08 September, 2011

Happy Birthday, Julia (and Xandria) - Lambrusco Cupcakes are a sweet ending to #Dw2d2

August 15th was National "Drink Wine with Dinner!" day and it was so popular, it kept going the whole month of August.  It was interesting to see what others were putting together.  The BrixChicks all got together and did some experimenting with wines and pairing that came exclusively from Trader Joe's.  I did Julia's potato Leek soup with a great Washington state Sauvignon Blanc. And TJ's made it easy to buy the pre-trimmed leeks.  Slice them on a mandolin, dice some potatoes simmer with water and in 30 minutes, I had a blender full of creamy, yummy, vegan  soup!  Of course, I then doused it with creme fraiche ribbons and pancetta (on a different occaision with sherry vinegar, garlic aioli and more pancetta and it was off the hook).  But I was most impressed with my sparkling treasure.  $4.99 for sparkling Lambrusco!  Such a deal for a festive, fruity and delicious treat.  One of the principles in our friend Rosina Wilson's eBook is to match like with like.  Fruity sweet Lambrusco has the sweetness and the structure to stand up to a cupcake.  To amp the pairing up a bit, I made a thick Lambrusco syrup that turned the dessert from phoned-in, boxed mix cupcakes into something special.

To make the syrup, I took an extra bottle of Lambrusco (at $4.99 it invites experimentation) and combined it with 2/3 cup sugar and heated it over medium low heat for 40 minutes to reduce the mixture to a thick syrup, being careful not to scorch the wine.

While it was reducing, I removed the 2 tablespoons of liquid and substituted it for the required water in the frosting mix.  The reduced Lambrusco syrup infused the white frosting and tinted it a lovely pinky lilac color.  When the cupcakes were cooled, I punctured the tops with a wooden toothpick and brushed them liberally with the Lambrusco syrup.  I let them set overnight.  After they were frosted, in a Cupcake War winning move, I garnished with a candied Hibiscus flower.

For the wine, '08 Le Grotte Lambrusco, Emiliano Romagna, Italy: dark ruby color with sparkle and sweetness without being cloying.  A pleasant grapey flavor with hints of tart fruit and fizz.  8.5% alcohol means it's a party wine sans lampshade.  We paired it with cupcakes, but they suggested pork and beef dishes.  I could so see it with Chinese food.  All in all a perfect Drink Wine with Dinner ringer, since at an easy to pair and easy on the wallet $4.99, there's no excuse not to drink wine with dinner!

I timed my efforts and came in at 1 hour 21 minutes.  Trader Joe's did all the heavy lifting!  And under $40! Not bad for first course and dessert with wine pairings for 6!

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