Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of culinary lore…
Egg nog, the quintessential holiday drink, made with eggs, cream, and copious amounts of booze, is essentially uncooked custard with alcohol. It has been said that the alcohol cooks the custard as well as the drinker. The question I decided to find the answer to was, can we leave most of the alcohol out and cook the egg nog as a custard?
The basic problem I faced was that, like many heirloom recipes,everyone has their own unique favorite egg nog recipe. Then I remembered one of my eclectic cookbooks, A Second Helping of Murder. In it, there is a wonderful egg nog recipe that was shared by Anne Poe Lehr, a distant cousin of Edgar Allan Poe. She contributed her family’s egg nog recipe that dates back to 1790. The original recipe consists of the following:
Poe Family Eggnog
15 egg yolks
15 egg whites, beaten
2 cups sugar
A fifth of Napoleon Brandy
1/2 cup Jamaican Rum
1 pint whipped cream
1/2 cup cream
As our tarts are meant to be firm and not drinks, I decided to cut out the fifth of a gallon of brandy. I also divided the recipe roughly in half to make tarts or a single pie. Thus was Edgar Allan PIE born!
Choosing Your Crust
A nice tender pie crust is best. You could buy a pre-made crust rather than make it from scratch, however I am providing a recipe and instructions for making an easy hot water pie crust.
Yield: 6 tarts or a 9-inch pie
Hot Water Pie Crust
8 oz all-purpose flour or roughly 2 cups, but best to measure by weight
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter
3 oz lard or shortening
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz water
7 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup spiced rum
nutmeg, freshly grated on top
- tart tins or pie pan
- large bowl
- medium saucepan
- rolling pin
- parchment paper
- plastic wrap
Making the Dough
- Measure the flour into a large bowl and set it aside.
- In a saucepan, add the butter, lard, salt and water and stir over medium heat until the fat melts.
- When the mixture starts to boil, take the saucepan off the heat and pour it into the bowl with the flour.
- Mix the dough with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined. Feel free to use your fingers to help a large dough ball form.
- Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it cool down for an hour. Don’t refrigerate it, just let it rest.
Roll Out the Dough
- After the hour has passed, lay out a piece of parchment or waxed paper and lightly dust it with flour.
- Turn your dough out onto the floured paper and roll it out to roughly 1/2 inch thick.
- Fold the dough onto itself, pressing down firmly with your fingers and then roll it out again. Repeat one more time. This will add structure and flakiness to the finished crust.
- Lay the dough onto a baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest in your fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Divide and Conquer
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- After the dough has chilled, divide it up for your tart tins or single pie pan.
- On a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, roll out each piece of dough to a circle with a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
- Place the crust inside the pie tins, then use a fork to poke some shallow dimples into the bottom of the crust.
- Place the tins with crusts into the oven and blind bake them for 20 minutes.
Prepare your custard
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar.
- In a saucepan, over high heat, add the cream and rum, then warm to a simmer. Do not let this boil.
- Slowly pour the warm cream and rum into the bowl with the eggs and sugar. Do this in small amounts to temper the eggs so they do not cook in the bowl.
Putting It All Together
- Pour the custard mixture into your crust-lined tins. Sprinkle grated nutmeg on top.
- Raise the temperature to 350°F and bake the tarts/pie in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the custard is set.
When it comes to the pie crust, I have always been a proponent of the 2:3 butter/lard combo. However, since this is a hot water crust, feel free to use all butter, all lard, or all shortening, if you like. Hot water crusts err on the tender side and not really flaky side, unless you fold in extra layers. Just remember, if you work a pie crust dough too much you end up with a tough crust. That makes kittens cry. Tragic.
If you choose not to include any alcohol at all, then replace the 1/4 cup of rum with a 1/4 cup of whole milk.
Another nice touch, especially this time of year, is to use Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of just nutmeg. I’m sure Edgar would approve.
Egg nog can become a very tasty custard, once the ratios are sure.
Will you wonder what to bake? Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”