Warm rolls stuffed with cranberry banana jam, a fried egg and a freshly brewed cuppa joe – what a great way to start a day!
August through early September see the peak of the berry picking season here at Chignik Lake. We start with salmonberries, move into blueberries, wineberries (aka nagoon berries), and crowberries (aka blackberries) and finish up with lingonberries (aka lowbush cranberries). Somewhere in the middle of all that, we can find porcini (aka bolete) mushrooms. But, those aren’t a berry, are they?
Berry picking has always been a joy for me. Something about finding little sweet edible treasures is pleasurable, but it’s more than the happiness of the find alone that I love. A couple of weekends ago, we went across the lake to pick cranberries. The berries grow by the bucketloads on little hillocks in and around boggy areas where blueberries and mushrooms also thrive. The air was sweet and pure, the breeze was soft. Sitting on the little hillocks, you can grab small handfuls at a time of the small red gems. At their varying stages of growth, they range in color from candy apple to a deep merlot. Their sizes, too, vary – with lunkers attaining the size of a large pea. Some people like to use a rake-like scoop (that works a lot like a bear claw) to pick the little berries. I enjoy picking them by hand. I find it is more satisfying to pick this way and it produces a cleaner haul.
The hike to the bog that day was beautiful, the trail colored up with the fiery reds and oranges of fireweed and wild geranium leaves, and the yellows, golds and browns of fall willows and grasses. Sometimes we pick together and talk quietly. On this day we were in sight of each other, but enjoying our immersive experience separately. I got so engrossed in my task, I didn’t notice the others who had joined us in the picking until movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention. About a football field away was a mama bear and her two fat cubs. The big babies were tussling about while mama raked up berries with her long claws and feasted. I looked over at Jack, who was also a football field away from me in a different direction to see if he noticed. Sure enough, he and his camera were capturing the scene. The mama bear sniffed in our direction to ensure her babies were safe. Having detected no need for concern, the little family grazed for a while longer and then ambled on their way. What a place we live in, where we can safely berry pick alongside these great beings. The only other sound the entire time we picked was that of the breeze rustling through the vegetation and a few late sparrows chirping from the hillside.
When we got home, I rinsed and dried the berries and then popped them into the freezer for later use. Today’s recipe is made with one of my favorite jams, banana lingonberry. The recipe comes from a publication put out by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It might seem like a strange combination of fruits as both bananas and lingonberries both have strong flavors. However, together they are quite complementary. Of course, the breakfast roll recipe can be made with any flavor of jam. These lingonberry gems were made in honor of the beautiful outing picking berries.
Wild Berry Jam Breakfast Rolls
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ tbsp yeast
- 1 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp milk powder (can use whole, nonfat, buttermilk)
- Generous pinch salt
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 ½ tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 6 tbsp wild berry jam
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine ½ cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, yeast, sugar, milk powder and salt.
- Mix in water and butter.
- Beat in remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.
- Switch to dough hook and knead for a couple of minutes. Dough should be smooth, soft, and springy.
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 60 minutes.
- Grease an 8-inch cake pan or a 9-inch pie plate.
- Cut dough into 8 pieces.
- Roll dough into balls and place into prepared pan with space around them.
- Using your thumb, make a depression in the center of each dough ball.
- Cover pan with a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
- Divide jam evenly into each depression in the rolls.
- Place the pan in a cold oven and turn the heat to 350°F.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Rolls will be golden brown when done.
- Let cool slightly on a wire rack.
- Serve warm from oven as is, or drizzle with powdered sugar glaze, or dust with powdered sugar.