A cold and rainy Sunday in Westhoffen France marks the first of a few weeks i’ll spend in this tranquil and beautiful place. The Alsace region of France is the France less travel and the true gem of the Rhine River Valley. This 80 mile Route des Vins on the German border is a continuous postcard view of quaint villages, medieval walls, hillside ruins of Chateaus, and field after field of rolling vineyards and orchards producing some of the most wonderful and undiscovered wines in the world. I have spent a splendid and labor intensive week working in the fields of the Domaine Ansen Estate Vineyard, which I will share more about both the wine and traditions found in Alsace at a later date.
Today I’m just sharing a bit about a relaxed Sunday. An early morning walk in the vineyards, a peaceful sit through Sunday morning church and a day mostly spent in the kitchen. Carine my hostess baked a rhubarb pie, traditional Alsace style with the rhubarb cut, tossed with sugar and left to drain off then placed in a tart crust topped with an egg custard mixture poured over the rhubarb, then baked and at the end finished off with a lovely and scrumptious meringue. Sadly after we all consumed this delicious pie it was only then I realized I forgot to photograph it…trust me it was beautiful! Interesting side note, double rows of big bushy rhubarb plants can be seen lying between the vineyards in the hills all around this village, it has me wondering what else you can do with so much rhubarb.
I spent my kitchen time whipping up a batch of American style pretzels. Known as bretzels in this neck of the woods, there is no need to home bake them around here because you can find the most wonderful bretzels fresh baked every morning at the village boulangerie (bakery), except on Sundays. My version is a sweeter softer treat, dipped in melted butter and garlic & herb for savory, cinnamon & sugar for sweet.
We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip into Strasbourg to attend an early evening concert at Saint Paul’s Protestant , a relatively “new” church compared to most having only been completed in 1897, featuring the University of Strasbourg Orchestra and Humboldt University of Berlin Choir…just magnificent!!
Once home we sat down to our traditional light dinner of locally made fromage (cheese), Alsatian charcuterie (prepared meats) from the neighboring butcher, a lovely Pinot Noir from my hosts own vineyard, and some stuffed butternut squash I whipped up with fresh goodies I found in the courtyard root cellar.
Just a regular ole’ Sunday in Alsace France….not too shabby!
And for those of you craving your own batch of homemade pretzels, here is the recipe I use. It’s simple and easy to alter to suit your desires: mix in spices or herbs of your choosing to the flour before mixing, sprinkle with your favorite topping after baked and dipped in butter, or cheese either in the dough or topped during baking is grand as well!!
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 1 1/4 tsp dry active yeast, 2 tbls brown sugar, 1 1/4 tsp salt, 4 cups flour – 2 cups water, 2 tsp baking soda – melted butter and spice, herbs, or sugar if you like. Dissolve yeast into water, then stir in sugar and salt, gradually add in flour and knead until smooth and elastic, cover tight, keep in warm place and let rise at least 1/2 hour or until double in size. Pinch off palm size amount and roll into long semi think “snake” , twist into a pretzel (no easy way to describe this procedure) dip into bowl of water and baking soda (remember to stir this well prior to each dip) and let rise again on parchment lined baking pan. Bake in oven 450 degrees for 10 minutes, remove dip or brush with butter, sprinkle with coarse salt or flavor of your choosing. Enjoy!!