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Cheers for eggnog Old-time favorite can add new flavor to holiday dishes

THE BALTIMORE SUN

You know the holidays are here when eggnog starts flowing. " Velvety smooth and rich with eggs, cream and nutmeg, served cold, "straight up," over ice or with a splash of rum or brandy, it puts the holiday cheer into any gathering.

Because the eggnog flavor is so popular but somewhat limited in what's to be done with it, I thought it would be fun to create some different recipes using this old-time favorite.

Nowadays, there are several different varieties available during the season, with most dairies offering "ultra" or "gourmet" eggnog and a nonfat or low-fat version as well as their standard product. Be sure to use a quality brand.

If you're a real devotee, you'll be pleased to learn that eggnog can be frozen in its original carton for up to a year. The ice crystals formed will cause the texture to appear "broken." To minimize this effect, thaw slowly in the refrigerator and use as a recipe ingredient or whip up in the blender for a beverage.

So here goes for some exciting ways to add eggnog to your holiday menus.

After a big festive dinner, even the thought of dessert can be too much, but how about whipping up a couple of light and fluffy eggnog chiffon pies for an airy, sweet ending?

If the hectic holidays call for a simple or do-ahead menu for your gang, then the eggnog panna cotta with spiced cranberry compote is just the thing - a soothing custard dolloped with a bright and perky, quick-cooking cranberry compote. So easy. And you can make all the components up to three days ahead, then just assemble quickly right before serving.

If old-fashioned bread pudding sounds more your style, then how about making it with eggnog instead of cream? For my eggnog bread pudding recipe, I made my bread-soaking custard out of )) high-quality, store-bought eggnog and added a touch more nutmeg and a splash of rum. It's great baked a day ahead and then reheated. I serve it drizzled with rum caramel, another quickie to prepare. Just stir a good dark rum into a high-quality, purchased caramel sauce. It's easy and delicious.

And what would an eggnog story be without a good old sipping recipe? You can make the batter for this winter warmer and store it frozen for up to a month to have on hand for unexpected guests. Hot buttered eggnog is good and indulgent, with way too much butter, brown sugar, ice cream, spices and brandy, but it's worth every indulgent calorie.

Hot Buttered Eggnog

Serves 1

3 tablespoons eggnog buttered brandy mix (recipe at right)

1 ounce brandy (or rum)

5 ounces boiling water

ground nutmeg

Place eggnog buttered brandy mix and brandy in coffee glass or mug. Stir in boiling water until batter is dissolved. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.

Eggnog Bread Pudding With Rum Caramel

Serves 6 to 8

BREAD PUDDING:

8 cups packed 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubed rustic baguette or French bread

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

4 large eggs

2 3/4 cups high-quality eggnog (not fat-free)

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup dark rum

whipped cream for garnish, optional

RUM CARAMEL:

1 cup high-quality purchased caramel sauce

2 tablespoons dark rum

To prepare bread pudding, place bread in large bowl and drizzle with melted butter. Toss in currants and dried cranberries.

In another bowl, whisk together sugar, egg yolks, whole eggs, eggnog, nutmeg and rum until well combined. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes and stir gently. Let stand at least 30 minutes, frequently pressing bread down into egg mixture and stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Transfer mixture to 7-inch-by-11-inch or 9-inch square glass baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees until center is just barely set and inserted knife comes out clean, 40 minutes.

To prepare rum caramel, in small bowl, whisk together caramel ** sauce and rum.

Serve pudding warm with rum caramel and dollops of whipped cream, or cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate and serve cold.

If made day before, remove bread pudding from refrigerator two hours before reheating. Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees until just warm, 10 to 15 minutes.

Eggnog Buttered Brandy Mix

Makes about 7 cups or 36 servings

1/2 pound butter (two sticks), softened

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 pint high-quality vanilla ice cream

1 cup high-quality eggnog

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon rum extract

Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl until totally smooth. Add ice cream, eggnog, vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon and rum extract and mix until thoroughly combined. Store refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 1 month.

Eggnog Panna Cotta With Spiced Cranberry Compote

EGGNOG PANNA COTTA:

1/3 cup pecan pieces

1 cup high-quality eggnog

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

SPICED CRANBERRY COMPOTE:

1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

All the dessert components can be made up to three days before serving.

To prepare eggnog panna cotta, place pecans on baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees until just golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool. Set aside.

Place eggnog, sugar, nutmeg, rum extract, mascarpone cheese and sour cream in large metal bowl over pan of simmering water (bain-marie). Whisk until smooth and warmed.

In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and set aside to soften, 2 minutes, then heat in microwave on high power about 15 seconds, or over hot water until dissolved. Whisk into warmed eggnog mixture.

Divide mixture among four small oven-proof custard cups. Place on baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours until set or overnight.

To prepare spiced cranberry compote, in medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine cranberries, nutmeg, sugar, orange juice and zest. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until cranberries have popped and mixture has nice consistency, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool completely.

To serve, one at a time, place each custard cup of panna cotta in shallow bowl of very hot water - to 1/2 inch from top - for 10 seconds. Remove. Run knife around outside edge and unmold onto individual dessert plates. Scatter cranberry compote over custard tops. Sprinkle with toasted pecans and serve immediately.

Eggnog Chiffon Pie

PIE:

1 (9-inch) spiced graham crust (recipe follows)

1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

4 eggs, separated (see note)

1 cup sugar

1 cup half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

RUM-NUTMEG CREAM:

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon dark rum

1/4 teaspoon rum extract

To prepare pie, make spiced graham crust and let cool.

Soften gelatin in cold water in small bowl 5 minutes.

In medium bowl, whisk together 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar (reserve egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar), and set aside.

Pour half-and-half in heavy-bottomed large bowl set over pan of simmering water (bain-marie), and whisk in softened gelatin, nutmeg, cinnamon and rum extract. Heat until hot, but not simmering, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Whisk half of hot half-and-half mixture into egg-yolk mixture to temper eggs. Add tempered egg mixture into remaining hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. Cook slowly until mixture becomes thickened, stirring, about 3 minutes. When thickened, remove from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring often to release heat.

Place egg whites in mixer bowl and whip on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add reserved 1/2 cup sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/4 of whipped egg whites into cooled mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in remaining egg whites until combined.

Mound evenly in cooled, baked pie crust and refrigerate until set, 1 to 2 hours.

To prepare rum-nutmeg cream, in large bowl, whip cream, sugars and nutmeg until soft peaks form. Whisk in rum and rum extract. Top chilled pie with cream.

Note: Although many recipes call for uncooked eggs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found them to be a potential carrier of food-borne illness and recommends that diners avoid eating raw eggs.

Spiced Graham Crust

Makes 1 (9-inch) crust

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons ice water

In medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, graham cracker crumbs and butter with pastry blender until mixture looks like peas. Gradually sprinkle in ice water and mix gently with fork until dough comes together in ball. Do not overhandle dough. If dough is too soft to handle, press gently into disk and refrigerate about 20 minutes.

On lightly floured surface, roll dough out to circle slightly larger than pan. Brush off excess flour, then gently roll up crust onto rolling pin. Unroll into pie pan and press crust into pan. Roll crust over at edges, trimming off any excess dough. Flute edges. With fork, pierce crust all over so crust doesn't bubble up when baking.

Bake at 425 degrees until golden and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

Pub Date: 12/16/98

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