I first made Advocaat (a traditional Dutch eggnog) for my father at Christmas time when I was somewhere in my mid-teens. It was my first time, and my last time…
Knowing nothing of the fine art of cooking a custard, I overheated it and the mixture split. Determined not to waste the expensive ingredients, I gave it to him anyway. Not surprisingly, the advocaat got tossed down the sink.
That was a long… long… long… time ago, but the memory of it still smarts just a little! So, I thought it was high time I laid that ghost to rest and tried making it again.
Advocaat is an iconic Dutch liqueur made up of brandy, eggs and sugar. It tends to be served around Christmas time though really it can be served at any time of the year. It’s hard to describe the taste, except to say that it’s rich and creamy like a custard, with a warm kick of alcohol as you swallow it. In Dutch households it’s traditionally served in a tiny glass, complete with a dollop of cream on top, and a spoon to ‘eat’ it with.
While the drink is typically served ‘straight’, you can make some pretty yummy cocktails with it – add some lemonade and you have a ‘Snowball’, or some VOK cherry brandy and lemonade and you get what used to be called a ‘Fallen Angel’, though some other cocktail claims that name now. This very drinkable cherry red concoction was always my favourite tipple growing up, so I’m hanging out to make it this Christmas. Anyway… long story short. I am thrilled to announce that my advocaat making, some 35 odd years after the first attempt, was a success (dare I say, better than the bought stuff?!). It was beautifully thick and unbelievably creamy; and the taste… hmm, like liquid caramel custard on steroids. It was SO good, I couldn’t keep my hands off it and downed a couple of drinks before breakfast – made for a good start to the working day, I can tell you!
A big thanks to Henry Dimbleby on The Guardian.com site for this recipe. My family, for whom Advocaat was always a decadent, but prohibitively expensive treat, will be forever grateful!
- 8 egg yolks (I use organic, free-range)
- 200g (7 oz) caster sugar (superfine)
- Pinch of salt
- Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
- 350ml (11.8 fl oz) brandy* (you can reduce this amount if you prefer it less strong)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Using an electric mixer, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt with the vanilla seeds for about 3 minutes until very pale and thick.
- Turn the mixing speed down a bit and slowly add the brandy while you continue to beat, until completely combined .
- In a double boiler or using a metal bowl over simmering water, heat the egg mix over a LOW heat, whisking until it is very thick**. I took it to 70C (155F) using a temperature gauge. It's vital you take the heating process slowly or the mixture will split (it took me a good 20 minutes to get it to the right consistency). When ready, it will be very hot, but not yet simmering.
- Take immediately off the heat and stir in the vanilla essence and allow to cool.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge - it should last for up to a week. Just give it a good stir just before you serve.
- Serve in a small glass with a dollop of softly whipped cream on top.
**The recipe I used suggested the mixture was ready when it coated the back of a spoon. However, this doesn't work as the mixture is already that thick when you start cooking it. You need to take it to a point where, if you hold up the whisk, the mixture will fall in a ribbon and sit briefly on top of the surface before slowly sinking back in.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting