milk
2 C whipping cream OR 2 Cs half-and-half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (also depending on your tastes and more can be added later if you want to)

Brandy, rum or whiskey to taste OR rum extract
In 2-quart or larger saucepan, beat together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Stir in 2 cups milk. Cook over medium low heat, whisking or stirring frequently — as mixture begins to get hot it will easily scorch on the bottom of the pan.

Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon and reaches 160° on a food thermometer. Remove from heat. Slowly add the 2 cups whipping cream or half-and-half while whisking together until smooth. Add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and combine until well blended. Taste test (careful — it will still be very hot) adding extra sugar or spices as wanted.

Pour into a pitcher then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled — several hours or overnight. Stir in brandy, rum, whiskey or any flavored liqueur to taste before serving if desired. Makes 6 cups.

NOTE: Garnish with your choice of toppings, such as whipped cream, chocolate curls, maraschino cherries, peppermint or cinnamon sticks, candy canes, etc. Or display bowls of toppings and let guests serve themselves.

FOR THE KIDDIES EGGNOG

Takes only 5 minutes to make.

1 1/2 C half-and-half

1 C egg substitute

1 C vanilla ice cream

2 Tbls sugar

1 Tbls vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp imitation rum extract or to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and cover. Blend 1 minute on medium until well mixed. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 8 servings of 1/2 cup each.

TIP: Feel free to substitute other flavors for the rum extract, such as almond, cherry or maple.

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