Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A fine temper--and homemade eggnog!

I tend to make a lot of custards. Many of my family's favorite things are custard based, like pudding and ice cream and lemon curd and pastry cream. Also, I love to make angel food cakes, and custard is what happens to the leftover egg yolks.

I've always tempered my eggs. That's the step in any custard recipe where you're told to beat the eggs with the sugar, heat the dairy,  and then slowly mix about half the hot dairy into the egg mixture to "temper" it, or warm it up, before you add it to the hot milk on the stove. The reasoning behind this is that gently warming the eggs will help to prevent curdling. At the end, you pour the custard through a sieve to further ensure no little bits of scrambled egg in the finished custard (yuck!).

Well, I'm a changed woman. I no longer temper my eggs. Last Christmas, I was given Jenni Britton Bauer's cookbook Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home, which contains the best ice cream recipes I've ever made, bar none. (And if you've never visited any of the Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams shops in Columbus, you're missing out. Seriously, this is the best ice cream I've ever had in my life. Pricy, but worth the splurge on occasion.) Anyway, Ms. Bauer recommends just mixing the eggs in with the dairy and sugar, and cooking the whole shebang together on the stove at the same time. None of her recipes involve tempering eggs. Her thinking is that the eggs all have to get to temperature anyway, and you are slowly heating the milk anyway, and you are going to sieve it anyway, so why go through a step that is annoying and messy if you don't need to?

I figured, if it's good enough for the Queen of Ice Cream, it's good enough for me. I've tried her technique with her ice cream recipes, and with several puddings, and most recently in eggnog. Interestingly, I think I get FEWER bits of egg when I don't temper them. And it's WAY easier.

Give the technique a try in this recipe. It's a cooked eggnog, which means no problems with raw eggs, and you can serve it (sans alchohol, of course!) to children with no qualms. It's based on Martha Stewart's recipe, with my changes to ingredients and, of course, to technique--no pesky tempering here! If you can, plan ahead. While lovely right away, the flavor is better the second day.

Cooked Eggnog

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 - 1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like your eggnog
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, depending on how much you like nutmeg--seriously, buy some nutmeg and grate it. It make a huge difference!
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup good bourbon, like Maker's Mark or Knob Creek
  • Grated nutmeg and whipped cream for garnish, if desired

Prepare an ice-water bath by putting a large bowl into your sink and filling the sink with cold water and ice cubes. Make sure the water level is well below the top of the bowl. Put a sieve over the bowl.

In a medium saucepan, beat egg yolks with sugar until very thick and pale yellow. This will take about a minute and a half if you use a hand-held mixer and about 5 minutes and a sore arm if you use a whisk. 

Whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat, and stir in heavy cream. Pour the mixture through a sieve into the bowl set in the ice-water bath.

 Let stand, stirring from time to time, until chilled. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and bourbon, if you're using it.
We just pour the eggnog into glasses and drink it, but if you want to be fancy, you can top each serving of eggnog with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, and sprinkle with grated nutmeg.