SFC: Nog Yog Hog Fog?

              Eggnog, also known as “Egg Milk Punch” at one time or another, enjoys a very debated and disjunct history as to possible origins (which is a really fun little read actually, you should take a quick peak on its Wikipedia site or find some random article on the matter). Nonetheless, the thick, custardy drink has earned a very potent location during this time of the year in both our US states and neighbor Canada to the North. Finding a taste for it about 10 years ago (or more, can’t remember) when my sis had me try it from one of those store-bought cartons, the slowly growing inner cocktail geek within me has been gradually creating a special spot in my heart for this oh so unique and classic drink (I think it’s on a shelf right above Bourbon and a bit to the left of Pink Gin, no supports yet though).

                I started making my own holiday batches of this creamy, eggy mixture about two years ago, starting with a basic recipe and experimenting with a couple more later on. If you have a bit of time, some patience, access to booze and no vegan friends (unless there’s one you wanna tease), then I think you should give it a try yourself.

                Let me just start off by saying that as for recipes, there are a TON… ish. Most of them are distinctly different and WILL yield different results, so although I will be offering up a particular recipe today, I would highly suggest you do a bit of looking around to find a particular proportion/mix that better suits your purposes (especially when changing it with flavors, there are some you might want thicker, creamier, eggier, lighter/fresher, etc). I myself am doing two different nogs this year, and normally would probably use two different recipes depending on each; but I’m a bit lazy this year and have lotsa other things to do.

                If anything, the main purpose of this post is to go through the METHOD of making Eggnog, as well as particular techniques for flavoring (and certain possibilities).

Basic Classic Eggnog ala Alton Brown

1 pint Whole Milk

4 Egg Yolks

1/3 cup + 1 Tb Sugar

3 oz (3/8ths cup) Bourbon

1 tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg

1 cup Cream

4 Egg Whites

                For any normal recipe, this entire setup can be completed within the half hour, if not fifteen minutes, and we would start off with the Eggs. As this particular segment involves my flavoring of the cocktail, however, we start with the milk; 1-2 days in advance please.

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                Warm the Milk slightly in a pot; think of it as a bit under steeping temperature one uses when making a custard. Once warm we can add our NON-ARTIFICIAL flavorings. For my first one, I have some Cranberries, freshly grated Ginger, and Fresh Mint.

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                My second eggnog of the night is going to be a Toasted Marshmallow-Bacon (as opposed to the JUST Marshmallow of last year… what was I thinking?). As mentioned in a post a while back, I like using the mini marshmallows for this, toasted in a hot oven, to get a much higher ratio of the toasted area to the actual marshmallow body. It’s definitely best that we’re heating the milk for this too, as it’ll allow the mallows to dissolve that much easier.

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                Add those to the pot, whisking in, and follow with some freshly cooked and still hot Bacon Pieces (chopped) and all the fat from the pan. Take both pans off heat but let them stay warm a bit; the mint should be taken out w/in 15 minutes, to avoid bitter chlorophyll flavors, but the other ingredients SHOULD stay in overnight to ensure full integration (unless you put in a lot of ginger, that stuff’s powerful. Either do a lot for a short period of time or a little bit to let mature). Move to a container and into the fridge once both milks have fully cooled down.

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                Strain next day, taste to ensure milk is flavored how you desire, and move onto proper production.

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                Beat egg Yolks thoroughly (electric mixer much preferred) until light in color and thick/airy/”ribbon stage.” Add the first 1/3 cup Sugar, noting that for the Marshmallow recipe its toasted addition should be considered a delicious replacement for most if not all the sugar needed at this point (so either add only a little sugar or none at all), and continue beating for a bit longer until well integrated and further “fluffed.”

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                Stir in the milk, Nutmeg, and your Alcohol of choice; yes, CHOICE. Though we mainly consider Bourbon to be the “classic” liquor option for eggnog, which is certainly true for US tradition I’m sure, there really is no set law on application, especially considering its uncertain historical evolution. Besides bourbon, we can use rum, brandy, rye whiskey, scotch, cream liqueurs, vodka, etc. It’s all your decision, and it all comes out delicious.

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                For myself, to better match with what I was doing I stuck with a simple, slightly sweet bourbon for the marshmallow-bacon and used a Brandy which I had marinated with cranberries (which I then used for the later infusion) for about a week.

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                At this point, this and many a recipe would have you add all the Cream in as well. However, what I enjoy doing is reserving most of it (I still add a little) and whisk in a cold metal bowl to make Whipped Cream (at least “soft peak” stage, maybe a bit more if you like). This I fold into the eggy-alcy-milky mix, helping to thicken it somewhat and facilitate the next step.

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                What I just did with the cream I now do with the Egg Whites, but with a beater (in a CLEAN bowl with no hint of egg or fat or whatever), adding the teaspoon of sugar after it’s gotten near a soft peak stage. Whip it back to soft peak, you don’t really want it “firm” as it’ll be even more difficult to fold in and integrate with the nog base, but you want it all whipped up and stable together.

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                Fold this in like before, ensuring full mix, and pour into a bowl, pitcher, etc. You can then serve this as is or, as I like to do, make the whole thing a night before and let sit in the fridge. I doubt there’s any real “aging” or “evolution” of flavors like when cooling a just-hot custard overnight, but maybe the alcohol will smooth down a bit, the egg may develop, the nutmeg may round out. Plus, do it the night before you don’t have to worry day-of.

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                There is something you should know ahead of time though. It. Will. Separate. No matter what you do or how well you whip and integrate your air-incorporated elements (cream, egg whites, marshmallows, etc), as it sits your little mixture will start turning into a pool of lighter custard on the bottom half with air-filled clouds of white on top. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not going bad, all you need to do is just stir it back in (whisk works well, but I actually like plunging with a large ladle better, plus this way you only need the ladle for both serving and fixing) and it goes back to almost-before. I promise it’ll keep tasting just as good so long as it’s kept cold.

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                Serve in your favorite little mug and garnish with a fresh grating of Nutmeg (on the classic or the Mint-Ginger flavored one) or maybe a bit of Candied Bacon (on the Marshmallow). You now have yourself a rich, spicy, creamy yet not that heavy (well, maybe the marshmallow depending on how much you add) Holiday Treat filled with that nice warmth that only alcohol can bring. Enjoy at a party or just hog it all to yourself next to a fire. Either way you won’t be disappointed.

                With drink in hand I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, and Good Eating throughout!

 

Disclaimer: by this point, there are most likely at least one or two people reacting to the obvious notion that not once, during the entire process, are the eggs cooked or “pasteurized” for your protection. And as such this is a risky and potentially dangerous cocktail to drink due to salmonella risk. To those reactions I sincerely ask you people to please be quiet (and thankful that that comment is the worst I was willing to respond with). The whole idea of how “dangerous” raw eggs are has been extremely exaggerated throughout the years due to minute cases in the PAST, hell Rocky drank them. And though I certainly understand and don’t mind the worry when it comes to eating them straight or nearly so, in highly manipulated dishes and custards such as this one has to consider the interplay of so many other additions to much reduce this already miniscule issue, especially since we have alcohol also coming into play (it does do a wonder at disinfecting and “curing” things).

However, I do understand that despite my strong objection to what to me has become an outlandish worry, there are still those that would feel very uncomfortable making something like this (or making a nonalcoholic version that very sensitive children may consume). As such I feel obligated to inform that one DOES have the option of “pasteurizing” this; following the same steps, heat the milk/cream to almost a simmer and temper the beaten egg yolks (with sugar), bring to the stove and heat to 160F. Remove from heat, stir in your alcohol and let chill in fridge before moving on.

The resulting nog will, undoubtedly, not retain as many of the full, refreshing flavor aspects of the traditional, though the “custardyness” of it may increase slightly, and its resulting texture might actually reduce the separation/splitting factor a bit as well.

SFC: Special Krispies

                So, the friend who sent me the Cacao Beans wants me to make her fudge; Maple-Walnut, to be exact. Since I always prefer my special shipments to contain a variety of homemade goodies, and I had an abundance of walnuts leftover, my favorite Rice Krispies seemed a good option. Not to mention all the marshmallow goodness I’ll have to myself after shipping half of it….

                As those who’ve read my review of SCRATCH, one of my favorite Toe Rings in the city is their Ginger Rice Krispies. They’re that perfect balance of childhood nostalgia, mixed with that little ingredient to heighten the enjoyment even more. And like them, I have my OWN special ingredient for heightening my Krispy, along with other confections.

                That is, a very simple, and very delicious method for Candying Nuts. Very much like the style of those cinnamon-roasted varieties one sees at the Farmer’s Market, this is a recipe that one can use for almost any kind of nut. I’ve used it for Pecans, Almonds, Peanuts, and now Walnuts; on a side note, I would probably avoid trying with Macadamia or Brazil, just not the right texture to match with the coating. Hazelnuts are debatable.

                So, before even going near the marshmallows, we start making our little candies (can do a couple hours before, a day is good… though make sure you have enough to last through the highly occasional snacking. This is not a temptation you can resist).

                Separate a couple egg whites, add a drop of Vanilla, and whisk until Foamy (can do this by hand easily), stopping after there’s no more “loose whites” but before getting even close to “soft peak.” In a separate bowl, mix White and Brown sugar (more white than brown), a little Salt, a pinch of Baking Powder (or more if doing a lot), and any seasonings. I just did Cinnamon for this, but I’ve also done cayenne, chilli powder, ginger, etc.

                As you can see, this is a very non-specific recipe, much how I like it. All one needs to know is having enough of both whipped whites and sugar that it can completely cover all the nuts one uses.

               Fold Walnuts into whipped whites until covered; if there’s a decent amount leftover in bowl, carefully scoop onto the mixed sugar. Otherwise, just dump; lots of people like mixing these in a plastic bag together, whatever your fancy. Fold and mix completely until the egg and sugar mix into this sticky, light brown paste; if more sugar is needed, one can easily add.

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              Best picture of the look I could get, forgot to use camera until after already getting into the pan.

              Bake at a LOW temperature, 300-325F, on a parchment-lined Baking sheet. Now, the trick here is stirring every 8-10 minutes or so; I like to think of it similar to making a really fluffy scrambled egg, still moving it around to mix and distribute now and then but mostly leaving it alone to build that nice, thick, fluffy (or in this case crunchy) layer.

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             As it cooks, you’ll notice the slow change from liquid to a dragging, textured scramble of sugar. Keep doing what you’re doing, stirring a little more often as one gets closer, until the crust is brown and noticeably hard while stirring. To test, take a nut out (since the crust is hard, one doesn’t have to worry about sugar-burn), let it cool for a few minutes, and bite in half; a good test of what texture will be after letting it cool, plus you can see if the nut is toasted where you want.

               Since the oven is so low, one has little worry about overcooking if needing to leave in a little longer.

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             Out of the oven and cooled, we can finally get to the Krispies! With each batch I do, I try to find a couple new things I can do with it, and this was certainly no exception. Along with the Walnuts, I figured I’d Toast the Marshmallows beforehand and add some Bourbon; I also had some figs in the cupboard.

            So, we start with the Bourbon (get the cheap stuff, you’re cooking), cooking it down with those Figs. Following up, we add a whole stick of butter; one of the secrets from my Mom when she made her Rice Krispies. She’d do the traditional recipe all exact, except for doubling the butter; really makes it tasty.

            Now, one of my first big secrets to my recipe; when I first made, I had a lot of leftover pre-made caramel in the fridge, so I add a few spoonfuls. This particular batch, I sadly didn’t have any, so I just used brown sugar instead, mixed with some salt of course.

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            If you can get them at the same or lesser price, Mini Marshmallows are preferred for toasting; more surface area. As for the Krispies and Nuts, I usually prefer about 6 cup Rice and 1 or more extras.

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            My second secret comes not with the addition, but with packaging. Instead of pushing into the traditional brownie/baking sheet, I free-form onto a sheet of wax paper. This leaves the final product gooey and loose, stretching slowly as you pick it up. One can do one giant mound or, if wanting to portion, individual mounds.

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            At the end… this actually didn’t turn out like how I wanted. Still tasty, but apparently when one toasts marshmallows their “volume” decreases; not if it’s all the stuff left in the baking pan or just an air thing, but it leaves krispies that aren’t completely enveloped. It’s still very tasty, but more in a buttery-burnt sugar way, and has a nice crunch to it, but missing the real gooeyness it deserves. Not to mention a nice saltiness to contrast.

               Which is why I saved the recipe for the end of my post despite already typing way more than I should be. So, without anymore ado:

 

(Revised) Toasted Marshmallow-Bourbon Rice Krispies

½ Cup + ¼ Cup Bourbon

1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Butter

1½ Bags (15oz) Mini Marshmallows

¼ Cup Caramel or Brown Sugar

1 Tb Salt (Increase 2-3 times if wanting that Salted-Caramel flavor)

6 cups Rice Krispies

1-2 cups Candied Nuts/Extra

  1. Heat over 400-425F
  2. Add ½ Cup Bourbon plus and Dried Fruit to Large Pot, reduce on Medium to 50% or more.
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  4. Pour rest of Bourbon over ice and consume to your leisure.
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  6. Pour Marshmallows on Parchment-lined Sheet, pop into oven, WATCH CAREFULLY
  7. Add Butter, Caramel, and Salt to pan, melt
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  9. Once browned, quickly move marshmallows to pan, scraping off as much as possible.
  10. Stir until completely “melted” and incorporated.
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  12. Add Krispies and any other Extras, mix thoroughly until marshmallow mix “spiderwebs” evenly.
  13. Pour onto Waxed or Parchment Paper, let cool, and move to storage (don’t fridge)        

What’s your favorite Rice Krispies add-ins? Any favorite childhood memories with them?