Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hot Chocolate and Eggnog

When the holidays and cold weather arrive, my thoughts turn to hot chocolate and eggnog. The first is a cup of warm comfort and the second is a rich, luscious treat mysteriously only available this time of year.

Eggnog is thought to be a descendant of a medieval European beverage called posset, which was made with hot milk and strong ale. Nog was an old English term used to describe the ale. Eggnog as we know it was enjoyed first by the upper classes in England since milk, eggs and brandy were expensive. However, here in America, eggnog was enjoyed by everyone because dairy products were abundant and people used rum from the Caribbean instead of expensive European spirits.

Warm chocolate beverages have been consumed for centuries, though these drinks were not the type we know and love. The Mayans and Aztecs drank a bitter beverage made of crushed cacao seeds (the key ingredient of chocolate) mixed with water. Sometimes crushed chili peppers were added. Aztec king Montezuma used the beverage as an aphrodisiac and consumed 50 goblets full each day.

Hot chocolate as we know it came about when the Europeans brought cacao to their homeland. They added sugar and hot milk to make the beverage more drinkable, and at times added spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. Hot chocolate—also called cocoa and drinking chocolate—was the only form of chocolate people enjoyed until the mid-1800s when a British company created the solid chocolate bar.

Hot chocolate and hot cocoa are actually two different drinks. One is made with solid chocolate that is melted into the beverage, while the other is made with cocoa powder, sugar and hot milk. However, some recipes use both cocoa powder and solid chocolate.
Why not make homemade eggnog and hot chocolate? I have to confess—I’ve never attempted homemade eggnog since many of the ready-made varieties available in the grocery store are so tasty. I’ve had it made by friends, and it’s delicious. And I’ve made homemade hot chocolate many times, usually from the recipe found on the Hershey’s cocoa package.

For eggnog, perhaps it’s fear that keeps cooks from making it at home since the traditional recipe uses raw eggs, which can be a source of salmonella bacteria on the eggshells. Don’t worry. There are a couple of ways around this problem. First is to use pasteurized eggs, which can be found with the regular eggs in most grocery stores. Or follow a cooked eggnog recipe. The egg and milk mixture will need to reach at least 160 degrees—it will coat the back of a spoon. You will want to refrigerate the eggnog immediately to keep it safe and a large batch will need to be divided into smaller amounts to allow for quick cooling.

Of course vanilla and a little nutmeg will make the eggnog quite flavorful. But many people enjoy a little liquor added to their drink. Like the early Americans, rum is a good choice, as is brandy and whiskey. Kahlua and Baileys Irish Cream are also popular.

Additions to dress up hot chocolate include crushed candy canes, whipped cream, marshmallows, or chocolate shavings. A little malt will give the drink a malted-milk ball taste. If you have an espresso machine, a little steamed milk will add to the richness. And for grown-ups, a bit of liquor would be a nice twist—Kalhua, Frangelico, Amaretto, and Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Here are a few recipes to get you started.  

Cooked Eggnog

From The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker (Scribner, 2006 edition)

For nonalcoholic alternative, 2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 1/2 cups strong coffee can replace the spirits. Do not double this recipe.

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream

Whisk in a medium bowl just until blended:
12 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

Heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
While whisking, slowly add part of the hot milk and cream mixture to the egg yolks. Then slowly pour the cream and egg mixture back into the saucepan, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes a little thicker and reaches a temperature of about 175 degrees. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the combined 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a storage container and cool.

Chill thoroughly, uncovered, then stir in:
1/2 cup brandy, Cognac, dark rum, or bourbon

Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days. Serve sprinkled with:
Ground nutmeg

Chocolate Eggnog

8 eggs
3 cups chocolate milk
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
1 cup Kahlua liqueur (or freshly brewed strong coffee)
1 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
Pinch cinnamon, as garnish
Pinch grated chocolate, as garnish

In a large saucepan over medium heat, pour the milk and chocolate milk. Heat the milks, but do not boil.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and brown sugar until they are well combined and of a reasonably thick consistency.

When the milk mixture is hot, add approximately half of it to the bowl containing the beaten eggs and brown sugar, whisking well. Pour all of the egg, sugar and milk mixture back into the large saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Slowly and gently, add in the Kahlua and cream. Stir continuously until the mixture has thickened enough to be able to coat the back of a spoon. Do not ever let the mixture boil.

Remove the eggnog from the heat. Stir in the dark rum, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (at least 3 hours.) To serve, ladle the eggnog into individual glasses and garnish with grated chocolate or cinnamon.

Hot Chocolate
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a heavy saucepan, whisk milk, cream and sugar together over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Reduce the heat and add the cocoa powder and chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.

Mexican Hot Chocolate
From The Good Home Cookbook edited by Richard J. Perry (Collectors Press, 2006)
Serves 6

6 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 squares (3 ounces) baking chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream, to serve

Combine one cup of milk, the sugar, chocolate and cinnamon in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted. Gradually stir in the remaining 5 cups milk. Cook, stirring, until the milk is very hot. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Gradually stir 1 cup of hot milk mixture into the eggs, then transfer the entire mixture to a saucepan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes over low heat.

Remove the pan from the heat ans stir in the vanilla extract. Beat with a hand beater until very frothy. Pour the hot chocolate into mugs, dollop each with whipped cream, and serve.

1 comment:

  1. Linda ... these recipes sound wicked - happy holidays to you. Thanks, Susan