Eggnog Ice Cream

So I guess this is how we do winter in Southern California. We wear sweaters when temps dip into the lower 60s, and we string Christmas lights on palm trees. We cut out paper snowflakes and bake snowflake cookies and listen to “White Christmas” on repeat. And we make holiday-inspired ice cream because, after all, it’s still ice cream season here.

I’m heading to Minnesota next week to get my fill of winter, but I thought I’d give this recipe a whirl before heading to the frozen tundra. Oh my, is it delicious. If you like eggnog (and you really have to like eggnog) you will love this take on it. Also, it’s for grownups. Yep, I spiked the ice cream. (SNL might think that Adele is the answer to holiday family squabbles, but I say if that doesn’t work, try a boozy dessert.)

Adding 1/4 cup of alcohol means the ice cream churns up very soft, but don’t fret! Chill the freshly churned ice cream in your freezer for a few hours and it will firm up nicely but still be delightfully scoopable.

One more thing you should know: freshly grated nutmeg is a must here. I got whole nutmeg from Penzey’s and gently rubbed one of the seeds over my microplane grater until I had a teaspoonful. (The phrase, “What is this lovely fragrance?” definitely entered my mind.)

Wishing you all a lovely holiday season! Thanks for indulging me in yet another year of cooking adventures!

Eggnog ice cream

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Eggnog Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg**
  • 4 Tbs. brandy, dark rum, or bourbon***
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Set aside.

Whisk egg yolks together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the milk, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture is steamy but not boiling. Carefully pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, a little bit at a time, while whisking constantly.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (The mixture should reach 170° F on an instant-read thermometer.) Pour the mixture through the strainer and into the cream. Stir in nutmeg, spirits, and vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator and then churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve with more freshly grated nutmeg, if desired.

Makes about 1 quart.

Okay, lots of notes here:

* As always, I made this lactose-free by substituting equal amounts of lactose-free half-and-half for both the cream and milk.

** Here’s one of my favorite cooking tips from this recipe: Fold a piece of paper in half, open it, and grate the nutmeg onto the paper. Then refold the paper along the crease to carefully direct the grated nutmeg into your teaspoon.

*** David Lebovitz suggests a mixture of 2 Tbs. brandy and 2 Tbs. dark rum. I did 4 Tbs. bourbon and it was fantastic. Feel free to experiment!

Source: Slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

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Holiday Baking Ideas

The other night I was sitting on the couch trying to decide what meals to plan this week, when I thought I’d scroll through my phone for inspiration. You see, I keep a running list of recipe names on a digital “Things to Make” list, so hitting the “show completed” button seemed like a good way to draw ideas from recipes I’d already made.

Down the rabbit hole I went.

It was a virtual time capsule filled with hundreds of completed recipes. Sometimes I could recognize a specific event (Halloween party! Valentine’s weekend at Cape Cod!) simply by the recipes that appeared next to each other.

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Since I’m much more likely to pore over cookbooks looking for new recipes than to reflect on all the things I’ve made in the past, it was fun to take a step back and think about all the hits and misses of the past few years. And I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for reading, sharing, and in some cases eating all these foods. You’ve been fantastic guinea pigs as I’ve learned to become a more confident cook.

So that little journey inspired this retrospective post: twelve fantastic recipes to make for yourself or others this holiday season. I specifically picked out fun gift ideas since I’ve been in full-on shopping mode the past two days. Enjoy! And stay tuned for some fun new goodies this week!

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Holiday Baking Ideas

Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas

Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

I’m part Swedish (along with a dozen or so other nationalities). And I work at a very Swedish place. And my little sisters visited Sweden just last summer. And this blog is named after a Swedish delicacy.

But before this weekend, I had never once in my life baked with cardamom, a spice essential to Swedish baked goods.

Heresy!

Cardamom has a distinct taste that’s difficult to describe. To me it smells almost piney, but with a warm sweetness. It’s equally delightful in Scandinavian baking and Indian curries, demonstrating quite the versatility.

I first tried cardamom bread at a staff meeting a few weeks ago, and I was instantly hooked. I knew I wanted to try my hand at making it, mostly to get in touch with my heritage and/or make my belly happy. The braiding looks complicated, but it’s really quiet simple and turns out an elegant loaf. Gabe was unsure of the cardamom taste at first, but after three bites he proclaimed himself a fan.

So I invite you to add this to your holiday baking repertoire, regardless of national heritage. A warm, sweet bread is a welcome reprieve from the rich food and sugar bombs cookies that seem to be everywhere this time of year.

Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

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Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • sugar and sliced almonds, for sprinkling (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together yeast, 2 cups flour, and 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly add milk and stir until it’s almost smooth. The dough will be the consistency of a sticky cake batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, butter, salt, and cardamom. Switch the paddle attachment for a dough hook and add the remaining 2 cups flour. Knead until smooth. (You might have to finish the kneading on a floured surface for a few minutes.) Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Now it’s slicing and braiding time! (Scroll to the bottom of this post for detailed pictures.) Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections. Don’t cut all the way through; these lines will just be a guide. Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.

Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line. Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line. Continue braiding, alternating sides. Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other.

Place dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds, if using. Let rest for another 20 minutes. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes, covering with foil during the baking period if the top starts to brown too much. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve. It’s even better with a pat of salted butter melting on top.

Source: Slightly adapted from This Week for Dinner.

 Braiding Instructions for Vetebröd

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Continue braiding, alternating sides.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other. Voila! Ain’t it purty?

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Cocoa Mint Dollars

This recipe is one of my family’s favorite Christmas cookies, but sadly I did not get enough of them over the holidays. So last night Brynna and I spent a rainy Boston evening baking and frosting cocoa mint dollars.

(Before you picture a far-too-idyllic scene featuring two domestic goddesses, consider the fact that I was flinging frosting all over the place and Brynna was shrieking raucously as poor Gabe tried to hide from it all by falling asleep in the master bedroom.)

These cookies are simply amazing. Soft, crumbly, chocolate cookies sandwiched together with creamy mint frosting. It’s a good thing we’re having a party tonight so I don’t eat them all myself.

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Goldilocks and the Three Batches of Caramels

Ahhh December baking… steeped in tradition. I love revisiting recipes I’ve made every year since I was old enough to hold a spatula. But this winter I’ve held off on the old favorites until I’m back in Minnesota, choosing to concentrate my efforts on new recipes instead.

Enter caramels. I tried to make a yummy-sounding recipe from Annie’s Eats. And I failed. Then I tried again. And failed again. I finally got the good sense to calibrate my candy thermometer and learned it was reading 25 degrees lower than the actual temperature, leaving me with batches of crunchy toffee instead of chewy caramels. Mystery solved.

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Bring on the Baking

Yesterday some Ole friends and I headed down to the Fenway 13 to watch the St. Olaf Christmas Fest simulcast.  I got goosebumps thinking about all the other alumni gathering in theaters across the nation to watch the amazing concert.  Happy 100th anniversary, Christmas Fest!

Now that the concert is over and those 600 musicians are finally getting some well-deserved rest, the Christmas season has officially begun.  For me that means holiday baking is in full force!

The first recipe of the season is a new one: girl scout thin mints.  Oh my GOODNESS.  Despite the fact that I had to use a shot glass to cut out the cookies because I don’t own a round cookie cutter, these turned out awesome.  Gabe and I had fun decorating them with melted white chocolate.  Delicious!

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