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 &  Hamentaschen --  At $17, this red wine from Israel is a good everyday Cab.  It needs a little time to breathe when you open it, but would pair pair nicely with a heavier dish like pasta and truffle sauce or beef ribs.  Rating 4 out of 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

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: 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

New Year’s Eve with Mumm

Hubby & me at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence; Me and Andrea from Of Vines & Velos at Bridlewood Estate Winery; and Hubby and me in front of our new home.

Hubby & me at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence; Me and Andrea from Of Vines & Velos at Bridlewood Estate Winery; and Hubby and me in front of our new home.

I admit it…I was sorry to see 2014 end.  It was a wonderful year for Hubby and me.  We started it off by celebrating the New Year and our 7th wedding anniversary in Rome and Florence, Italy.  In March, I was finally fully recovered from the major hip surgery I had in 2013, so I ran my first post-surgery half marathon on the one-year anniversary.  I attended the 2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Barbara, where I caught up with old wine friends and made some fantastic new ones (both of which you will be hearing more about over the coming weeks).  Hubby accepted a new job in August and is finally enjoying some job stability.  And, while we were in Vegas running our second half marathon of the year, Hubby and I found out that the offer we put on a new house was accepted.  So, we ended 2014 by leaving Virginia and moving into our new house in the District of Columbia…all right before the holidays.

Sadly, Hubby had the flu on New Year’s Eve 2015, so our plan to go out with friends was thwarted.  Instead, we curled up on the couch and watched a new-for-us series, “Ray Donovan,” and “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.”  And, of course, I opened a bottle of bubbly.

Mumm sparkling wine is a regular favorite in my house.  In fact, I enjoy it enough to split a wine club membership with a couple of the Wine Ladies.  So, I couldn’t resist open a bottle of their wine for New Year’s this year.

010 Mumm Blanc de Blancs

2010 Mumm Blanc de Blancs

The 2010 Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs (winery) is made in Napa Valley, California with a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Gris grapes.  It has a light-to-medium golden color with a lot of small, persistent bubbles.  On the nose, there are limes and apples.  In the mouth, there are limes, apples, and a hint of apricots and buttered biscuit.  The sparkler is light bodied with high acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? At $42 a bottle (or $33.60 if you’re a Mumm Club Vivant member), this bubbly is more of a nice dinner wine than one to open every day.  That said, if you’re looking for a romantic evening with oysters or having company and want a welcome bubbly to start the evening or pair a sparkler with salad, the Mumm Blanc de Blancs is very food friendly and would make the perfect pairing.  It is also worth considering if you’re looking for something to curl up with in front of a fire for a special evening at home, as the bubbly is beautiful on its own.  For me, while Hubby and I didn’t end up spending New Year’s as we planned, the Mumm helped cap off a fantastic 2014.

Question of the Day: What did you drink this New Year’s Eve?

Price: $42 a bottle (or $33.60 for Mumm Club Vivant members)
Purchased at Mumm Napa website
Overall: 4 Corks

A White & A Red Passover Wine

2013 Flam Blanc and 2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot10 years ago, Hubby agreed to spend our third date at my Passover seder with 20 of my closest friends in DC, only two of whom he’d met a few weeks earlier.  Most of my friends weren’t Jewish, so I’d hoped that would help put him at ease, since he also isn’t Jewish.  Still, it was an intimidating scene for him to walk in on.  Those seders had been a long-standing tradition before we met, and continued even after we were together.  He always helped me host, even though it wasn’t a holiday that had religious meaning to him, because it served as a Spring Thanksgiving for my DC family and was important to me.  I would invite everyone over, regardless of religion.  We would read the Haggadah, eat my Passover food, and drink a lot more than the 4 glasses of wine called for in the Haggadah.

For a variety of reasons, Hubby and I haven’t done the big Passover meal for awhile, but we’ve continued to have wonderful Passovers.  This year, when we realized it was the first time in awhile that we didn’t have plans, he offered to make a special dinner so we could celebrate.  We bought a turkey breast, since he’s not a fan of brisket.  I made some knaidels (a modified version of what my Nana used to make), and Hubby made a “modern” potato kugel.  And, of course, ever seder has to have wine…and I happened to have both a bottle of white and a bottle of red.

2013 Flam Blanc

2013 Flam Blanc

The 2013 Flam Blanc (winery, snooth) is from the Judean Hills in Israel and is made from 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Chardonnay grapes.  The wine was a light lemon yellow with a few small bubbles lingering on the bottom of the glass.  On the nose, there were limes, pineapples, and Granny Smith apples.  In the mouth, there were limes and Granny Smith apples with hints of pineapple and wet stone.  The wine had a light body and high acidity.

Price: $28
Purchased at: Kosherwine.com
Overall: 4 Corks

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot

The 2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot (winery, snooth) is from the Judean Hills in Israel and had a deep ruby color.  On the nose, there were blackberries, cocoa dust, and instant espresso with hints of earth, cedar, and dark plums.  In the mouth, there were blackberries, cocoa dust, and dark plums with hints of cedar and nutmeg.  The wine had a medium-to-full body, medium-to-high acidity, and medium-to-full tannins.

Price: $35
Purchased at: Kosherwine.com
Overall: 4.5 Corks

Final Thoughts: The Flam Blanc was fantastic with the meal.  The high acidity cut right through the fat in the matzo balls and the heaviness of the kugel, as well as served as the perfect compliment to the turkey.  It kept my mouth refreshed, so that each bite after a sip emphasized the flavors of the food all over again.  If I didn’t know better, I would think this wine was made with a turkey dinner in mind (and yes, you should think about putting this on your Thanksgiving wine list).

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot corkThe Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot, on the other hand, was a brooding wine that also paired well with the turkey and potatoes.  Unlike the Flam, which kept the food tasting fresh, the Shiloh enhanced the spices of the meal, giving it a deeper flavor.  It made for slower eating and savoring.  This is a wine that that was gorgeous with dinner in 2014, but is also a wine that I would love to open again in 2018 or 2019.  It has characteristics that I think will age nicely, and at this price range, it wouldn’t cost too much extra to cellar a bottle or two.

That all said, the reality is both of these wines are out of the “everyday” price range for most of us, but the unfortunate reality is that kosher wines are often $10-$15 more expensive than their non-kosher equivalents.  If you keep kosher or are just willing to pay the a little more for a good wine, these are two wines that are worth it.  The Flam Blanc made for a better pairing with the meal, while the Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot was the slightly better all-around wine.  Overall, though, they were both fantastic.

Question of the Day: What did you open for your seder on the first night of Passover?

Chag Sameach (Happy Passover) to everyone celebrating!

Italian Wine Sunday

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

alentine Blossom cookie instagramSunday, February 10th capped off a busy weekend.  After celebrating Hubby’s 35th birthday on Thursday, going for dinner at Michel Richard’s Central and the theatre on Friday, and running errands and 13 miles on Saturday, I spent Sunday baking Chocolate Valentine Kiss cookies for my coworkers, gossiping with my knitting group while finishing a pair of socks I was working on, editing pictures from Italy, and watching Sunday night TV with Hubby.  The pictures inspired me to open a bottle of Italian red wine, and it was the perfect wine for a Sunday evening.

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso

The 2010 Bolla Creso Rosso (winery, snooth) is a red wine from Valpolicella, Italy and is made with 65% Corvina and 35% Cabernet grapes.  The wine is deep ruby with flecks of purple.  On the nose, there are cherries, plums, smoke, and allspice.  In the mouth, there are sour cherries, plums, cocoa, and hints of smoke and cedar.  The wine was full-bodied, had medium-to-high acidity, and big, velvety 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 an SRP of $19, this wine was everything I loved about the wines I drank while Hubby and I were in Italy—bold, flavorful, and something to savor over an evening together.  The Bolla Creso paired well with the meatloaf and roasted potatoes that Hubby made for dinner, and it continued to drink well on its own, long after we finished eating.  Before I knew it, the bottle was almost empty…a clear sign that I enjoyed it.

Question of the Day: Do you like Italian Red wines?  What is your favorite?

Suggested Retail Price: $19
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks