Friday, August 24, 2012


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Bar Harbor's Shore Path is lined by Rosa rugosa bushes. A Japanese native, these wild roses were introduced to Europe and America, not only for their ornamental value, but because of their extreme salt tolerance and hardiness, helping to stabilize dunes and preventing erosion in coastal areas.

Their flowers, red, pink or white, are beautiful, and their leaves glossy green. But at this time of the year it's their large rose hips that rouse the old hunter and gatherer's instincts.

When I was a child we picked rose hips mainly for their seeds  - the perfect way to annoy classmates with surprise attacks from behind. Those seeds, thrust under the shirt, itched horribly, and were quite difficult to get rid of.

Ripening rose hips
Usually it's our dog, Buffy, who decides when and where to stop, sniff (or do other things related to odors), but now I am the one who lingers among shrubs full of orange red rose hips.

This year we have an abundance of fruits, so that I could pick and choose the fattest and ripest ones - not a meager harvest like last summer, when I was too late, and had to take whatever small, wrinkly fruit was left.
Rose hips contain a lot of vitamin C

The first time I made rose hip jam was many years ago. Following a recipe from food magazine "essen & trinken", I spent hours scraping seeds from the hips, until I was ready to drop the knife.

The jam tasted good, but what a slave labor to prepare it!

When we moved to Mount Desert Island and I saw the abundance of  rose hips, I wanted to give it another try.

Looking for an easier recipe, I remembered the "hobbythek". In this old German TV show, Jean Pütz presented DIY methods for all kinds of interesting things - like cooking with wild plants and fruits.

His rose hip jam doesn't require tedious scraping of seeds, but just the removal of stems and flowers. It utilizes the natural pectin from apples, and the fruits are cooked with red wine. You need some brawn to press the cooked fruit mass through a strainer. If you own a food mill it's a little easier.

Do not try to strain all those fruits at once - your sieve or food mill gets too clogged. Process half of the mass, roughly clean your straining tool, and then do the the other half. This part is a bit strenuous, but the result is well worth the effort! The addition of lemon juice gives the mild rose hip flavor a bright note.

Necessary ingredients
 ROSE HIP JAM (4 - 5 glasses)

1.5 kg/3.3 lb rose hips
750 g/26.5 oz Granny Smith apples
550 g/19.4 oz sugar
200 g/6.8 oz water
100 g/3.4 oz red wine, dry and fruity
juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon
1 package Sure-Jell (for reduced sugar)

Place 4 - 5 clean jam glasses on a paper kitchen towel.

Wash rose hips. Remove stems and flowers. Grate whole apples coarsely.

In a small bowl, mix Sure-Jell powder and 100 g of the sugar.

In a big sauce pan, stir together rose hips, grated apples, water, red wine and remaining 450 g of the sugar. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on low heat for 1/2 hour, stirring now and then.

Put half of fruit mass through a strainer or food mill to remove seeds and skins. Transfer back to sauce pan. Clean strainer roughly, and repeat with other half of cooked fruits.

Add lemon juice, and sugar-Sure-Jell mix, and stir well. Bring to a boil, and cook on high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour hot rose hip jam in prepared glasses, filling them up to the rim. Close lids and turn glasses for 10 minutes upside down, to create a vacuum. (If you prefer to use the cook-in-the-glass method, follow the instructions in the Sure-Jell package.)

Wild roses in the Acadia National Park
 This recipe was adapted from Jean Pütz' TV show "hobbythek".

Monday, August 13, 2012


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

When I was a student, I traveled with my best friend, Andrea, through England, Cornwall and Wales. We didn't have a fixed itinerary, we just followed our nose to places we had read or heard about.

We didn't stay in hotels (only once, and that was as dusty as it was expensive), we preferred B&Bs, always looking for interesting old buildings. We slept in grand manor houses, rustic inns, cozy farm houses, and even a water mill from the sixteenth century.

Old Water Mill Inn & Pub, England 1971
People always complain about the English food - I never had a really bad experience, I would always find something I liked, as long as it started with "apple" and ended with "pie"!

We often ate in pubs, having sandwiches with cheddar and chutney, and I was delighted to try the different beers.

With all these fond memories in mind - no wonder I wanted to try master baker Dan Lepard's Alehouse Rolls. You will find it in his book "Short and Sweet", or here.

I had just bought Newcastle Brown Ale at the Bangor commissary, and thought this was very appropriate for British rolls.

The dough is made with a hot beer soaker - ale and oats are brought to a boil, with butter and honey added to the hot liquid - and the rolled oats are toasted.

It also has some whole grain flour, to make the rolls even heartier (and give health conscious bakers a better conscience!)

Hot soaker with ale, oats, butter and hone
Dan Lepard has a nice, minimalistic approach to working the dough, he handles it gently, kneads it very briefly, and allows it to develop while resting (autolyse).

As a psychotherapist this method appeals to me a lot: give the patient dough the means and time to develop, without pushing and hectoring - and it will grow just fine!

At different times I had to add varying amounts of water to the final dough, the consistency should be soft and somewhat sticky.

Instead of letting the dough rest for a final 30 minutes on the counter, I did what I usually do - and put it to sleep overnight in the fridge.

This cold fermentation of the dough fits much better in my schedule than doing it all on one day. Though I like baking in the morning, I don't want to get up in the wee hours, so I prepare everything the day before, and only have the shaping and baking left to do.

Having to choose between large sandwich rolls (à 235 g a piece) or smaller dinner rolls, I opted for the more petite version - 12 rolls à 92 g.

The recipe suggests rolling the rolls first over wet kitchen paper towels and then in oat flakes. I didn't read the instructions thoroughly, and, therefore, dunked only the tops in the oat meal.

Alehouse Rolls - ready for baking

Whereas the giant sandwich rolls have to bake for 20 minutes at 210º C/410º F, and then some more at reduced heat, my little rolls were golden brown after 26 minutes (without reducing the heat.)

They tasted just as good as they looked, a semi-soft crust with a little crunch, and a hearty, somewhat nutty flavor.

I have made these rolls with rye flour and brown ale, whole wheat and stout, as well as spelt flour and a rather hoppy ale. All versions tasted excellent, spicy and slightly sweetish.

ALEHOUSE ROLLS  (adapted from Dan Lepard)
(12 Rolls)

75 g rolled oats
440 ml ale or stout
25 g butter
25 g honey
450 g bread flour
100 g rye, whole wheat, or spelt flour
6 g instant yeast
8 g salt
20 g cold water, or more, as needed (I used up to 80 g)
rolled oats, for topping

Toast oats in oven at 400ºF/200ºC for ca. 7-10 minutes, stirring in between, until they turn a rich golden brown (or toast them in a dry skillet on the stove top.)

In a saucepan, bring beer and toasted oats to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat, add butter and honey, stir until melted, cover, and let cool for ca. 30 minutes.

Mix flours, yeast and salt together in large bowl. Add lukewarm oat mixture and stir with your fingers, adding a little cold water if needed to make a soft, somewhat sticky dough (hand mixing gives you a better feeling for how much extra water you should add). Cover bowl and leave for 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to lightly oiled work surface, and, with oiled hands, gently knead it for 10 seconds. Scoop dough back into bowl, cover, then repeat the light knead 2 x more at 10-minute intervals. Place dough in oiled container, cover and refrigerate it overnight. (At this point I divide the dough into 2 portions).

Alehouse Roll dough after bulk rise - ready to be shaped

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 12 pieces. Shape into rolls.

Place sheet of wet paper kitchen towel on one dinner plate, and rolled oats on another, then roll each roll first across wet paper and then through oats. Place on parchment lined or perforated baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 45 - 60 minutes, or until they have grown by 1 1/2 times their original size.

Preheat oven to 210°C/410°F. (Steam optional.)

Bake the rolls for 12 minutes, rotate, (remove steam pan if using) and continue baking for another 13 minutes, until golden brown.

Post updated 9/6/14 to include formula and BreadStorm downloadable file.

As tasty as they look - freshly baked Alehouse Rolls.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Apricot-Plum Galette, juicy and tangy
Apricot-Plum Galette, a fruity, tangy dessert, was our Avid Bakers' Challenge for August. It came just right for these hot summer days.

Abigail Dodge, author of "The Weekend Baker", calls a galette the "friendliest of all pies": ideal for people suffering from "pie anxiety". There is no double crust to deal with, no complicated lattice weaving, no edge crimping - not even a pie plate is needed.

Though I like the combination of plums and apricots - and both were available  in our supermarket - I didn't suffer so much from pie phobia, as from filling anxiety. Apricots and plums are usually only half ripe when you get them, and you never know whether they will soften into juicy goodness or mealy sourness. 

I bought my two pounds of fruit, and placed them, together with an apple, in a brown bag, hoping they would ripen in time for the challenge. 

Making the crust was no problem. Following Hanaâ's advice, I froze the cubed butter, instead of just refrigerating it. I substituted a fifth all-purpose flour for spelt flour, to have a little bit of whole grains in the crust.

Rolling the dough, transferring it into the sheet pan - no great challenge there, and no slightest twinge of pie anxiety. 

After their three days of hobnobbing with the apple, I found the apricots and plums softer and sufficiently sweet, so I didn't add any additional sugar. I forgot the lemon juice in the mix, so I belatedly drizzled a bit over the top.

The galette looked very appetizing when it came out of the oven - only the crust had cracked in several places and the pie sat in a puddle of juice!

And then came the only glitch - Abby Dodge wants you to lift the slightly cooled galette with two spatulas on a plate. This action, exercised with a metal peel and a bench knife, ended in a broken pie. 

The congealing juice stuck to the parchment paper, and the sticky surface made easy gliding impossible. The parchment paper was pushed together in wrinkles, and the galette broke apart.

Re-assembled galette, the damage is hardly visible

 I got the pie out, don't ask me how, and assembled the broken pieces on the plate, so that the galette looked almost like new. I didn't attempt to glaze it, not wanting to disturb my poor pie anymore.

But, in the end, who cares, when the the taste is right. And it WAS right! Plums, apricots and ginger made an awesome combination, and the crust was delicate and flaky. 

You'll find the recipe in "The Weekend Baker", by Abigail Johnson Dodge. She calls her recipes "irresistible" and I wholeheartedly agree. And to make this galette entirely "stress-free for busy people", I would next time line the baking sheet with aluminum foil, and move it with the pie to the platter.

And, after reading other Avid Bakers' posts, I realize that leakages rather seem to be the rule in rustic galettes, not a failure. Even master baker Joanne Chang commented in Fine Cooking: "It’s all right if some of the juices escape from the tart and seep onto the pan." 

But I still thought about how to minimize those leaks, and asked my knowledgeable daughter Valerie  what she would do.
It's great to have a chef in the family
She recommended "Bakers' Secret Weapon" - a layer of cake crumbs on the crust to soak up excess juice. Or mix the fruits with the sugar several hours before using, strain them over a bowl, and then cook the juice in a sauce pan until reduced to syrup. 

Another way to achieve a leak free crust is a French pastry bakers' technique, called fraisage. After transferring the dough to the work surface, you smear the crumbly mass repeatedly with the heel of your hand, until it is cohesive. Cook's Illustrated explains that this procedure creates long, thin streaks of butter between layers of flour and water, resulting in a sturdy, but very flaky dough.

If you would like to join the Hanaâ's Avid Bakers, take up the monthly challenge, and have the fun - here is your link: