Thanksgiving Day is the unofficial beginning of a luxurious four- to five-week stretch known as the “holidays” — that time when many of even the most indulgent behaviors are dismissed with an offhanded “Oh, it’s the holidays.” Second helpings are second nature; desserts are decidedly decadent.
All that may explain why December is National Eggnog Month. The creamy, rich, spiced and often alcohol-spiked drink is widely thought of as a holiday treat. Made with milk, cream or a combination of the two, beaten egg yolks and sometimes the whites, the sugary-sweet glass of richness is garnished with a sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin spice before serving. Take care — eggnog is often laced with bourbon, brandy or rum.
Eggnog is technically stirred custard — a mixture of dairy and eggs. Eggnog as a custard can also be used as an ice cream base unless it has alcohol; alcohol doesn’t freeze. Eggnog is also known as egg milk punch.
But if eggnog taste is what you crave, the tasty combination can be used year-round in other dishes. While generally not available in grocery stores past New Year’s, basic eggnog is easy to make. As with most recipes with only a few ingredients, the devil is in the details. Make sure to use fresh ingredients with few substitutions for best results.
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place the eggs and sugar into a pan, and whisk until light colored and frothy. Whisk in 1 cup of the milk until thoroughly blended. Place the pan over medium-low heat, continuing to stir until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining cup of milk, vanilla extract and nutmeg. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to cool thoroughly before serving.
Cook’s tip: This recipe uses cooked eggs. Pasteurized eggnog from the market is always safe, but use care when using any recipe with raw eggs.
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup eggnog
1/4 cup rum, (or substitute with 1/4 cup more eggnog and 1 teaspoon rum extract)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
1 package white cake mix
Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
With a mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy; beat in eggs one at a time. Add eggnog and rum or rum extract, vanilla, nutmeg and cake mix; beat slowly to combine, then on high speed for 2 minutes.
Spoon into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving tray, and cool completely before frosting or dusting with powdered sugar.
PUMPKIN EGGNOG CUSTARD PIE
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup whole-fat eggnog
1/2 cup heavy cream
Approximately 2 cups ginger snaps
1 stick butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, grind the gingersnap cookies until they resemble coarse cornmeal.
Mix in the melted butter. Press mixture into a 10-inch, deep-dish pie pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Separate the eggs. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form.
In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, pumpkin, brown and white sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, eggnog and cream.
Gently fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into the prepared crust.
Bake in the preheated oven for 90 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack at room temperature. DO NOT cool in the refrigerator — the pie continues to cook through while sitting at room temperature.
BANANA-EGGNOG PUDDING WITH RUM SAUCE
1 loaf good-quality white bread or 1 loaf raisin bread, cut into cubes (approximately 1 pound)
2 medium ripe bananas, sliced
3 1/2 cups prepared eggnog (not canned)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving, optional
Vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan; set aside.
Place half the bread cubes in the baking pan; top with the banana slices and remaining bread cubes.
In a large bowl, combine the eggnog, eggs, sugar and nutmeg; blend well. Pour mixture over the bread cubes; let stand 5 minutes.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
While pudding is cooking, make the sauce.
In a small saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients except the rum extract.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens.
Reduce heat to low; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir in the rum extract; serve sauce warm.