Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:50

Eggnog intervention is sometimes needed at this time of year

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It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. For one, a single delinquent bulb on my string of tree lights has fritzed out the entire strand. For two, I wascso far behind on my Christmas baking that only a squad of cookie cutter elves could have helped me get caught up.

But then, as if to utterly make up for a lack of twinkle by the window, and dearth of sugar cookies coming off the assembly line, my fridge is stocked with all the makings of a big batch of eggnog. And that, I'm quite certain, is the beginnings of all things merry and bright.
Eggnog is a curious thing, though.
What grog addicted sod, after all, woke up one late afternoon and decided that the addition of cream and sugar would make taking his nippy bottle to Christmas dinner all right?
Perhaps, though, it was simply someone's attempt at carrying a holiday party over through breakfast.
Or maybe--and this seems the more likely explanation--the first inklings of eggnog came from certain milky wine punches, such as posset (sweetened milk and ale), that were once popular in Europe.
Whatever the origins however, eggnog has long been a December staple in North America. So much so, that it would be near unthinkable to plough through last minute gift-getting frenzies without a coffee shop eggnog latte for a little nip of caffeinated courage.
When it comes to home-brewed nog, however, there are a couple of ways to go: pasteurized and un.
While eggs were once considered nature’s most inviolable food, particularly when it came to salmonella, the little bacterial buggers have since managed to breach the chicken/egg barrier.
Now it's estimated that 1 in 10,000 eggs is contaminated. Slender enough odds, but I'm not going to goad anyone away from the safe bosom of reasonable paranoia.
And for that, the best way to contend with the bacteria is to heat the mixture on the stove until it coats the back of a spoon. But slowly, very slowly. Else, instead of eggnog, what you’ll have is a gloopy holiday scramble.
However, cookie batter eater that I am, it would seem hypocritical if I didn’t go for raw.
On the other hand, baking with store-bought nog is also rather next to holiday heavenliness. And if a festive, homey dessert is just what your table may have been lacking this Christmas, a velvety, custardy eggnog bread pudding may be the perfect solution, no elf intervention required.
Eggnog Bread Pudding
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups store-bought eggnog
1/4 cup brown sugar
2-4 tbs dark rum
1 lb day old cinnamon-raisin bread, about 12 slices
softened butter for bread and baking dish
Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, eggnog, brown sugar, and rum.
Moderately butter one side of each slice of cinnamon-raisin bread and cut into 1/2 cubes. Place bread in prepared dish and pour eggnog mixture over top. Let stand for five minutes. Gently push bread down into custard. Refrigerate for 2 hours, occasionally pushing bread down into custard.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place bread pudding dish into a larger baking dish. Add enough boiling water to bottom pan to come 1 inch up the side of the dish with the bread pudding. Bake until pudding is puffed up and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove dish from water bath and let cool slightly. Cut into squares. Serve pudding with warm eggnog.

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