tried and true

some of my greatest joys in life are cooking and entertaining (in a former career i ran my own catering company), so i love when i find ways to bring a little of that over here to the G&H blog! today's tried and true is a fun drinkable treat, and just in time for the 4th, since this one was invented right here in the good  ol' US of A. today we're talking egg creams!

at modern day soda fountain Brooklyn Farmacy, a 'jerk' whips up an egg cream
{photo by Jacob Pritchard, via Edible Brooklyn}
egg cream? that doesn't really sound like a drink, i know, but fear not- in spite of it's name, this classic New York drink is actually egg free. the origin of the egg cream is the subject of much debate, but this much we know- sometime in the 1880's several candy shops and soda fountains in New York City began serving this concoction of milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer water with a frothy head. some say the original recipes contained eggs, hence the name, while others say the name references the egg white like froth on top of the drink. regardless of it's origin, it quickly became a staple at soda fountains everywhere. today it's difficult to find one outside of New York, though some of the old fashioned soda fountains throughout the country still serve them. 

i honestly don't remember where i first heard of an egg cream, but it sounded tasty and since i was nowhere near NYC i decided to try and make one at home. i wouldn't say i've perfected it yet, but it's fun (and delicious) to practice! want to give it a try yourself? i'll show you how...

now the original egg cream was chocolate, but a vanilla version came about shortly after and that's my favorite (though i'll share how to make the chocolate version as well).

to whip one of these up at home you'll need:

ice cold whole milk (you may want to quickly chill it in the freezer to get it cold enough) 
vanilla simple syrup (recipe below) or a thin chocolate syrup like Fox's U-Bet
seltzer water-preferably from a soda siphon (you need fast stream of water to create the froth)
a 12-16 oz glass
a bar spoon or other long spoon

step one: pour two tablespoons of the vanilla syrup into the bottom of the glass. 

step two: pour 2-3 ounces of whole milk into glass.

step three: using as fast and thin a stream as possible, add seltzer water to milk. a frothy head should form at the top. if you aren't using a soda siphon, in order to create froth you'll need to pour the seltzer into the glass while vigorously stirring with the spoon. also, make sure it's seltzer water, not club soda or tonic water as the flavor won't be right.

step four: without lift the bowl of the spoon from the bottom of the glass, stir any syrup remaining at the bottom into the milk mixture. gently lift the spoon straight up out of the glass.

if you prefer chocolate, just follow the steps above, omiting the vanilla syrup. once you've created the froth at the top, pour 2-3 tablespoons chocolate syrup straight down through the froth. stir using method described above.

according to many purists, if you've made a chocolate egg cream properly, there will be a white frothy head, with just a dot of chocolate on the top.

another variation i've tried is using a mixture of milk and cream (half and half would probably work as well). this creates a fluffier froth at the top.

and that's it- you've made an egg cream! how did it turn out? i'd love to hear about it!

oh, and as promised, here's my vanilla simple syrup recipe:

1 cup sugar (i use evaporated cane juice, which makes the syrup look darker)
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste
2 tsp of pure vanilla extract

in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring water to a boil. add sugar and reduce heat to low, stirring just until sugar is dissolved. remove from heat. pour into a large glass measuring cup.

to release the 'seeds' from inside the vanilla bean, run a sharp knife, horizontally along the middle, being careful to not cut all the way through. your vanilla bean should now be flayed open on one side and you can see the sticky seed paste. using knife, scrape the seed paste into the syrup. set the bean aside.

add the vanilla extract and allow to cool, about 2 hours. transfer to a bottle or other glass storage container, add vanilla bean and refrigerate. syrup will have the vanilla seeds floating in it, which i like the look of, but if you don't, just filter it through a fine cheesecloth before bottling it and leave the seed out.

this recipe makes about 3 cups and will keep about 4 weeks in the fridge. it's also great in italian sodas, coffee, and cocktails. you can even use it to sweeten fruit for desserts or use it as a crumb sealer on cakes.

i hope you enjoyed this little lesson in egg creams and feel inspired to try it yourself!