Rich, flavorful egg nog is definitely a holiday favorite; and if you haven’t ever tried making your own, you’re in for a treat—you won’t go back to store-bought again. The ingredient that gives egg nog its signature rich, silky texture is, well…eggs! There are many egg nog recipes that simply use raw eggs in them, but the use of raw eggs carries with it a risk of salmonella. According to foodsafety.gov, custards (a cooked mixture of eggs and dairy) and other dishes containing eggs must be cooked to 160-170ºF (71-77ºC) to be considered safe to eat. The Thermapen® and ThermoPop® are ideal for testing the temperature of your custards.
The Role of Eggs in Custards:
1. The protein in eggs coagulates and solidifies once they reach about 140-145ºF (60-63ºC), providing structure.
2. Egg yolks contain lecithin. Lecithin emulsifies ingredients that normally would not mix together. Mainly fat and water.
3. Eggs add richness to both the texture and flavor of custards.
Crème Anglaise Method: This process of making a stirred custard with milk, eggs, and sugar is essentially the method for making crème anglaise, or classic vanilla custard sauce. The tricky thing about making a stirred custard is its susceptibility to curdling. If you get the mixture too hot, your beautiful custard sauce will resemble runny scrambled eggs. Not very appetizing.
Here’s what to do…
1. Use a Double Boiler: In this recipe by Jean at Delightful Repast, the custard is made in a double boiler. This is a vey gentle method of cooking, and helps to keep the mixture from curdling. It’s important to constantly stir the custard to keep the proteins in motion as they rise in temperature between 140-170ºF (60-77ºC) and begin to coagulate. This gentle coagulation will thicken the sauce, but if it isn’t kept in motion the protein can take on a grainy texture, so keep stirring!
2. Use Your Thermometer: As custards are prone to bacterial growth, it’s critical that they move quickly through the temperature danger zone of 40-140ºF (4-60ºC), so the hot milk you add needs to be simmered. Remember, accurate temperature control when cooking with eggs is important for food safety and the proper structure of the recipe they are used in. Keep your Thermapen or ThermoPop handy and occasionally spot check the custard as the temperature rises (then back to stirring). When you reach 160ºF (71ºC), it’s time to cool it down. The addition of cold milk after cooking will hasten the cooling process.
Eggnog is the classic winter drink that makes any winter day feel like a party. Here, just in time for the holidays, is a recipe for a delightful homemade eggnog without those worrisome raw eggs.
(Makes about 2 quarts, sixteen 1/2-cup servings)
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot milk
2 cups cold milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg plus more for garnish
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Step 1. At least 8 or up to 24 hours before serving time: In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.
Step 2. Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken and registers between 160-170ºF (71-77ºC); do not boil.
Step 3. Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a 2-quart bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure); stir in brandy or rum, vanilla and nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours.
Step 4. To serve: Whip cream until soft peaks form. With wire whisk, gently fold whipped cream into custard. Pour eggnog into chilled 2- or 2 1/2-quart punch bowl or pitcher; sprinkle with nutmeg.
Our thanks to Jean with Delightful Repast for this recipe. Merry Christmas!