Hazelnut Eggnog with Bourbon and Cloves
December 17, 2020
Welcome to liquid heaven. Trust me, if you’re not a believer in eggnog, this version will make you see the light. It’s a Christmas miracle, and the secret is toasted hazelnuts. So this holiday season, make a fire, curl up in a warm blanket, and sip on a cup of this hazelnut infused eggnog with bourbon and cloves.
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If you think you hate eggnog, I’m here to tell you that you might be wrong. You see, I was like you once. I thought eggnog was the thick beverage sold by the carton, with a pancake-batter consistency. But it’s just not. I don’t know what that container holds, but it’s not eggnog. Real, homemade eggnog is like magic. It’s essentially melted ice cream with liquor added.
In this recipe, I used whole toasted hazelnuts to infuse the flavor. This is a similar technique to what I use to infuse my decaf coffee ice cream. In fact, you could replace the hazelnuts with other ingredients if your prefer. If you’d like to experiment, try infusing yours with whole spices like star anise and allspice berries, or different types of nuts.
What You Need to Get Started
- Pantry: Hazelnuts, Sugar
- Fridge: Milk, Heavy cream, Egg yolks
- From the Bar: Bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
- Spice Rack: Ground cloves
- Equipment: Baking sheet, Pot, Mesh strainer, Whisk, Heat-proof bowls with lids, Glasses
Let’s Make Hazelnut Eggnog
The first step in making this eggnog is to prepare the hazelnuts. You may be able to find hazelnuts with no skins or that are already toasted at your local store. If so, you can skip these steps to save some time. If not, it just takes a few minutes to get them toasted up.
Spread the nuts on a foil-lined baking sheet, and toast them in the oven until they are warm and fragrant. Be sure to stir halfway through toasting, so they don’t cook more on one side. Then, let them cool on the pan for about ten minutes before transferring the nuts to a bowl with a lid. Be sure it’s sealed, and then give the nuts a good, vigorous shake to remove any skins.
Hazelnuts are rich and a little bit earthy, but toasting them can help to mellow out their flavor and bring out a touch of sweetness. We remove the dark skins because they can be bitter, and add an undesirable flavor to your eggnog. However, if a few skin pieces remain after shaking, that’s not a problem.
Next, we need to infuse all that nutty and roasty flavor into the eggnog. To do this, you warm up the liquids that it’s made with: milk and heavy cream, and then let the nuts soak in the warm liquid as it cools. This creates a subtle flavor, but you can control the strength by letting it sit for more or less time.
Think about how after you eat a bowl of cereal, the milk retains that flavor, but not quite as strong. If you replace your breakfast with these toasted hazelnuts, we’re essentially doing the same thing. The milk and cream are the main base of the eggnog, so they will carry much of the flavor.
After it’s done infusing, it’s time strain out the whole nuts. Pour everything through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl. You may get a few small skin pieces, or even some nut crumbs. This is fine and doesn’t effect the final product really, but if you don’t want that, you can double strain.
Give the pot a quick rinse, dry it out, and then add the strained milk mixture back to it. Rinsing will remove any extra skin pieces that stuck to the bottom of the pot. I didn’t have too many, but it’s better to remove what might be there.
At this point, you are done with the hazelnuts. They will be milky but less flavorful than freshly toasted nuts. Feel free to snack on them, or use them in another recipe, but don’t keep them around too long — a day or two in the fridge at most. I added mine to the food processor with some honey and oil to make a hazelnut spread.
Now let’s really make some eggnog!
First, begin by heating up the milk mixture again, watching it carefully. Allow the liquid to just start to bubble on the edges, but don’t let it boil. When milk is heated, it creates a layer at the top that prevents the air from escaping easily. Then, when it boils, the air in it quickly rises, lifting that layer and overflowing the pot.
This is exactly what we don’t want to happen, so be sure to keep an eye on it. At any moment, if you see that liquid start to lift, remove the pot from the heat quickly to prevent any spills. The goal is to get it right to that boiling point, but no further. Then, you are ready to temper the eggs.
Tempering eggs can be a bit challenging the first time, but it’s an important step. Add fragile, raw egg yolks directly onto the heat, and you’ll end up with scrambled eggnog, not my first choice for sure. The secret is to go slowly and keep things moving. Get started by preparing your eggs while the milk mixture is heating up. Use a heat-proof bowl, and whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until lightened in color and smooth.
The sugar will start to dissolve into the yolks, but not fully. To temper, constantly whisk the eggs, while using a ladle to spoon the hot milk mixture slowly into the bowl. Continue whisking as you add more spoonfuls, until the milk is too low in the pot to ladle, and the bowl feels quite warm to the touch.
My husband and I like to do this step together. It’s a similar process to how we make ice cream, so we’ve done it a few times. But still, having the extra hands helps. If you are making this eggnog alone, and have never tempered eggs before, it can be done. Just stay focused on stirring during those first few ladlefuls, so the eggs don’t start to cook in the heat.
Pour everything back into the pot, and cook it one more time. At this point, our goal is to pasteurize the eggs, which means you need to reach a minimum temperature of 140F, but I go a bit further to 160F. Some traditional eggnog recipes skip this step, but I find it’s easy enough to include and not worry.
When it’s ready, turn off the heat, and stir in plenty of bourbon. Add it to taste. Don’t skimp. But also keep in mind that you can add more to individual glasses as needed. This eggnog really needs the liquor both for flavor and to thin it out. I wouldn’t recommend skipping it, but you may have luck with a non-alcoholic bourbon.
Chill the eggnog overnight in a tightly covered bowl. Finally, whip up the cream. I love doing this in a 16-oz mason jar and using my hand mixer. Use the whisk attachment, and begin on low speed to prevent splattering. Slowly increase to high speed, whipping until the whipped cream holds its shape. Then, set it aside for serving.
Kick your eggnog up a notch this holiday season by infusing it with toasted hazelnuts. Here’s your new favorite festive drink!
How to Serve Hazelnut Infused Eggnog
Ladle the eggnog from the bowl directly into your favorite glasses or mugs. You can serve this chilled, which is my favorite, or warm it up in the microwave. Be sure to add a dollop of whipped cream to each glass, and gently fold it into the liquid. It will float on top, but you want to kind of let it sink underneath for a second first. Garnish with a dusting of cloves, instead of the traditional nutmeg.
You can store the eggnog in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days, or the whipped cream for up to a week, but it may begin to deflate. Once combined, serve and enjoy these immediately. As a non-alcoholic alternative, serve alongside chai white hot chocolate.
Eggnog is a wonderful accompaniment to any holiday brunch or dessert. Try it with a festive breakfast treat like a pear and apple crisp or apple butter cinnamon rolls. For a late night treat, serve it beside a cookie platter piled with cream cheese oatmeal cookies.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
Hazelnut Eggnog with Bourbon and Cloves
- 1 Cup Hazelnuts
- 2 Cups Milk
- 1 ½ Cups Heavy Cream divided
- 5 Egg Yolks
- ¾ Cup Sugar
- ½ Cup Bourbon optional
- pinch Ground Cloves for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 300°F Spread the nuts on a foil-lined baking sheet, and toast for 30min, until warm and fragrant, stirring halfway. Let cool for about ten minutes, then transfer the nuts to a bowl with a lid or food storage container. Shake vigorously to remove any skins, and discard them. Set the nuts aside.
- Add the toasted nuts, milk, and 1 cup of the heavy cream to a medium pot. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins steaming, about 190°F. Turn off the heat, and cover the pot. Let it sit for an hour or more to infuse.
- Pour the milk mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Discard the nuts, or set them aside for a different use. Rinse out the pot, and add the strained milk mixture back in.
- Heat the milk mixture again, over medium-high, watching it carefully. Allow the liquid to begin to just start to bubble on the edges, but do not let it boil. Turn off the heat.
- Meanwhile in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until lightened in color and smooth. Set aside until the milk mixture is ready. Then, while constantly whisking the eggs, use a ladle to spoon the milk mixture slowly into the bowl with the eggs. Continue whisking as you combine, until the milk is too low in the pot to ladle.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk. Cook on medium-high, stirring frequently, until a thermometer reads160°F. Turn off the heat, and stir in the bourbon. Then transfer the eggnog to a clean bowl. Cover and chill overnight.
- Just before serving, add the remaining whipped cream to a small, deep bowl or jar. Use the whisk attachment on a hand mixer to whip the cream. Begin on low speed, and slowly increase to high, whipping until peaks form, and the whipped cream holds its shape.
- Use a ladle to add the eggnog to glasses or mugs. Serve chilled, or warm in the microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute as desired. Add a dollop of whipped cream to each glass, and gently fold it into the liquid. Garnish with a dusting of cloves.
- This is a cooked eggnog, which means no raw eggs. If you prefer a more traditional eggnog, you can skip the step of cooking after you temper the eggs.
- You may be able to find hazelnuts with no skins or that are already toasted. If so, you can skip those steps to save some time.
- Make ahead tip: Store the eggnog in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. The whipped cream can be stored in a sealed container for up to a week, but it may begin to deflate. If so, just use the mixer to whip it again.