I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Milk Punch and Cookies

Milk Punch has roots in New Orleans, with a history as a hair-of-the-dog remedy.   In fact, my best milk punch memory is enjoying a bit too much at a wonderful wedding brunch in New Orleans.  And now, that bride makes milk punch for a Christmas party every year.  I have to admit though, I make it differently from my friend.  I’ve had milk punch that is just milk and bourbon with a sprinkling of nutmeg and I have seen many recipes that use melted vanilla ice cream as the milky base.  I split the difference, mixing up a sweet, creamy syrup lightly spiced with holiday flavors to stir in cold milk.  Then I dose it with good bourbon, serve it over ice and grate a dash of nutmeg. And to reinforce that Crescent City connection, I like to listen to one of my favorite seasonal songs, Louis Armstrong singing ‘Zat You, Santa Claus while whipping up a batch.

I love the idea of serving fudgy cookies with milk punch.  Sure, you can fill a punch bowl with a big batch of punch and arrange a plate of cookies beside it.  But I think a glass of milk punch and a little stack of cookies would make an amusing dessert for a grown-up dinner party, adding a touch of whimsy to a sophisticated event.  These gently spiced cookies are rich with chocolate, soft and sweet, just perfect for dipping in milk punch.  Plus, they can be made ahead, stored in the fridge or frozen, and baked fresh.

Milk Punch and Cookies

Milk Punch

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup sugar

½ vanilla bean

2 sticks cinnamon

4 cardamom pods

1 quart whole milk

Bourbon

Nutmeg

In a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid, stir together the cream and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.  The mixture may turn buttery yellow.  Just when it hits the boil, remove the pan from the heat.  Split the vanilla been and scrape out the seeds and drop them in the cream.  Add the cinnamon sticks and the lightly crushed cardamom pods.   Cover the pot and leave to cool completely.

When the creamy syrup is cool, strain it into a pitcher, add the milk and stir well to combine.  Fill a punch glass or highball with ice, add 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons bourbon and fill with milk mixture.  Sprinkle nutmeg over the top of each glass.

Makes about 5 ½ cups punch, can be doubled or more

Chocolate Spice Cookies

2 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 Tablespoons butter

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Dash of cayenne pepper

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate, butter and condensed milk in a large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave at medium power for 45 seconds, remove the bowl and stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted and everything is combined.  If needed, microwave in 15 second bursts until everything melts.  The mixture will be thick. Alternately, you can carefully melt everything together in a large pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices with a fork.  Dump into the chocolate mixture and stir beginning to come together. Add the egg and vanilla and stir until the dough it all combined.  It’s a thick batter and will take a little elbow grease.  Chill the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes, then divide into three equal portions.  Cut three lengths of waxed paper and use each to roll a portion for dough into a log.  Wrap tightly and keep in the fridge until ready to bake, up to three days.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Take the cookie logs out of the fridge and allow to soften for a few minutes, then use a sturdy serrated knife to slice the logs into ¼ inch slices.  Place on the prepared sheets and bake 8 minutes, until the cookies are puffed in the center.  Remove from the oven and cool on the pans.

Makes about 60 cookies

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