Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Egg Nog, Two Ways: Traditional and Puerto Rican

America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Check out Chicken One's related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. And give Chicken Two's new, also-related blog, Poop from the Coop a read. There you can find stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away. Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.
Complete recipes appear at the end of this post. 

From Chicken One:
Perhaps  you'd better read the other column first, for Chicken Two is giving you her take on the first time making egg nog from scratch. My column this time is a variation on that theme, and a completely different taste. 

I love egg nog in all its forms, including this one which tastes like a creamy, tropical cocktail, complete with coconut and rum. A recent trip to a tropical-themed restaurant taught me this drink is also known as coquito.

As you can see in this photo, the ingredients are common and you have to open a few cans. But it's all worth it.
First break apart cinnamon sticks and boil them in water for a great-smelling reduction. It certainly gives your house a holiday scent.
Whisk the reduction into some coconut milk. Then cook the egg yolks and evaporated milk over a double boiler until thickened. The common term for thickness in this case is, "until it coats the spoon".

I'll explain. You have to dip the spoon into the mixture, raise it and swipe through the back of it with your finger. When you start out, the thin mixure looks like this:
When thick, it will look like this:
If you go a little too long (like I did when I couldn't get the pan off the double boiler fast enough), it looks like this:
This last one is arguably a tad over the line for thickness. Cook it any longer and everything will become scrambled eggs. If you should happen to do this, and as long as it isn't TOO terribly scrambled-eggy, you can blend the finished product with a stick blender to smooth it out. This ONLY works in a small margin of cases, though, so keep an eye on that double boiler!

Now combine the cinnamon milk, thickened egg mixture and the rest into a wonderful concoction:
Add rum to taste. Don't hold the rum apart for combining individually at serve time like regular egg nog. The taste really depends on all the ingredients together. The recipe calls for 3 cups of rum, but the Chickens stopped at 2. We didn't want to overwhelm the creamy egg nog taste. All this is subjective, of course!

A word of warning: the coconut milk will partially solidify when chilled, so give the whole thing a shake or whisk before serving. Happy Holidays to you all!

Here's an impeck-able Chicken Two working egg-stra hard in the kitchen for you!
From Chicken Two:

To say my husband loves egg nog is an understatement! He impatiently awaits the arrival of the first container of egg nog at the grocery store and for the entire holiday season, there is at least a half gallon of it in the fridge. Lord help the store that runs out! Me, I can take it or leave it.  Until, that is, I experienced the pure taste of home made!

Even if you're not fond of it, give this a try…it could change your entire perspective. It did mine, for sure, and you're bound to have family members and friends who will love it, too!

My husband, the doctor, (yes, really) was somewhat skeptical of my making this and his first question was, "Are you cooking the eggs???" In a panic, I texted Chicken One. "Are we cooking the egg nog?" Thankfully, her reply was yes. (According to Alton Brown, you can do it both ways.)

Combine the first four ingredients over medium heat and cook to about 160 degrees, or until the spoon is coated. (See pic in column 1.)
Add the remainder of the ingredients.
Chill at least overnight - two days brings out the full flavor. 

This basic recipe is so simple, and, apart from grating our own nutmeg, doesn't take very long to do. I like the idea of being able to add bourbon or rum or what ever you want in the amounts you prefer, or nothing at all. To each his/her own!  

Don't tell Chicken One, but personally I prefer the
Puerto Rican version…it's got a little kick to it. My husband and family liked it, but we ran out of the basic egg nog first. I think that says something!

And not to be outdone (who's competitive???) here's a picture of Chicken One, stirring up a pot of trouble!

Have a safe and Happy Holiday!

Traditional Egg Nog

  • 10 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine eggs, sugar, milk and salt in top of double boiler. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon, which will be about 160 F.
  2. Remove from heat immediately. Stir in cream, vanilla and nutmeg.
  3. Chill til very cold. It's best to chill for two days for full flavor.
  4. Serve cold with brandy, whiskey or other spirits mixed in to taste. Garnish with more grated nutmeg.

Puerto Rican Egg Nog

  • 2 cups water
  • 8 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 twelve-ounce cans evaporated milk
  • 2 twelve-ounce cans coconut milk
  • 3 fourteen-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups white rum
Cooking Directions
  1. Break up cinnamon sticks into pieces and combine with water in a small saucepan over high heat. Boil until reduced by half. Strain and set liquid aside. Let cool completely.
  2. Whisk together egg yolks and evaporated milk. Cook over double boiler until mixture coats spoon, about 160 F. Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool completely.
  3. Mix cinnamon liquid and coconut milk well. Stir in thickened egg mixture and sweetened, condensed milk. Add rum to taste.
  4. Chill overnight. Makes about 1 gallon.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mascarpone-Cardamom and Rosemary-Pine Nut Cookies

America's Test Chicken actually consists of two chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Chicken One also publishes related blog, A Travel for Taste, where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures away from home. Not to be outdone, Chicken Two has an also-related blog, Poop from the Coop. There you can find reviews and her personal opinion on gadgets and equipment as she re-experiences the kitchen after many years away. So give these a read to round out the information found here.

Also, join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.

The complete recipes appear at the end of this post.

From Chicken One:
Mascarpone-Cardamom Cookies

Cookie day was a total SCAFU for me. It seems I went through Plan A, Plan B and Plan C before I was finally able to successfully make a darn thing. That darn thing was this delicious recipe for mascarpone-cardamom cookies. And it was worth the aggravation.

As it was, I had to make the dough on bake day but wait until the next day to roll it out and bake the cookies. This was because I'd thought I could grind whole cardamom seeds fine enough to use in this recipe. I was wrong.
First, I tried a mortar and pestle. Then I tried a food processor. Then I tried sifting the results through a strainer.
Lastly, I gave up, went to the supermarket on the way home, and bought ground cardamom. Then I got a good night's rest, rolled out the cookie spirals, and was handsomely rewarded with wonderfully crisp, tasty cookies. See the recipe at the bottom of this post for details.

The cardamom isn't part of the dough. It's mixed with sugar and used to roll the dough in.
At Chicken Two's suggestion, I also tried substituting ginger in place of the cardamom, which also worked. I have to say I like the cardamom better. If I had it to do over, I would use more ginger because the flavor was not strong enough. They tasted like plain sugar cookies. Good, but not ginger.

Rolling out the cookies was kinda fun. You sprinkle the counter with the sugar mixture and roll out the dough on top the sugar. Roll up half the dough. Then you turn it over and roll up the other half in the other direction.
When you cut the cookies off the roll, they are little double spirals:
I plan to put them in gift baskets along with my French sablés, macarons and a few pieces of chocolate. I'll give them as holiday gifts to the postal carrier, trash collector and others who efficiently render their services throughout the year.
From Chicken Two:
Rosemary-Pine Nut Cookies
When I first heard of these cookies, they didn't appeal to me much. In my mind, if it's a cookie, I want to taste sweetness in some form…sugar, chocolate, gummies….doesn't matter…I want sweet! I admit I'm still learning about savory things and the use of different herbs and spices. What a pleasant surprise! My daughter-in-law, Jessica, made them and gave me the recipe, which I will now share with you (recipe is below the photos).
Assemble ingredients
Toast the pine nuts (it really brings out the flavor).
Butter and granulated sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and, using a paddle, mix on high speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in oil, flour mixture and add cream, making sure each is mixed in thoroughly. Last, add egg and the rest of the flour.
Shape into 3/4-inch balls and space two inches apart on sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake, rotating halfway through.

1. Mascarpone Cardamom Cookie Recipe
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Cooking Directions
  1. Add the mascarpone to a large bowl and blend until creamy. Pour in the flour and mix until crumbly. With the mixer still running, add the butter and continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl into a soft dough.
  2. Form the dough into a ball. Split into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rectangle. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to make the dough easier to roll.
  3. Once the cookie dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375 F.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and the cardamom and stir to mix.
  5. On a dry, smooth surface, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the sugar mixture. Place on rectangle of dough on the surface, turning in the sugar to coat. Roll into a 12×5-inch rectangle. Turn the dough so that both sides are covered in sugar and cardamom.
  6. Tightly roll one of the short sides towards the center of the dough. Once you get to the center, turn the entire piece of dough over and roll the opposite end towards the center. Using a piece of floss or other string, cut 1⁄2" slices off the dough to create curled-S shapes.
  7. Carefully dredge each S-shaped cookie through some of the remaining cardamom sugar to coat. Place 2" apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of extra sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

2. Rosemary Pine-Nut Cookie Recipe
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, plus more for topping cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • fine sanding sugar for sprinkling
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Finely chop rosemary in a food processor. Add pine nuts; pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in 2 cups flour, the baking soda, ginger, and salt; set aside.
  2. Put butter and granulated sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in oil. Reduce speed to low. Mix in flour mixture. Add cream; mix until well combined, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg, then remaining 1/4 cup flour.
  3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls, and space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with fingers, and top each with a pine nut. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, about 13 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on sheets on wire racks. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
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