Sunday Baking: Spanish Garnacha & Strawberry Cookies

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

Bodegas Ruberte Tresor 2012 Garnacha corkMarch was a big work travel month for me. I spent the 9-17 in Austin for SXSWedu and SXSW, both of which were great conferences. I learned a lot at the sessions, had some fantastic networking opportunities, and even got to drink some great wine at places like Max’s Wine Dive. However, by the time I finally walked in the door late at night on March 17th, I was ready to be home. I missed Hubby and was tired of living out of a suitcase. Plus, conferencing is exhausting because you’re on all the time, so all I really wanted to do was to put on some comfy clothes, open some good wine, and hibernate for a few days. Since my cousin was coming into town that weekend, it wasn’t quite a full-on hibernation, but Hubby and I spent Sunday morning at brunch with her and her boyfriend, just catching up, eating good food, and enjoying each others company. After that, it was back home for some cookie baking and more relaxing.

By March 22, the weather was getting warmer, I had just spent a week in Austin with gorgeous weather, and I had a bad case of Spring fever. Nothing says Spring like strawberries, so I grabbed extras at the grocery store and decided to make Cream Cheese & White Chocolate Chunk Strawberry Cookies. To go along with the cookies, I opened a Spanish Garnacha.

2012 Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha

2012 Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha

The 2012 Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha (winery) is made in the Campo de Borja district in the northwest of the province of Zaragoza in Aragon, Spain. The wine was made with 100% Garnacha/Grenache grapes and was a bright medium-to-dark ruby red color. On the nose, there were Bing cherries and strawberries. In the mouth, there were Bing cherries, strawberries and hints of white pepper. The wine had a medium body, medium acidity, and low-to-medium tannins.

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 $10 a bottle, this wine has a great quality/price ratio. It was easily drinkable on it’s own, and I was sorry that I didn’t have some Serrano ham or Manchego cheese to pair with it. It would be a great summer red because it’s flavorful without being too heavy or having too much heat, although it is 14% abv so don’t let the fact that it’s well-balanced fool you into thinking that it’s low in alcohol.

As for the cookies, they turned out to be easy to make, and while they were a little heavier than I expected (probably due to the combination of butter and cream cheese), the flavor made for a nice treat.

Overall, the combination of the strawberries in the cookies and the red fruit flavors of the wine made the two a nice, Spring-y pairing. It was exactly what I needed after leaving the nice Austin weather and a long work-trip behind.

Question of the Day: Have you started transitioning to Spring and Summer wines yet?

Cream Cheese, White Chocolate, and Strawberry Cookies
(*adapted from OMG Chocolate Desserts)
Yields: 2 dozen

Bodegas Ruberte Tresor 2012 Garnacha and Cream Cheese, White Chocolate, & Strawberry Cookies

Bodegas Ruberte Tresor 2012 Garnacha and Cream Cheese, White Chocolate, & Strawberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons flour
  • 5 oz white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Pour lemon juice over chopped strawberries and let drain. Set aside.
  • In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  • Add cream cheese, and mix until combined.
  • Add eggs, and mix until combined.
  • Add vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • On low speed, add dry ingredients, and mix until just blended (about 30 seconds).
  • Stir in white chocolate with wooden spoon.
  • Sprinkle strawberries with 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Toss until all the strawberries are coated with a thin layer, then add gently to the batter.
  • 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.
  • Place cookies on lined, chilled cookie sheets. Keep cookies about 1-2 inches apart.
  • Press to flatten slightly.
  • Bake for 12 minutes or until edges become golden brown.
  • Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Suggested Retail Price: $10
Received as a sample.
Overall: 3.5 Corks

A White Wine Let Down

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

Southwest marinated chicken and garlic sauteed spinach

Southwest marinated chicken and garlic sautéed spinach

While I’m one of those rare people that really enjoys running on the treadmill, I’ve started to enjoy early morning runs in my new neighborhood.  There are a lot of other runners out, plus neighbors walking dogs, and everyone says hello as they pass.  Plus, the brick sidewalks and tree-lined streets make for pretty scenery.   Since I knew March 25 was going to be a busy day just by looking at my calendar, I woke up early to get in my 3 mile run around the neighborhood before work.  And, to top it all off…it was my night to make dinner!

I kept things pretty simple, as it seems like those are the dinners that tend to turn out better.  I made Martha Stewart’s Southwest Marinade, which I then used on some boneless chicken breast that I grilled.  The side dish was even simpler…sautéed garlic spinach.  I definitely need to work on the presentation of my dinners, but I thought both turned out well.  Hubby, on the other hand, wasn’t a big fan of the marinade.  I think it was the combination of sweet and citrus that just doesn’t seem to work for him.

2013 La Fou Els Amelers Garnatxa Blanca

2013 La Fou Els Amelers Garnatxa Blanca

As I started preparing dinner, I opened a 2013 LaFou Els Amelers Garnatxa Blanca (winery), which is a 100% Grenache white wine from the Terra Alta region of Spain.  It was a very pale straw yellow.  On the nose there were nectarines and pineapples with a hint of flowers.  In the mouth, there was a touch of honey immediately on the tongue, followed by pineapple and stone fruits.  The wine was light-to-medium bodied with medium acidity and a very dry finish.

Is this worth a glass after work? Eh…if you have a bottle on hand, drink it, but I wouldn’t go searching it out either At $18, this is a wine just doesn’t deliver what I expect at the price range.  It was very enjoyable at the start of the sip, but the flavor falls off the cliff on the finish, leaving me disappointed.  Pairing it with the southwest chicken breast, though, was great, which is what makes it hard to rate the wine because it was a good pairing.  This was a wine I really wanted to like because it is so different, yet comes from a region of Spain that often makes wines I don’t just like…they generally make wines I love.  Maybe I would like one of the wineries other selections better, but honestly, pairing LaFou Garnatxa Blanca with the chicken isthe only way I would drink this wine.

Question of the Day: What do you do with a bottle of wine that you open but don’t love…do you finish it anyway?  Do you put it aside to cook with?  Do you dump it down the drain?  Something else?

Suggested Retail Price: $18
Received as a sample.
Overall: 2.5 Corks

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