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

Sweet Wine Sunday

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

Angove Family Winemakers cap Sunday, January 26 was a quiet day in the A Glass After Work household.  Hubby and I were both still recovering from Saturday’s long run.  Not to mention that it was freezing outside, and the condo was just too warm and comfortable to leave.   So, I spent the day editing photos from Italy, baking oatmeal raisin cookies for my coworkers, blogging, and just lounging around.

Hubby is taking a Coursera course for fun, so he spent Sunday working on his first paper.  We often eat one larger meal in the late afternoon on Sundays, so once I finished baking in the kitchen, he pulled together a big (well, big for two people) Sunday dinner—baked ham and garlic mashed potatoes.  In the grand scheme, it wasn’t a very exciting day, but it was relaxing and perfect.

2012 Nine Vines Moscato

2012 Nine Vines Moscato

The 2012 Nine Vines Moscato (winery) is from South Eastern Australia and is made with 100% Moscato grapes.  The wine was a very pale, greenish yellow color.  On the nose, there were apricots, pineapples, and passion fruit.  In the mouth, there was passion fruit sorbet, lemon Italian ice, pineapple, and apricots.  The wine had a light-to-medium body, good acidity, and a bit of sweetness.

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, this wine has an amazing quality/price ratio.  It’s sweet without being syrupy, and the acidity is bright without being shocking or overpowering.  If you’re a sweeter wine lover, this is definitely a wine worth checking out.  And, if sweeter white wines aren’t your style, you should try it anyway because I think the balance of acidity and flavors makes it enjoyable for even the most skeptical-of-sweeter-wine drinkers.  Unfortunately, though, for all of you non-USA readers, this wine is only available in the US.

All in all, not only will this wine be refreshing on a hot summer night or make a good picnic wine, but also it will pair perfectly with a salty, warm winter meal.  I couldn’t have picked a better pairing for this wine then the Hubby’s baked ham and garlic mashed potatoes.  The acidity in the wine cut through the heaviness of the ham in a way that helped highlight the flavor of the meal without enhancing the saltiness.  It also helped keep my palate fresh, which allowed me to enjoy the wine itself while still keeping every bite flavorful.

Question of the Day: Do you do big Sunday night dinners or are they just another night in your house?

Suggested Retail Price: $10
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4 Corks

No Magic in Voodoo Moon

For some reason, when it comes time for vacation, many of my normal way of doing things get thrown out the window.  Weekday or not, I’ll enjoy my first drink at breakfast, and I’ll order both an appetizer and dessert with dinner.  Usually, these changes in my habits are some sort of splurge or self-indulgence.  The problem comes when I change my routine and give into the call of the fun wine labels.  It happens on almost every vacation.  It’s how I ended up with the 2008 Tahoe Cabernet Sauvignon while we were in Tahoe and the 2007 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc while we were at the beach (who could resist the starfish label at the beach?).  In both those instances, I lucked out and the wines were decent.  The problem is that unlike beer, where it’s much easier to say “I want a certain style of beer” (an IPA for example), look at the IPA section for a bottle with an intriguing label, and finding a delicious beer, the chances of finding a good wine when only looking at the “fun label” isn’t very good.  Still, I don’t seem to learn my lesson.  I go on vacation and feel the pull of wanting something that looks fun and adventurous, something different from what I would normally drink.  And, end up with this…

2011 Vinaceous Voodoo Moon MalbecThe 2011 Vinaceous Voodoo Moon Malbec (winery) is from the Willyabrup sub-region of Margaret River, Australia.  The wine was an almost incandescent, deep purple.  On the nose, there were blackberries, black cherry cola, tobacco, and earth.  In the mouth, there were tart cherries.  The wine had a light-to medium body and tannins.

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 $20, this wine this wine was a disappointment.  From the nose, it held a lot of promise.  In fact, I thought it was going to be amazing.  Sadly, when I actually tasted it, it was all acid and tartness.  I tried pairing it with the steaks hubby grilled on the dinner, but that didn’t help.  I tried pairing it with some fancy chocolate that I bought, thinking that it might bring out other characteristics in the wine, but it didn’t.  I tried enjoying it on the deck with a view of the ocean and my book, but that didn’t help either. In the end, I ended up switching to another bottle because vacation is way too short to spend it drinking wine that isn’t working for me, even if the label was a lot of fun.

Question of the Day:  How often do you buy wine based on the label?  Do you find yourself making label-based decisions more with beer?

Price: $20
Purchased at Tommy’s Gourmet Market and Wine Emporium
Overall: 2 Corks

Ball Buster for The Barasso Boomerang

When I first started blogging, Australian wines frequented my wine glass.  However, I slowly started replacing my Australian Shiraz cravings with juicy California Zinfandels, and the next thing I knew, there wasn’t a wine from down under to be found in my wine rack.  Clearly, I’m not the only one who started leaving Australian wines behind because that was the topic Wine Blogging Wednesday #76—Australian Comeback Kid-The Barossa Boomerang.

WBW turned out to be the perfect opportunity for me to fix my lack of Australian wine tasting.  Unfortunately, while I drank the wine, took pictures, and put together my notes, a ridiculously annoying cold left me with little energy to actually write the post, and WBW #76 came and went without a post from me.  Still, I wanted to share, so here is what should have been my post last Wednesday…

2009 Tait The Ball Buster

2009 Tait The Ball Buster

Sunday evening, after a morning of grocery shopping and an afternoon with finishing my first sweater at my monthly knitting group get together, I came home to a night of blogging, more knitting, and watching my favorite Sunday night TV shows.  Hubby said he was making a beef stir-fry for dinner, so I twisted off the top of my Australian Shiraz and settled in.

Tait The Ball Buster 2009 (winery) was from the Barossa Valley, Australia.  The wine was made from 73% Shiraz, 15% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and had a dark, purplish-ruby color.  On the nose and in the mouth, there were blackberries and black cherries with hints of chocolate dust, prunes, and molasses.  The wine was medium-to-full-bodied with solid tannins and good acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass of wine.  At $16, this wine was both food-friendly and Game of Thrones-friendly.  As a matter of fact, it turned out to be an appropriate pairing for last week’s episode, which was a real ball buster in itself.

That said, The Ball Buster didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  On the back label, Bruno Tait described the wine as “broad-shouldered, built like a stallion, and she packs an intensity of flavor,” so that is what I was expecting.  Unfortunately, though, I just didn’t find it.  The wine didn’t have enough body to be the “big, thick, juicy” wine Tait was trying to deliver.  So, while The Ball Buster was good, it just left me wanting more.

Question of the Day: Are you an Australian wine fan?  Have you noticed a change in your Australian wine purchasing habits over the last few years?

Price: $16
Purchased at Whole Foods Market
Overall: 3 Corks

Moody Bitch Grenache (Wine Blogging Wednesday)

The theme for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday (#67), which is being hosted by 1WineDude, is “Seeing Red For the First Time.”  For those of you who are new to WBW, the idea is that wine bloggers everywhere will write a review on the same basic theme, and this month that means all the participants will be posting about wines they would use to introduce a white wine drinker to red wines, so all of you exclusive white wine drinkers should take some good notes.

For me, the timing of this theme could be better, as this weekend, I’m getting together with 6 of my friends for a “girls weekend,” and, of course, I’m the one in charge of brining the wine…and lots of it.  While putting together a wine list has been fun, it’s also been a challenge to find wines to match the various tastes without buying everyone their own bottle.  One girlfriend, in particular, is a fresh, fruity white wine drinker who tends to drink sweet Rieslings and completely avoids red wines.  That said, she issued a challenge, saying that maybe I could convince her with a really good one, but that warm, dry wine typically makes [her] gag.”  So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw this month’s WBW theme, as it not only gives me the opportunity to work through my own ideas, but also will give me a wealth of knowledge in other people’s finds.

After going back and forth on whether to go big and bold with a Zinfandel or sweet and fruity with a Grenache, I decided to look for a 100% Grenache.   In addition to the sweet jamminess, Grenache is lower in tannins, and big tannins are something I think white wine drinkers might find off-putting.  In many ways, Grenache is all of the things that my girlfriend likes about white wine, but from a red grape.  Plus, raspberry and strawberry flavors seem like a friendlier way to ease a white wine drinker into the world of reds, rather than something that has harsher black fruit or herbaceous characteristics or that has more funkier flavors like earth or leather.

Admittedly, I toyed with the idea of buying a rose, but in the end, felt that a full red wine was the better choice.  However, to combat the dislike of warm wine, I cooled the bottle to more of a cellar temperature, since red wines often are served to warm (and white wines often are served to cold).

The wine I decided to open is the 2008 Bitch Grenache (snooth), made by R Wine Winemakers in South Australia and imported by Grateful Palate Imports.  It was a medium ruby with a pinkish, watery rim.  On the nose, there were ripe strawberries and raspberries preserves, followed by a hint of white pepper and cinnamon.  In the mouth, there were strawberries, raspberries, and red currants with a touch of cream, cinnamon, and white pepper.  The wine had high acidity and  alcohol, with soft, smooth tannins and a light-to-medium body.

 

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $15, this wine is a great everyday wine—refreshing, food-friendly, and flirty with a little bit of hotness and attitude.  That said, I think the wine is a little too acidic and has too much heat from the alcohol to be the perfect wine for a white-wanna-turn-red-wine-drinker.  I still think Grenache is a good option, but Bitch just seems a little too moody to be the right wine for this task.  However, if you’re already a red wine lover, you may want to consider grabbing a bottle if you see one.

Overall: 3.5 Corks