Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Egg Nog

So our holiday celebration went well on Saturday, and I'm especially proud that I was able to pursuade many skeptical guests to try our Egg Nog. I admit, once upon a time, I too was grossed out by the prospect of egg nog -- but after sampling some Ronnybrook Farms Egg Nog, my hope was restored. This year, we decided to make our own from the Cooks Illustrated recipe. The good news is, you can reassure concerned guests that there are no raw eggs in this Egg Nog, which I think was a big turn-off for many people. We of course chose the high-test version, so you can reduce the amount of liquor (& cream) if that appeals to you more.

Egg Nog
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
6 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 C plus 2 T granulated sugar
1/4 t table salt
4 C whole milk
3/4 C alcohol (we used half bourbon and half dark rum)
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 t fresh grated nutmeg
3/4 C heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

The first step is to make a custard. Begin by whisking the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Add milk slowly, blending well each time.

Turn on burner and heat slowly, stirring constantly, especially once the custard begins to warm. After about 25-30 minutes, the custard should reach about 160 degrees and should coat the back of a spoon. Remove custard from heat.

Use a sieve to strain the custard -- this will ensure a smooth texture. Add liquor, grated nutmeg and vanilla to strained custard. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Fold lightly whipped cream into custard just before serving.

This recipe can be easily doubled, though the cooking portion will take longer, depending on the size of your pan. The custard stores well in the fridge for 3-5 days, so you can prepare it ahead and add the whipped cream at the last minute. I think we're going to make ice cream out of our leftover egg nog. Yum!

(In case you're noticing a theme, Cooks Illustrated is my current favorite food-related publication and nearly without fail, the recipes are stellar. Which reminds me, I'll need to post the lentil soup recipe I adapted for the crockpot from there -- it was delicious, and I don't even like lentils.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Cookies

In preparation for our holiday party tomorrow night, I've begun making the dough for the cookies we'll be serving. So far, I've made the dough for the spritz cookies from Cooks Illustrated and the dough for the chocolate crinkles that have been a Christmas tradition in my family since I was a kid. It's a funny thing -- I don't like chocolate cake and I'm more likely to pick creme brulee over a chocolate torte for dessert (though I admit I do have a soft spot for Nutella), but every year I insist on making these cookies and then have to use all of my self-restraint(which is in limited availability these days) to avoid devouring them before my guests show up.
They're simple to make and as long as you don't overcook them, they're tender with a light chocolate flavor. The other great thing about them is that they don't require cookie cutters or rolling out dough, both of which can make me crazy. So, just in case you come to the party and they're all gone or if you want to make them yourself, here's the recipe:

Chocolate Crinkles

3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 C sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled (the better chocolate you use, the better the cookies are)
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 t vanilla
2 t baking powder
2 C flour
confectioners sugar

1. Mix eggs, sugar, chocolate, baking powder, oil and vanilla with a whisk until well combined.
2. Gradually fold in flour with a rubber spatula.
3. Refrigerate dough for at least 1-2 hours. (I typically store the dough in the fridge for a day or more until I'm ready to make the cookies.)
4. Preheat oven to 375.
5. Roll chilled dough into 1" balls and roll balls in powdered sugar to cover.
6. Place balls 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
7. Cool on a cookie rack until completely cool and store in an airtight container. Cookies are best within 3 days of baking.

Now, we've just got gingerbread and Nigella's Peanut Squares to go.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Banoffee Pie

Back when I was in 7th grade, my father got a three-week contract working in England and one of the perks was that the company provided him with a condo for the duration. Our folks pulled us out of school (writing all the requisite letters to ensure we each arrived with a pile of school work to keep us busy) and took us to England. One of my mom's favorite treats while we were over there was Banoffee Pie, which I don't remember vividly, other than the fact that my mother adored it.

Flash forward over ten years (this brings us to approximately two weeks ago): I'm pouring over a Jamie Oliver Cookbook that we received as a wedding gift and I discover a recipe for Banoffee Pie. Remembering how much my mother adored it, and her occassional mentioning of it in recent years, I realize this would be the perfect birthday dessert to make for her (clearly without regard to her recent diagnoses of "pre-diabetes"). She was pleased with her birthday dessert, though we decided to add some melted chocolate to the bottom of the crust next time we make it and to increase the amount of bananas (directions below have accommodated this suggestion).

The filling was surprisingly easy -- though boiling and cooling the cans of sweetened condensed milk takes time, so plan accordingly. His method of preparing a pastry crust was top notch -- though the result was more shortbread than your typical pastry crust. If you're not up for making the crust, I think a simple graham cracker crust or even a store bought shell would work just fine -- this dessert is all about the bananas and toffee. If you do decide to make the crust, you'll find the MicroPlane Zester quite helpful.

Banoffee Pie


  • Pastry Crust (directions below)
  • 2 14oz cans of sweeted condensed milk
  • 4-6 bananas
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  1. Take cans of sweetened condensed milk, unopened, and place in a large pot filled with water. Bring water to a boil and continue cooking for about 4 hours. Make sure that the pot never boils dry, as this may cause a toffee explosion -- both messy and potentially dangerous. It's best if the cans are submerged in the water, however, you can also rotate the cans if the bot isn't deep enough to completely cover them. After four hours, turn off the heat and allow the cans to cool on a cutting board. (Be cautious when removing the cans from the water -- they will be quite hot, so use tongs or an oven mitt.)
  2. If using, prepare pastry crust (below), otherwise prepare another appropriate crust (graham cracker crust or even a store-bought shell). Blind bake, and allow to cool.
  3. Once the cans of sweetened condensed milk have cooled, open them and pour a layer to cover the bottom of the shell. Alternate layers of toffee and sliced bananas, until the crust is filled.
  4. You can refrigerate the pie for several hours before serving, but make sure to prepare the whipped cream just before serving. Prepare the whipped cream by whipping heavy cream, vanilla and salt (add a bit of sugar if desired, however, the filling is quite sweet, so it's not necessary).

Pastry Recipe


  • 1 C plus 2 T butter, softened
  • 1 C plus 6 T powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/4 C flour
  • Seeds from one vanilla bean
  • one lemon, zested
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2-4 T cold water


  1. Cream butter, sugar, and salt in the food processor or stand mixer.
  2. Pulse to add flour, vanilla seeds, zest and egg yolks until dough looks like coarse crumbs, adding water with a final pulse or two.
  3. Turn out dough onto counter and with minimal handling, form dough into two 5-inch logs.
  4. Wrap logs individually and refrigerate for at least an hour. Each log will be sufficient for one recipe -- feel free to freeze one for use later.
  5. After the dough has cooled, slice thin layers off the log and use them to build the crust in the pan, pressing lightly to seal the seams. (This may be the easiest way I have ever assembled a crust and the results are delicious.)
  6. To blind bake the crust, freeze it for about an hour, and cook in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes until just lightly browned.
  7. Allow crust to cool and fill as desired.

Adapted from Jamie's Kitchen by Jamie Oliver