We all know that this holiday season is going to be very different in comparison with those of years past, but that is no reason to abandon tradition or the fun and festivities of the season. Of course, there will be less travel and a lot less entertaining, but you can still have fun at home, making some simple but special treats for a cozy night with your family, (or perhaps a couple of your besties), maybe even in front of a roaring fire, listening to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (my personal favorite) on the record player.
So we thought, what is simple but simply delicious for a cold December evening? Why mulled wine of course! And we were thinking that ice cream sandwiches might be a great compliment, but then I remembered an absolutely amazing gelato shop here in Portland, and instead of full sandwiches, which may be structurally difficult using gelato, we thought that making some shortbread cookies and topping them off with a big scoop of gelato would make for an interesting variation as well as really compliment the warm spiced wine.
And, when was the last time you can say you had an “open-faced” ice cream sandwich??
You will want to make the spiced wine just before serving, so let’s first deal with getting some gelato and making some cookies!
A few years ago, a gelato shop opened on SE Division St. with little pomp or circumstance, but before you knew it, they settled right in and it seemed like they had been there forever. It’s called Pinolo Gelateria and I personally think it could be the best Gelato this side of Rome.
They have a few adventurous flavors, but in general, they stay very traditional. For this project, I decided that their classic “Stracciatella” would work best (although I was tempted by the hazelnut!) Stracciatella, one of the most renowned Roman flavors, takes their classic milk-based flavor, “Fior Di Latte” and drizzles in chocolate creating little shreds, (this is where Stracciatella literally gets its name.)
Once this has been safely procured, it is time to make the shortbread cookies. Shortbread is one of the easiest cookies to make. Since there is no rising agent involved, what you see is what you get, so keep that in mind when forming the cookies. I recommend making them slightly on the thicker side, so they will support the gelato.
Classic Shortbread Cookies
1 C (2 sticks) softened, unsalted butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 TBS water—to be used just in case the dough is too flaky
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add flour and salt until combined. Press together well with your hand, wrap tightly in Saran Wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
On a floured surface, roll out dough to your desired consistency, about 1/4” inch thick. If the dough is not holding together, add little drops of water and reform with your hands until it does.
You can cut the cookies into any shape – I chose circular for this project. You can reform the extra dough to make more cookies.
Place rounds onto a sheet pan with parchment paper and bake until just turning golden, 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through so they cook evenly.
Now that we have all that ready to go, it’s time to get to the fun stuff…making the mulled wine.
Holiday Mulled Wine
1 full bottle of Underwood Pinot Noir
1 Clementine or Satsuma Orange cut into chunks, plus one for garnishing glasses
Juice of 2 oranges
6 whole cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
3 whole star anise
1/4 C Bee Local Honey
1/2 C Cointreau
Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to the lightest simmer. Make sure honey is fully dissolved. Shut off the burner before it boils so you don’t cook the alcohol out of the Underwood and Cointreau. Allow it to sit, covered, for 10 minutes then strain out the liquid into a ceramic pot to keep it warm. Add more orange chunks if desired. Serve warm.
When everything is ready to go, ladle out a few cups of the warm mulled wine and garnish with a chunk of Clementine and a small cinnamon stick. Allow the gelato to soften slightly. (Be aware, this will happen pretty quickly.) Scoop a happy amount onto a few of the shortbread cookies and serve immediately with the mulled wine. The warm, spiced red wine will really compliment the cookie and creamy gelato.
From everyone here at the Union Family, we hope your holidays are safe and fun! As they say, ’Stay Positive, Test Negative.’
And as always, keep those #pinkiesdown.
Photography, Recipes & Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)
Cookie helper: Meredith Rizzari