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

Tröegs Brewing Company Beer Dinner at Willow Restaruant

Troegs Pale Ale Welcome Beer and menu

Troegs Pale Ale –Our welcome beer and the menu

On February 19th, several friends and I went to a Tröegs Brewing Company beer and dinner pairing at Willow Restaurant.  I’ve been to several of beer and wine pairing dinners there before, and it’s always a fun experience.  There is always someone from the brewery/winery to walk attendees through the tasting, and often the restaurant will unveil a new dish or serve something that is made specially for the tasting.  In fact, one of my favorite dishes at Willow, the Pigs in a Blanket (a Jamie Stachowski French Garlic Sausage wrapped in house-made puff pastry, baked until golden brown, and served with a black garlic aioli) was introduced at a Flying Dog Brewery beer pairing event I attend there in last fall.

Sadly, the restaurant wasn’t as organized with Tröegs dinner, although that was definitely no fault of the brewery.  There wasn’t a new dish unveiling, the food arrival and beer pouring wasn’t timed well, and there was general confusion through much of the event.  That said, the Tröegs representative was very knowledgeable and friendly, and he did his best to try and work with the chaos that seemed to be happening.  All in all, the food was good and the beer was delicious, so, while the event wasn’t as smoothly run as previous ones, a good time was still had by all.

Tröegs Pale Ale

Tröegs Pale Ale

Tröegs Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Medium copper color
Grapefruit, limes, and some maltiness mixed with a hint of something floral.
Medium bodied and refreshing.
Overall, this “welcome beer” was a good way to start the evening.  It cleared the palate, even if it wasn’t something out of the ordinary.
3 Corks

Tröegs Nugget Nector and Creamy Oyster Chowder

Tröegs Nugget Nectar & the creamy oyster chowder

Tröegs Nugget Nectar
American Amber/Red Ale
Available Seasonally (February-March)
Medium-to-deep amber with strong orange flecks
Apricot, hints of pine resin
A strong bitterness that works with the body and flavors of the beer.  Not for the non-hops lover.
Pairing = a creamy oyster chowder with winter vegetables.  The strong bitterness helped cut through the creaminess of the chowder, which made it a nice pairing.
4.5 Corks

Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale & Smokehouse Flatbread

Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale & the Smokehouse Flatbread

Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Deep amber color
Some citrus, pine, and dust
Bitterness and sweetness, but in a way that isn’t balanced or mixed together
Light-to-medium body
Pairing = the Smokehouse Flatbread, which was made with house smoked pulled chicken, creamy leeks, fried shallots, thyme, and Ilchester smoked cheddar.  The beer worked with its strong flavors.  That said, this was the weakest course all the way around, as neither the beer nor the food left me very excited.
2.5 Corks

Tröegs Perpetual IPA

Tröegs Perpetual IPA

Tröegs Perpetual IPA
Imperial Pale Ale
Medium golden-orange
Grapefruit, hints of spiciness and smokiness
Nice balance
Paring = Seared Day Boat Scallops with goat cheese and fines herb risotto and a blood orange vinaigrette
4.5 Corks

Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock & the duck duo

Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock & the duck duo

Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock
Doppelbock
Medium brown with flecks of amber and a beige, foamy head
Molasses mixed with breadiness and hints of nutmeg, figs, and cream
Medium-to-full bodied with nice balance
Pairing = Duo of Duck, which was a duck breast with duck confit, spiked french green lentils, turnip grating, and a Tröegenator-infused duck jus
4.5 Corks

Tröegs Dream Weaver & Kate's Bread Pudding

Tröegs Dream Weaver & Kate’s Bread Pudding

Tröegs Dream Weaver
Hefeweizen
Hazy medium gold
Yeasty with bananas and cloves with hints of white pepper
Light-to-medium body
Pairing = Kate’s Banana Bread Pudding with salted caramel ice cream and spiced pecans
3 Corks

Question of the day: Have you gone to a beer pairing dinner?  What brewery was it and what did you think?

A Back Burner Celebration

Last Tuesday was both busy and stressful.  Like the rest of the country, everyone in my office was feeling the tension from the debt ceiling debate, and most of us had done everything we could do except wait.  So, the 10 of us in the Big Room spent a lot of time discussing the various scenarios.  It was stressful and interesting, but mostly stressful.  After lunch, though, most of the uncertainty was gone.  The Big Boss came by in the mid-afternoon to check-in on us and to say thank you, as many of us spent the last few weeks staying late and working on the weekends.  All in all, it was the type of day that left me physically and mentally drained, so I was happy to stop by the local wine store and distress while picking about wine options for a wedding shower.  I couldn’t not purchase something for myself while I was there, but, oddly enough, I walked out of the store with a beer instead of wine.

Southern Tier Brewing Company Back Burner Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale

The Southern Tier Back Burner Barley Wine (brewery) was an Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale.  According to the Southern Tier Brewing Company’s website, “British farmhouse brewers made special ales using the first runnings of the mash…At Southern Tier, this long awaited brew is placed on the back burner until the start of the new year. It’s conceived in three small batches, using voluminous amounts of barley and hops.”

The beer had a gorgeous deep amber color and a thick, foamy top.  It had a strong hoppy flavor that was smoothed out with a pleasant creaminess.  For dinner that night, Hubby marinated chicken in soy sauce and garlic, mixed in fresh broccoli and sautéed it.  The strong flavors of the soy sauce and the beer complimented each perfectly.  I think I sighed with every sip.

The brewer says the Back Burner Barley Wine is “a celebration of things to come and things remembered” and, considering how the last couple of months have unfolded, that is certainly how I felt when I was drinking it!

Price: $10
Purchased at Arrowine
Overall: 5 Corks