~ Mel's Happy Valley Meyer Dairy Eggnog Cookies ~
Eggnog -- the traditional and official drink of Christmas and New Years. There is nothing quite like sipping slowly from a punch-cup full of this creamy-rich liquor-laced libation. In many families, making eggnog from scratch is an event. The recipe is often times a well-guarded secret, being passed down from generation to generation. The only egg nog I got to drink as a child were the sips I could sneak out of a jovial adult's punch cup at more than a few neighborhood cocktail parties. Our nextdoor neighbor, Mrs. Rimm, she made great eggnog!
A bit about eggnog: References to eggnog date back to the 1800's, when, even back then it was served during the Winter holiday season. Known as "egg milk punch", it was and still is a sweetened dairy-based beverage made with milk, sugar, raw egg yolks, whipped egg whites and a splash of rum and/or vanilla extract. Nowadays cream is always included in place of some or all of the milk, because today's milk has a much lower fat content than milk in the 1800's, which had cream on top.
Brandy, rum and/or bourbon are almost always added. The plain truth: Eggnog just tastes better with some alcohol in it. Each smallish finished serving is poured into a punch cup, then it's topped off with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream and a sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg.
Eggnog literally means "eggs in a small cup", and it is used on both sides of the Atlantic to toast to ones health. "Nog" is an old English term for a small wooden cup. As an English creation, it descended from a hot British drink called posset, made from eggs beaten with milk, sugar and some type of spirit. During that time period, alcoholic drinks were commonly served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because it was cooked, posset traveled and adapted well to local tastes wherever it landed. One such place was our American colonies. America was full of farms, which were full of chickens, cows and plenty of cheap rum -- which is our signature ingredient.
Fast forward to present day. Over the holidays, pasteurized eggnog is sold in milk-like cartons in almost every grocery store in America. Here is where I stick my two cents in. All store-bought eggnog is not created equal. Most mass-produced name brands are cloyingly sweet, leaving an almost bubblegum-like aftertaste. Most purists agree that those who don't like this Yultide beverage have simply never had the opportunity to taste real-deal eggnog.
The best place to buy pasteurized eggnog is at your local dairy!
Meet Meyer Dairy. Founded in 1970 by two brothers and located just four short miles from my kitchen door, I have been buying milk and ice cream from these folks since the day I moved to Happy Valley in 1974. Joseph Meyer, the owner explains, "We're farmers, so we produce our own milk. We put in a drop tank to bring it up from the farm to process and bottle it in our shop." Over the years they added many varieties of ice-cream, and the flavors change daily. Besides one of their generous cones of the creamy-dreamy stuff, there's plenty of room to sit down and enjoy a hot dog or a hamburger too. They sell lots of other local and PA based products too: grilled stickies from The College Diner, apple butter from the Lions Club and Middleswarth potato chips -- everyone loves Meyer Dairy!
Yes, Meyer's sells their milk in returnable glass bottles:
'Tis the season for Meyer Dairy to roll out their eggnog and eggnog ice cream, and, my holiday season wouldn't be the same without either one. I adore that ice cream flavor but when I stopped in the shop this AM, the charming gal behind the counter told me they won't start making it for another week yet. One sip of their eggnog is all anyone needs to know this is not your run-of-the-mill store-bought milkgrog. It is rich, just the right thickness, pleasantly spiced and not overly sweet. The only thing left in the back of your throat is the taste of real-deal farm-fresh cream. Meyer's eggnog is beyond compare, and:
2 cups + 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
~ Step 1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, very soft
1/2 cup firmly-packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons butter-rum extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Meyer Dairy pasteurized eggnog, or the best quality pasteurized eggnog money can buy (Note: Scratch-made homemade eggnog does not work well for making eggnog cookies.)
~ Step 2. Place the softened butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Separate the egg yolks from the whites (refrigerate whites for use in in another recipe -- I use them to make macaroons). Stir the rum and vanilla extract into the eggnog. Starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer (to blend), then increasing speed to high, whip the mixture until smooth, 3 full minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula the entire time. Turn mixer off.
~ Step 3. Add all of the eggnog mixture to the bowl. Starting on low speed of mixer (to blend), then increasing speed to high, whip the mixture until smooth, 1 full minute, once again, using the rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently. Turn the mixer off.
~ Step 4. Begin adding the flour, in three parts (1/3, 1/3, 1/3), no need to measure exactly. Again, starting on low speed and ending up on high after each addition, while scraping down sides of bowl. Total time to incorporate flour: about 3 minutes.
~ Step 5. Cover bowl of cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Thirty minutes is not enough and 1 1/2 hours is too much. While cookie dough is chilling line 2, 17 1/2" x 12 3/4" baking pans with parchment paper.
~ Step 7. Place pans of cookies in refrigerator to chill for about 20-30 minutes prior to baking.
~ Step 8. One at a time, place chilled pan of cookies on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 12-13 minutes. Cookies will be just beginning to brown and will still be slightly-soft. Do not overbake my cookies!
Remove pan from oven and cool cookies, on pan, for 3 minutes, prior to transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best).
2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons Meyer Dairy pasteurized eggnog, or the best quality pasteurized eggnog money can buy (Note: Scratch-made homemade eggnog does not work well for making frosting either.)
1 tablespoon butter-rum extract
ground nutmeg, for sprinkling on frosted cookies
~ Step 2. Using a small cheese- type spreader, frost the tops of each cookie, then, very lightly sprinkle nutmeg over the frosted tops of all. Allow cookies to remain on cooling rack until the frosting dries and hardens, about 3-4 hours or overnight. Store cookies in an airtight container, separating the layers with wax paper, in a cool dry place for up to 2 weeks. Once frosting is hard, it stays firm as long as they're stored in a cool place. Unfrosted cookies may be frozen, thawed and frosted afterward.
Be sure to make a big batch -- they disappear fast!
Special Equipment List: whisk; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 3/4" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; cooling rack; tablespoon; small cheese-type spreader
Cook's Note: Over the holidays, besides making eggnog from scratch, another one of my favorite beverages to serve is real-deal hot chocolate, and, I like to make a big batch of it ahead of time. My recipe for ~ A Make-Ahead Christmas Morning Hot Chocolate ~ can be found in Categories 9, 11 or 16!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)