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When, exactly, did the holidays come unmoored? Halloween starts encroaching when September still hasn't quite shed her hot days and Thanksgiving pilgrims pop up just as we've started to put a dent in our Trick or Treat stash. Saint Nick used to hold off til the Night Before Christmas but now his reindeer come prancing out long before Tom Turkey, with McDonald's Eggnog shake in tow.
Maybe it's the PTSD (that's Post Thanksgiving Sobriety Disinclination) talking, but any dessert that can accommodate a few ounces bourbon seems like the very definition of Happy Holidays to me.
Not that McDonald's Egg Nog shake is alcoholic. Just that, well, it should be. And hey, at least I had the decency to wait until December actually rolled around to get my Christmas Spirit on.
While eggnog recipes vary widely from household to household and formulas for the store bought variety shift by brand and region, Ronald McDonald's miracle of factory-formulated holiday cheer tastes the same from coast to coast.
None can say when Mickey D's first debuted their eggnog 'shake. In Politically Correct Holiday Stories for an Enlightened Yuletide, published in 1995, James Garner suggests someone "be force-fed 100 McDonald's eggnog shakes" as a punishment for a crime beyond the scope of my Google Books preview. For it to have gained enough notoriety to constitute a known threat, one must assume a debut no later than, say, 1994.
In my memory, the eggnog shake looked like any other shake, but in a paper cup printed with holiday designs. Today's version has been McCafe'd within an inch of its life, encased in a clear, Starbuckian vessel. It's capped with a thick head of "whipped cream" and a Maraschino cherry glowing brightly enough to put Rudolph outta business. According to the McDonald website, it contains no fewer than thirteen ingredients. To be clear, I'm talking about the cherry on top, not the shake itself.
Meanwhile, it takes no fewer than sixteen ingredients to make the whipped topping (shockingly, cream among them). Which brings us to 29 assorted sugars, preservatives, stabilizers, flavorings and colorants and we haven't even addressed what goes into the shake itself. Oh no, friends. McDonald's won't tell you what happens there, other than to hint that the eggnog shake may threaten those allergic to eggs.
To develop an eggnog shake of my own (with fewer ingredients than you'd find in a McDonald's cherry), I started with my Dairy Queen Blizzard recipe. Yes, I know. The sacrilege. Next, I doubled the yolks to put the egg into the 'nog. But spicing it proved a little trickier; straight up nutmeg tasted too simple compared to the real thing.
The McDonald's shake does taste primarily of nutmeg, but with a complicated, (chemical?) nuance of miscellaneous holiday spice. Complicated in that reverse-engineered-to-taste-like-plain-old-nutmeg sort of way. To approach this at home, I used chopped rather than ground or grated nutmeg. This yields a gentle nutmeg flavor which I further rounded out by briefly steeping cinnamon into the dairy. Finally, a shot of Frangelico adds that vaguely nutty nuance I think a McDonald's shake must absorb from the paper cups.
This base gets half churned in an ice cream maker to thicken it, then folded into whipped cream, for a spot-on McShake texture: slightly fluffy and with more body than melted ice cream, but thin enough to suck up a straw. The flavor screams Happy Holidays with or without a shot of something stronger mixed in at the end.
I'm loving it.
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About the Author: Stella Parks suffers from an unhealthy obsession with recreating the mass produced snacks of her childhood, but ironically is employed by a Frenchman to make the high brow desserts of his childhood. She blogs that dichotomy at bravetart.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thebravetart.