January 1st is a good time to make new plans, set some goals and look ahead to the rest of the year. Of course, you could make resolutions any day, but it helps a little bit to use a firm date to get started and not procrastinate too much. My own resolutions are often food based, and this year is no exception. I’m keeping the list short, but I wanted to share them here:
- Work my way through a big pile of old cooking magazines and finally try some of the recipes that I bookmarked years ago but never got around to making. This resolution has the added bonus that it might help me to clean up my office a little bit.
- Learn more about wine. I already enjoy it and can pick out wines that I like without much difficultly, but I haven’t yet had a chance to put a lot of effort into wine education as I would like. Plus, tasting wines can be a lot of fun.
- Do a lot more roasting, since one of my favorite holiday gifts was a beautiful new Staub Dutch oven and I want to make the most of it.
- Make more videos for Baking Bites. I had a blast doing the handful of videos that I did in 2012 and want to make them a more regular feature of the site in 2013.
What are your foodie goals for this year? Baking more bread at home? Eating out at that Michelin-starred restaurant that you’ve been eyeing? Taking a foodie road trip? Leave a comment below and share your plans for the new year!
Some eggnog fans might argue that there is no such thing as leftover eggnog, but I know that there are plenty of times when I’ve had half a bottle left in the fridge after a holiday party that I’m not sure what to do with. I like the flavor of eggnog, so I like to put my leftovers to use in other recipes, such as Eggnog Bread Pudding. This Eggnog Pudding is a favorite way to use up some leftover eggnog. It transforms the ‘nog into a whole new dessert, but keeps the vanilla and nutmeg flavors of the eggnog intact.
I make this pudding with part eggnog and part milk – otherwise, you might as well just drink the eggnog! The milk cuts some of the eggy richness of the eggnog, so you get all the flavor in a totally different package. The pudding is thickened with cornstarch, so the finished dessert has nice notes of vanilla, nutmeg and a splash of rum or bourbon, not a strong eggy flavor. If you don’t want the booze in your pudding, you can omit it and simply replace the alcohol with a little bit more milk. That said, it’s a nice element and gives the pudding a more interesting overall flavor.
You can make this pudding with low fat eggnog and low fat milk and still get good results, but I have to admit that store-bought eggnog made with whole milk generally tastes a lot better than the stuff made with skim. If you want to lighten this pudding up, opt for low fat or skim milk and use “real” eggnog to get a pudding that is still satisfying and very creamy.
Many people think about breaking out a nice bottle of champagne on a special occasion, and a glass of bubbly definitely has a festive feel to it, but champagne is a drink that you can toast to all year round and winter holidays deserve their own special celebration drinks that you won’t see much at any other time of the year.
- Hot Caramel Apple Cider is a wonderful way to dress up apple cider. Cider – homemade or even store bought – is dressed up with caramel sauce and whipped cream for a real treat that practically shouts “happy holidays!” You could even spike this with a little alcohol for a more grown-up party drink, but I like to keep it simple because I never get tired of this treat.
- Eggnog is a holiday classic, a thick, dairy-based drink made with milk, sugar, eggs and spices, usually nutmeg and vanilla. You can spike it with a little brandy or rum for the grown-ups, too. You can easily buy eggnog, but nothing beats homemade. A cooked Homemade Eggnog is the most common kind of ‘nog recipe. This drink base is cooked like a custard, so it develops a thick and velvety texture. It is rich, but satisfying, and can actually stand in for dessert because it is quite indulgent.
The other day I was perusing the champagne selection at my local market, trying to decide not only which bottle to buy, but to figure out what dessert I should serve with it for New Year’s. I couldn’t decide on either count when it struck me: why not put champagne into the dessert? From that point, it didn’t take long for me to pick out a bottle of champagne and a few ingredients for a champagne cake.
Chiffon cake was my first (and only, really) choice for a champagne cake. Chiffon cakes are simple, moist sponge-type cakes that hold flavor very well and have an open, almost bubbly crumb to them that mimics the bubbles in champagne. To make the cake, I simply tweaked one of my other chiffon cake recipes to include the sparkling beverage and the substitution could not have gone better.
The cake had a beautiful, even texture and a clear flavor of champagne. Sponge cakes are not known as being particularly moist, but this cake was, and it stayed moist for several days, kept in an airtight cake container. It was neither heavy nor filling and, if you’re planning on bringing this out for a New Year’s party or other celebration, it is sturdy enough to be eaten with your fingers, rather than requiring a knife and fork. I like to dip it in coffee or in champagne, but putting out whipped cream and berries is a nice way to finish it off, as well.
In the recipe below, I note that you should whisk part of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter before folding in the rest of them. This is to lighten up the batter a bit and make it easier to fold in the remaining egg whites. With a lighter batter, you’ll be able to maintain more of the bubbles overall – or at least make it easier – than simply starting to fold the whites into a stiff mixture.
Since you’ll be able to taste the champagne in the finished cake, start with a champagne you like. The recipe doesn’t really require all that much and, while you might not want to spend too much on your bottle, there will be plenty left over to sip while you work. Prosecco is an acceptable substitute for champagne, and you can opt for sparkling cider or even 7-up if you really don’t want to add alcohol into your cake. The cider will, of course, give it a slightly appley flavor, so you might want to add a teaspoon of apple pie spices to the dry ingredients if you want to play that up. If you don’t want to emphasize the cider flavor, don’t worry because it won’t be that strong if substituted directly into the recipe unless you have a very strongly flavored sparkling cider to begin with.