For me, eggnog season can't come soon enough. As soon as Halloween is packed away, I buy a quart of my favorite eggnog at the grocery store. I drink it little by little, spiked and not. I make eggnog cappuccinos in the morning and eggnog milkshakes at night. On the weekends, there is nothing like French toast made with eggnog.
But the best eggnog of the season is the frothy cloud-like homemade eggnog I make for Christmas cocktails. Before I go any further, I should mention that while I use raw eggs in my recipe, you should feel free to use pasteurized eggs if that concerns you. The results will be just as good.
My love of homemade eggnog started at a young age. I was a pre-teen when my best friend and I discovered our love for making festive libations — way before we really knew what a cocktail was. We made "Jack Frost" lemonade in the summer and one fall and winter we went through a homemade eggnog stage. Meaning we made it from scratch and drank it every day for several months.
My first attempt at making eggnog was very simple — whipped eggs, cold milk and sugar with fresh grated nutmeg. If you are an eggnog lover, you know that the nutmeg is key! Soon, I graduated to Level 2 eggnog, which involves folding in whipped egg whites. You can make it without separating the eggs and whipping them individually, but it is nothing like the ethereal eggnog with the whipped egg whites.
Because there are so few ingredients, it is essential that the eggs and milk be as fresh and as high quality as you can find.
As an adult, I have graduated to a Level 3 eggnog, which includes whipped egg whites and whipped cream folded into the sweetened egg and milk base. I sweeten all three components with superfine sugar — the yolks, the egg whites and the cream — for a more balanced and silkier eggnog.
Superfine sugar dissolves more easily than traditional white sugar, producing a smoother, creamier texture. If you don't have it on hand, you can make your own by pulsing regular granulated white sugar in a food processor. I like making the eggnog without alcohol, then spiking individual servings with bourbon. That way, you can serve everyone from the same bowl!
Start to finish: 2 hours 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
Pinch sea salt
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bourbon, to serve (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they are a light golden color, about 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt, beating until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the milk and half of the nutmeg, then beat until slightly frothy.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. With the mixer running, sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar and whip until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Folk the egg whites into the yolk mixture until light and airy with no lumps. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Just before serving, place the cold cream in a large chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until the cream forms soft peaks. With the mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and the vanilla. Beat until firm peaks form and there is no liquid left. Fold the whipped cream into the eggnog, sprinkle with the remaining nutmeg, and serve.
If you are spiking the eggnog, pour or spoon into glasses and add bourbon to taste to the individual glasses.
Nutrition information per serving: 270 calories; 180 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (12 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 185 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 8 g protein; 120 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."