We may give lip service to gratitude on Thanksgiving, or the idea that to give is better than to receive on Christmas. But if we’re honest, the main thing on our minds during either holiday is food. This year, I offer up two holiday treats: one that takes a spin on a seasonal tradition, the other a relative newcomer. They’re easy to make if you’re planning to host, and easily portable if you’re a guest and want to contribute to someone else’s spread.
I never much cared for the eggnog that appears in cartons in the dairy section during the holidays. I never considered making it until something unprecedented happened at Christmas about 35 years ago: My father served homemade eggnog.
It was remarkable because I grew up in a teetotaling household that never had a drop of alcohol. I never knew either of my parents to partake while I was still at home. (I made up for lost time in college.)
When this fateful event occurred, I was well into adulthood and stunned that my father was serving spirits. I was even more surprised how good it was: rich, foamy and creamy with just a hint of nutmeg that doesn’t overwhelm as in the store-bought versions.
My dad never was never really a drinker, but he did get into the spirit at the holidays. I don’t know where he came up with recipe, but I scribbled it onto a piece of paper that remains in my recipe book to this day. I just call it “Dad’s Eggnog.”
8 large eggs, separated
¾ cup of sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
¾ cup bourbon
¼ cup brandy (I may a little more generous with the alcohol than this.)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Beat yolks with sugar and add salt. Whip egg whites until fluffy. Heat heavy cream and milk over low heat then fold in the yolk mixture. Add the vanilla. Pour the yolk mixture into a large serving bowl and folk in the egg whites. Add the alcohol and stir. Sprinkle the eggnog with the nutmeg.
This eggnog is best served in a glass punch cup. You’ll find that cheese straws make a fine accompaniment, the savory flavor balancing the eggnog’s sweetness.
Seven or eight years ago, I noticed the pumpkin rolls at Publix bakery, and the cook in me thought, “You can do that and probably do it better.” Sure enough, the foamy, nut-laced bread that encases a sweet cream cheese filling was a hit with my family. When I shared them with friends to favorable reviews, I even worked up a short-lived business selling them during the holidays.
Pumpkin rolls are a fairly straightforward dessert to make and even hold up if prepared days in advance. They freeze well, too.
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (Leave them out if someone has nut allergies.)
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons softened butter
8 ounces softened cream cheese.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the paper.
In a large bowl, beat eggs on high for five minutes. Gradually add the white sugar and pumpkin. Add flour, cinnamon, ginger and baking soda. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the cake springs back from being touched. Immediately turn out onto a linen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Peel off the paper and roll the cake up in the towel. Let cool.
To make the filling, mix the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
Carefully unroll the cake. Spread the filling over the cake to within an inch of the edges. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar and chill. I usually re-dust the towel with the sugar and wrap it around the finished roll before letting it chill.
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