Now these next two recipes are from me, not our Backstage Baker, but he has given his seal of approval for both. And, if I do say so myself, they really are a perfect treat for the holidays. I made them both last Sunday and enjoyed them with my boys after we participated in a local Messiah sing-a-long.
I just have to digress and tell you about this Messiah. On one level, I must confess, it was the most ear-cringingly bad rendition of this holiday classic that you are ever likely to hear. The orchestra was chaotic, the singers were pitchy, and no one, it seemed, could count. Handel must have been rolling over in his grave.
However, it was, conversely, also one of the most magical Messiahs I’ve ever experienced. Everyone involved was in the same boat – all doing our very best to steer through the treacherous waters of a very sophisticated and difficult oratorio. And we all had to approach it with the same sense of enthusiasm and willingness to fail in order to perform. No one could judge anyone else because, well, no one knew their part perfectly. My inner soprano, of course, sat next to my inner critic, and they tsk’d and humpf’d and shook their heads at the untold mistakes swirling about: “If you’re going to be THIS bad, then don’t do it at all!” they cried. However, we collectively refused to buy into negativity and pushed on regardless. And every once in a while we all got it together and were rewarded with a glorious, perfect chord or three. Like in the Hallelujah – everyone could belt that out and it was divine. Those few moments of sublime partnership made the rest of it all worthwhile. And, in the end, isn’t that what the holidays (and life) are all about?
Light Egg Nog
I love egg nog, but it’s often so heavy and fatty that I can’t eat anything else after a glass. And who wants to miss eating all those delectable holidays treats? So, I’ve experimented over the years with various “light” recipes that I’ve found in magazines and on the Internet, and this is what I’ve come up with. My kids ask for it every year and now, they can even (mostly) make it themselves!
2 cups milk
2 large strips orange or lemon zest
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch (dissolve it thoroughly in 1 tablespoon of warm water to avoid lumpy nog!)
White run or bourbon (optional. Do not give liquored up nog to children.)
Ground nutmeg, for garnish (freshly grated if you have it!!)
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups milk and citrus zest in a medium saucepan. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod to pot and bring to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cornstarch and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow.
3. Gradually pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour back into saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and immediately stir in last 1/2 cup of milk to stop the cooking. Sit bottom of pot into a large bowl with ice and water, stirring until cool. Chill further in fridge until ready to serve.
5. Removed zest strips and vanilla pod. Spike with liquor, if desired and garnish with nutmeg.
Bread Machine Chocolate Babka (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, 2009)
For babka dough:
3/4 cup warm, 1% milk
6 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
5 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
For babka filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate bar)
1. Put all dough ingredients (in order listed above) into bread maker and set on “Dough” setting. When dough is complete, remove from bread maker and stretch/roll/knead it out into a 16″ square.
2. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges.
3. Roll up dough tightly, then twist, pinching seam and ends to seal. Fit dough into bread loaf pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Allow to rise for 45 minutes.
4. Bake in 350* oven for approximately 40 minutes (until brown on top and sounding hollow when rapped on bottom.)
5. Coo1 completely (or at least mostly) before slicing, otherwise it will fall apart!
NOTE: I have split the dough into thirds and made mini-babkas in mini-loaf pans. These make excellent holiday gifts!