Eggnog. It says holidays. Herewith, two recipes: one for real eggnog, with or without rum; and Egg Cheescake — the crust has cashews, and the filling, eggnog. Need I say more?
Several years ago I enjoyed visiting Country Club Plaza, one of Kansas City’s most festive places, at Christmas.
The lighting of the Plaza lights, a favorite tradition, is the official kickoff of the holiday season. The famous ceremony, which began as 16 lights hung over a doorway, now includes more than 80 miles of lights with 280,000 multi-colored bulbs outlining the buildings and towers of Country Club Plaza.
The first official Plaza Lighting ceremony was in 1930, and now draws thousands to the Plaza on Thanksgiving night. The streets are full of folks who come to celebrate at Kansas City’s favorite shopping and dining destination. The lights turn on every evening at 5 until Jan. 15.
After an afternoon of shopping and strolling at the Plaza, guests and shoppers can stop across the street at the Fairmont K.C. dining room and enjoy this very special holiday dessert.
I have saved the recipe from that visit and am happy to share it with you.
You will need a 10-inch springform pan
1 cup very finely ground cashews
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (14 squares)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoons rum (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
11/2 cups dairy eggnog
Cashew brittle for garnish - optional
Crust: In a medium bowl, stir together the ground cashews, graham cracker crumbs and the 1/2 cup sugar. Drizzle melted butter over the cashew mixture. Toss until mixed well. Press the cashew mixture onto the bottom and about 11/2 inches up the sides of springform pan. Wrap outside of the springform pan securely with heavy foil. Set aside.
Filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium-high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar, beating for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture is completely smooth, scraping sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium, beat in rum if desired, vanilla extract and nutmeg. Add eggs all at once, beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in eggnog.
Pour filling into crust-lined pan. Place springform pan in a large roasting pan making sure there is at least 1 inch between springform pan and the edges of the roasting pan. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Carefully pour enough hot tap water into roasting pan to come halfway up side of springform pan.
Bake in 350 degree oven 60 to 70 minutes or until edge of cheesecake is firm and center appears nearly set when lightly shaken. Carefully remove pan from water bath, transfer to a wire rack. Cool 15 minutes. Remove foil. Loosen crust from sides and cool 30 minutes. Remove sides of pan; cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Garnish with cashew brittle if desired.
To bake without water bath:
Prepare cheesecake as above, except omit the foil, place the pan with filing in a shallow roasting pan. Bake without water for 45 to 50 minutes or until center appears nearly set when shaken. Surface will have a more golden color than cheesecake baked in a water bath.
Several tips that I think make all the difference in how a cheesecake turns out:
The cream cheese really needs to be room temperature. It needs to be soft. The trick here is that you do not want to overbeat the cheesecake ingredients, but you do want your cream cheese mixed in well. Cream cheese mixes better when it is very soft. So, start with softened cream cheese.
Beat the cream cheese really well before adding any other ingredients. Again this will help the cream cheese to blend in well, without over beating the remaining ingredients.
You then mix in the remaining ingredients well without overbeating them. Overbeating your cheesecake filling will affect the texture and final results.
And my No. 1 tip for the best cheesecakes ever is baking with a water bath (instructions included in the recipe).
3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup rum-optional
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Beat the yolks with the sugar until well blended. Stir in the vanilla and the milk or half and half, and rum if desired.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them in thoroughly. No need to be too gentle as they should just lighten the drink.
Top with grated nutmeg and serve.
Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.