Sunday Baking: A Kosher Cab & Hamentaschen

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Purim, like many Jewish holidays, it celebrates how the villain’s plot to destroy the Jewish people was foiled.  The Jews are saved, and the villain is vanquished.  The holiday takes place before Passover, and it’s very festive.  In fact, there is usually a carnival-like celebration that includes plays and costumes, and Jews are supposed to drink so much on Purim that they can’t tell the difference between the cursed Haman and the blessed Mordecai, although how much alcohol that actually is remains unclear.  And, of course, there are cookies called hamentaschen!

While I didn’t make it to a Purim carnival this year, I did make poppy seed-filled hamentaschen.  Hubby had never had them before, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take my cookie baking skills up a notch.   Admittedly, they weren’t the prettiest cookies I’ve made, but they were recognizably hamentaschen.

2010 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon

To go with the baking fun, I opened a 2010 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth).  The wine is made in the Galilee region of Israel with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  It was a very dark purple with a hint of ruby on the rim.  On the nose, there were currants, blackberries, and dark cherries with a hint of nutmeg, black pepper, and vanilla.  In the mouth, there were dark fruits mixed with nutmeg and hints of vanilla, cocoa powder, and black pepper.  The wine had a full-body, good acidity, and strong tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine/beer in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At $17, this wine is a good everyday Cab, although it needs a little time to breathe to help take away some of the sharpness.  Finding a good kosher red wine under $20 continues to be challenge for me,so I was pleased to find this one.  It was enjoyable on its own, and I imagine it would pair nicely with a heavier dish like pasta and truffle sauce or beef ribs.  This wine also has a little bit of aging potential, so if you have the space, it may be worth buying a bottle to drink now, as well as a second bottle to enjoy in two or three years.

The cookies ended up being a big hit at work, particularly with my coworkers who had never tried hamentaschen before, but they were not such a hit at home.  Hubby ate one, said he was glad he tried it, and left the rest for me to take to work.  I thought they turned out well, and the poppy seed filling was a good match for the Gamla Cabernet.  All in all, it wasn’t the best pairing I’ve done, but it wasn’t the worst one either.

Question of the Day: Have you had a kosher red wine that you’ve enjoyed lately? (I’d love to hear your recommendations!)

Hamantaschen with Poppy Seed Filling
(*adapted from Rose Levy Beranabum’s recipe in The Baking Bible)

Ingredients for Poppy Seed Filling

  • 3/4 cup poppy seed
  • 1/1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon and 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons apricot jam

Directions for Poppy Seed Filling

  • In a spice mill or blender, grind the poppy seeds. They will fluff to about 1 cup.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the milk
  • Add the poppy seeds, stirring until milk is absorbed (a few seconds).
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add sugar, honey, lemon zest, and 1 Tablespoon jam.
  • Cool at room temperature.

Ingredients for Egg Glaze

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons milk

Directions for Egg Glaze

  • In small bowl, whisk yolk and milk.
  • Strain the mixture into another small bowl, pushing it through the strainer with the back of a spoon.
  • Discard the thicker part that does not pass through.

Ingredients for Dough

  • 1 stick butter, cold
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Hamentaschen and wine corkDirections for Cookies

  • In medium bowl, mix together flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In small bowl, mix together egg yolk, heavy cream, and vanilla. Set aside
  • Grind sugar in food processor until fine,
  • Cube the cold butter.
  • Add to food processor and pulse until sugar disappears.
  • Add flour mixture and pulse until the butter is no larger than small peas.
  • Add egg-cream-vanilla mixture and pulse until just incorporated, about 8 times. Dough should be crumbly pieces.
  • Place dough in plastic bag or on large sheet of plastic wrap and press until it holds together.
  • Knead a few times until it becomes one smooth piece and ensure there is no visible pieces of butter.
  • Press into ball.
  • Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  • Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit for 5 minutes or until you can roll it without cracking the dough.
  • Using floured rolling pin on a floured surface, roll dough into 1/2 inch thick rectangle.
  • Cut out 3-inch discs of dough
  • Place cookies on lined, chilled cookie sheets. Keep cookies about 2 inches apart.
  • Brush outer 1/2 inch of dish with thin coating of egg glaze (it’s not necessary to cover all the dough).
  • Place 1-2 teaspoons of poppy seed filling into the center of disc
  • Fold disc into triangle (Tori Avey has easy to follow directions on how to fold properly).
  • Brush outside of dough with thin coating of egg glaze for shine.
  • Once formed, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to help hold shape when baking.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F.
  • Bake for 6-8 minutes; rotate cookie sheet; bake for another 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Price: $17
Purchased at Kosherwine.com
Overall: 4 Corks

Sunday Baking: The 337 Cab & Red Velvet Hearts

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Red Velvet Roll-Out Heart Cookies

Red Velvet Roll-Out Heart Cookies

I’m a big fan of The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, as she makes gorgeous cookies and has fantastic tutorials.  So, when I saw her Red Velvet Roll-Out Cookies, I was dying to try them.  I used my desire to experiment as a reason to squeeze out a second week Valentine’s Day cookies this year.  Making this recipe required a little bit of planning ahead because I needed powdered buttermilk ($10 for 12oz on Amazon) and LorAnn Oils red velvet emulsion ($7 for 4oz on Amazon), but red velvet is one of my favorite things, so I was sure it was going to be worth it.

2012 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon

As I was rolling out the dough and making the hearts, I opened a bottle of 2012 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon (winery).  The wine was from Lodi, California and had a deep purplish, ruby color.  On the nose, there were black cherries and blackberries mixed with a hint of black pepper.  In the mouth, there were black cherries, blackberries, and hints of cedar and black pepper.  The wine was full-bodied with firm tannins and medium-to-high acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At an SRP of $13 a bottle, this wine is affordable, approachable, and delicious.  I paired it with the cookies because I thought that the richer flavors of red velvet and the plush flavors of the wine would mix well together…and they did…but it wasn’t the awesome match that I’d hoped to enjoy.  I think the wine would be much better served at a BBQ with some juicy ribs or with some good friends on the patio all on its own.

That brings me to the cookies, which were sadly a bit of a disappointment and may be the reason that the pairing just didn’t click for me.  The cookies definitely needed frosting, as the flavor was lackluster without it, but even the frosting made them just ok.  I don’t know what they needed, to be honest.  Maybe more vanilla…more salt…more cocoa powder?  They needed something, though.  I need some distance from these cookies before I attempt to fix the recipe to match my taste.

Overall, the cookies were not my thing, but the wine definitely was.  Together, they made for a fun Sunday evening of baking, and the cookies were definitely better with the wine, but in the case, I would stick to the Noble Vines 337 Cab and pass on the red velvet roll-out cookies.

Question of the Day:  I feel like it’s difficult to find a good Cabernet Sauvignon under $2…have you had a good Cab under $20 recently?

Suggested Retail Price: $13
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

An Affordable & Delicious Viognier

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

While I love to bake, I’m not a very good cook.  It’s not that I don’t like cooking, it’s just that I don’t really know what I’m doing and, beyond the couple of dishes that I do well, the things I try are range from not very good to inedible.  So, after a few years together, Hubby decided to take over the cooking…and he’s been the dinner maker ever since.

This year, I decided that it was time for me to take over dinner one night a week.  I’m starting out simple, and except for the weeks that I’ve been traveling for work, I’ve stuck to my plan.  Everything I’ve made has been edible, but only a couple of the dishes were actually good.  One of the successes was a broiled chicken breast with lemon and thyme, which I found in Food & Wine magazine.

And, as any good cook does, I opened a bottle of wine as I started the evening’s cooking adventure, which included my using almost every dish in the kitchen and only one instance of the fire alarm going off (significant improvement over the three times it went off the first week I made dinner).

2012 Fortant Hills Reserve Viognier

2012 Fortant Hills Reserve Viognier

The 2012 Fortant Hills Reserve Viognier (winery) is a Vin de Pays d’Oc, which is a wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in Southern France, and this wine is made with 100% Viognier grapes.  The wine was a medium lemon yellow.  On the nose, there were apricots, pears, and white flowers.  In the mouth, there were apricots, pears, and white flowers with hints of honey and pineapple.  The wine was medium body with a nice minerality and medium acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At an SRP of $13, this wine has an excellent quality-price ratio.  It has great flavors, is easy to drink, and is very food-friendly.  In fact, it was a beautiful pairing with the chicken breast and corn with thyme and butter that I made for dinner.

Long-time readers know that while I tend to be skeptical of grape-haters, Viognier is not one of my favorite types of wine.  In fact, several readers have been critical of my lack-of-love for the grape, so I’ve taken my own advice and been more open-minded towards it…and I’m happy that I have or I would have missed out on this wine.   If you’re looking for a great every day white wine, keep your eye out for the Fortant Hills Reserve Viognier.

Question of the Day: Are you the cook in your house?  How did you learn how to cook?  And, where do you get your dinner recipe ideas?

Suggested Retail Price: $13
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

Sunday Baking: Thumbprint Jam Cookies & Australian Grenache

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Happy Spring, everyone!  I’m sorry for falling way behind in blogging, but I was traveling for work and just couldn’t get it all done.  I’m back, though, as is Sunday baking!

I never had a chance to write about the Valentine’s Day cookies I made.  Admittedly, Hubby and I aren’t big Valentine’s Day people, but I do enjoy the festive cookies, so with the holiday being on a Saturday this year, I made cookies the week before Valentine’s Day and the week following it.

Thumbprint jam cookies

Thumbprint jam cookies

My first batch was a Valentine’s Day Thumbprint Cookie.  I’ve been working on perfected a plain thumbprint cookie base, as thumbprints are perfect for almost any occasion and can be filled with all kinds of goodies–jam, Hershey’s kisses, mini Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups, Rolos.  The possibilities are endless, but only if the cookie base is good.  And, I think I’m finally there.  I modified the recipe I found on Simply Recipes, and the cookies stayed true to form (my Christmas thumbprints spread out flat), had a nice consistency, and tasted like a cookie without being overly sweet.  I used an apple-pomegranate jam that I bought from a local jelly maker, as I thought both the color and the flavors would be perfect for Valentine’s Day

2010 Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard Grenache

2010 Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard Grenache

To pair with the cookies, I opened the 2010 Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Grenache (winery, snooth), which is from the McLaren Vale in Australia.  The wine was a deep ruby with flecks of purple.  On the nose, there were roses and cherries mixed with hints of strawberries and lavender.  In the mouth, there were cherries and vanilla mixed with white pepper, a smoky cedar box, and flowers.  The wine was medium-to-full bodied with good acidity and tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for?  When I received this as a sample, the prices were about half of what they are now.  The current vintage is selling on Wine.com for $66.  At $33, this wine would be a steal…at $66 it’s still worth the price, but becomes less of an every day wine.  The 2010 vintage still needed to breathe a little, but once it opened up, there were some beautiful, unusual flavors.  The wine was exactly what an Australian wine should be—fruit forward without being jammy, well-balanced, and complex.

Overall, the cookies were a nice take on the thumbprint with jam and will definitely be a recipe I make again.  And, the apple-pomegranate jam helped tie the cookies together with the fruity flavors of the wine to make an absolutely delicious pairing!

Question of the Day: Do you travel for work?  Does your “after work” drinking change while you’re on the road? 

Valentine’s Day Jam Thumbprint Cookies
(*adapted from Simply Recipes)
Yields: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup jam (I used Let’s Jam! Appom, which is an apple-pomegranate jam from a jam maker at DC’s Eastern Market)
  • Sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts if you want to decorate the cookies

Directions

  • In medium bowl, mix together flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  • Separate the eggs. (If using sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts, reserve the egg whites in a small dish and whisk until frothy, as the eggs whites will be used to make everything stick to the dough).
  • Add the yolks, and mix until combined.
  • Add vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • On low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until just blended (about 30 seconds).
  • Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats and place in refrigerator to chill.
  • Take a rounded tablespoon of chilled dough and roll between the palms of your hands to create 1-inch balls.
  • If using sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts, dip the balls into the egg whites then roll them into the sprinkles, sanding sugar, or nuts until covered.
  • Place cookies on lined, chilled cookie sheets. Keep cookies about 2 inches apart
  • Press to flatten slightly, then press your thumb into the center to make a small well for the jam (do not press too hard or the cookie will crack and fall apart).
  • Fill the small well with 1/2 a teaspoon of jam
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly firm.
  • Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Suggested Retail Price: $66
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4.5 Corks

What are you waiting for…it’s Open That Bottle Night!

Most of the wines I open for an everyday drinking are $20 or less.  However, since the move, I’ve found myself opening wines that I’ve been holding onto for unknown reasons.  I think packing everything up and seeing some of the great wines that I was holding onto for an unknown reasons left me wanting to just open and enjoy them all just for the sheer joy of enjoying fantastic wine.  Four out of the five wines I’ve reviewed since the big move have cost more than $30.  The most expensive one was an $80 bottle that I had been saving for almost five years.

Let’s be honest with each other, though…not only do I not normally open an $80 Malbec on a random Sunday night while I was baking cookies…neither do you.  But, there is something liberating and fun about throwing caution to the wind and opening that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a yet-to-be-determined “special event.”  And, that is why Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher started Open That Bottle Night.

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) takes place on the last Saturday in February, and it’s all about opening a bottle of wine that is special.  It could be a bottle that you bought on a  special vacation or it may be the most expensive bottle you’ve ever purchased.  Regardless, it’s that wine that stares at you every time you look at your wine rack and leaves you thinking “is today the perfect day?”

For me, I’m ending my crazy run of opening expensive, non-everyday wines on OTBN (and before I drink all of the special bottles I own).  I’m also participating in a blog hop with several other fantastic wine bloggers that I met last summer at the Wine Bloggers Conference (special thanks to Anne at Odd Ball Grape for organizing!).  With that in mind, it seemed only appropriate to open a wonderful wine that I bought in Santa Ynez, California at Bridlewood Estate Winery on the last day of the conference.

2009 Bridlewood Estate Winery Syrah

2009 Bridlewood Estate Winery Reserve Syrah

The 2009 Bridlewood Estate Winery Reserve Syrah (winery, snooth) is from Santa Ynez, California and is made with 100% Syrah grapes.  The wine was a deep clear purple with a bright ruby rim.  On the nose, there were black cherries, black licorice, and nutmeg mixed with the slightest hint of violets, black pepper, and earthiness.  In the mouth, there were black cherries, black licorice, dark chocolate, and hints of espresso, leather, and violets.  The wine had a full-body, good acidity, and strong tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At $50 a bottle, this wine is not cheap, but it’s worth the extra price if you’re looking for a wine that is a little extra special.  It’s what I look for in a big, bold red wine.  It has a nice complexity that makes it enjoyable to drink on its own, but also is wine that pairs nicely food, particularly with Hubby’s pork chops.

Question of the Day:  Did you participate in Open That Bottle Night?  If so, what did you indulge in?

Price: $50
Purchased at Bridlewood Estate Winery
Overall: 5 Corks