Beer and DIY

Good beer to help with home improvement projects

Over the course of several weeks, my wife painstakingly and tediously removed all the wallpaper from a stairway and second-floor hallway. She used a vinegar solution, a steamer and other products to complete the job.

I was an observer throughout the frustrating wallpaper removal process, and I did feel some guilt over that. But it is my turn now and I’m going to need some beer to get me through my role in this leg of the project.

I am currently undertaking a process that involves “sealing” the ripped up walls from all the scuffing and scraping that comes with the wallpaper removal process, and then applying a skim coat of plaster. The next step is another coat of sealer, which also acts as a primer, followed by a couple coats of paint.

Also, all of that is according to, for your information. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The wallpaper removal was undoubtedly worse, but this is still a lot. Plus, there are ladders involved and I’m more of a “don’t-go-past-the-third-rung” kind of guy.

Jobs like this, particularly ones that don’t involve lots of sharp objects, need beer. You want to do a good job — I know I want to do a good job — but you also need to reward yourself for your efforts. And let’s be honest, stuff like plaster and paint, well, they need time to dry before you move on to the next step.

I think most people have found themselves tackling more home improvement projects in the past nine months than they expected. I know I have, and beer has been a critical component of these jobs.

You can’t just choose any beer, though. I suppose you can but I’m not sure you should. That double IPA or that imperial stout in the fridge may be tempting but the high ABV on those beers is going to slow you down — and maybe bring your efforts to a complete stop.

That’s not what we want. We have to get this job done. To do so, more sessionable beers are your friend, beers that are, say, 6-percent ABV or less. The specific style, of course, is less important. The big thing, and I’m being serious, is that you want to be able to enjoy a beer or maybe two while you work, but we still need to complete this project and do it well — at least to the best of our abilities.

Pilsners are an obvious choice: crisp, clean and refreshing. Beers like the Dirty Blonde Ale by Portsmouth Brewery, the Koastal Kolsch by Great Rhythm Brewing or the Alexandr Czech-style pilsner by Schilling Beer Co. would make excellent choices.

While an imperial stout might not be the best move, a “regular” stout or porter would be perfect, maybe even ideal. You can slowly slip a stout or a porter over an extended period of time and still enjoy the robust, complex flavor.

The Java Roots stout by Granite Roots Brewing is very smooth and boasts huge coffee flavor. Other local options include the Robust Porter by Smuttynose Brewing Co. and the Robust Vanilla Porter by Great North Aleworks.

While sours aren’t my go-to, I like how the tart brightness of a sour wakes me up in the middle of a project. The Jam Up the Mash Dry Hopped Sour by Collective Arts Brewing was a good friend to me as I painted and plastered. The SeaQuench Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery would be another favorite sour of mine.

Brown ales would be perfect companions as well, with their nutty, sweet flavors.

Find something you like, that doesn’t bog you down, and get to work.

What’s in My Fridge
Winter Warmer by Harpoon Brewing Co.
(Boston, Mass.) This is my all-time favorite holiday beer and a very nostalgic choice. I know the nutmeg is a bit much for some and straight-up off-putting to others, but I love the holiday spice and sweetness this beer brings. It’s so festive. It’s also dangerously easy to drink. Cheers!

Featured photo: Jam Up the Mash dry-hopped sour by Collective Arts Brewing.

Nice buns!

Nothing says comfort on a winter morning like a warm tray of freshly baked cinnamon rolls — and, while it can take more time, bypassing the canned dough in favor of your own scratch-made sweet treats can be a fun experience with a delicious result.

“Even a beginner can make cinnamon rolls,” said Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm, a homestead business based in Goffstown that specializes in made-to-order baked goods. “There are different areas you can also be flexible in to suit your own tastes.”

From the filling ingredients to the manner in which you add your icing, local bakers share some of their best tips for making your own homemade cinnamon rolls.

Rolling in the dough

Baking cinnamon rolls starts with a basic dough using ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen, including milk, eggs, sugar, all-purpose flour and butter. Maria Bares, owner of The Baker’s Hands in Deerfield, said working with each of your ingredients at room temperature can have an effect on how quickly the dough will rise, whether or not you’re using yeast. A flour with a high protein content also helps to better produce a much fluffier dough.

“If you have cold eggs or cold milk right out of the fridge, then that’s going to slow the rising process down,” she said. “You also want to try to handle [the dough] as little as possible, because the more you do, the tougher it’s going to be.”

Letting your dough sit for a couple of hours after you’ve mixed the ingredients together, Bares said, will increase its volume and better enable you to incorporate your filling mixture. Colder temperatures will slow down the rising of the dough, so you can also cover it with plastic wrap and pop it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to work with it.

LaRoche said she likes to spread her dough out into a rectangular shape and gently pinch its edges before adding the filling. Spreading an even amount of filling across the perimeter of the dough, as well as rolling it up slowly and tightly, can help your rolls bake more evenly.

Prepping for the oven

A typical cinnamon roll filling, to be spread onto your leavened dough before it is rolled, will often contain a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Jenn Stone-Grimaldi, co-owner of Crosby Bakery in Nashua, said it’s especially important to incorporate a good-quality cinnamon.

“If you have a jar of cinnamon in your cabinet and you don’t remember when you bought it, you should probably go out and buy a new one,” she said. “The freshness and quality of the cinnamon really makes a difference in the final product.”

Softening your butter before mixing it into the cinnamon and sugar can better help to incorporate the flavors, according to Joy Martello of Étagère in Amherst. You can also add a drizzle of heavy cream on them before baking for a more moist and gooey texture.

You can even get creative with the fillings if you want to. Jacky Levine of It’s All Good in the Kitchen, a gluten-free bakery in Salem, which offers gluten-free cinnamon rolls to order on Saturdays, said she’s experimented with raspberry compote cinnamon rolls. LaRoche said she has added ingredients like walnuts, raisins, orange zest, cardamom, ginger and even Nutella.

“There’s an infinite variety [of ingredient options]. You can go to town really with anything that floats your boat,” she said.

From here, you can cut out your individual rolls using a properly sharpened serrated knife, or you can achieve this using a strand of unflavored dental floss — yes, dental floss. Simply wrap the floss around the dough and pull as though you were tying a knot.

“It sounds weird, but dental floss ensures a nice clean cut, which is key to getting those perfect swirls you want,” Bares said. “If you try to use a dull knife, it’s just going to squish the dough.”

You can use a baking pan or cookie sheet, or even a muffin tin. Bares said she likes to use a kitchen scale to evenly weigh each rolled dough piece, leaving a little bit of space in between each one once the rolls are placed on the pan. As an optional step to aid in the browning of the dough, you can add an egg wash to the top of your rolls.

The icing on the cake

Depending on your oven and how many you’re baking at once, cinnamon rolls can take as little as 15 to 20 minutes or as long as 30 to 35 minutes. While they’re in the oven, you can make your own icing to go on top using just ingredients like butter, sugar and milk.

“That’s another area where it’s flexible,” LaRoche said. “My favorite is a coffee maple glaze, [which is] brewed coffee, maple extract, maple syrup and powdered sugar.”

Bares said she prefers a cream cheese-based icing, which she packages separately with all of her cinnamon roll orders. Vanilla and freeze-dried strawberry powder are other optional ingredients.

Whether you lightly drizzle or spread your icing over your rolls is a matter of preference, as is adding it while they are still hot or after they’ve cooled.

“If you put it on while they’re still hot, then it will sort of melt and seep into the layers of the rolls. Some people prefer that if they don’t like a real thick coating of icing,” LaRoche said.

But if you’d rather be a little more meticulous with your icing spreading, Bares said all you need to do is let your rolls cool for five minutes before applying it. Your finished rolls will keep in plastic wrap for a few days to a week, depending on whether they are frosted.

“I would say that unfrosted rolls stay good for about three to four days at room temperature, and then about a week in the fridge,” she said.

Kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon rolls) from Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods in Brookline. Courtesy photo.

Swedish traditions
It’s unclear exactly where the first cinnamon roll originated, but the sweet treat is a long-standing tradition in several Nordic countries, especially in Sweden. Jenny Lewis of Brookline and her father, David Schur, are the owners of Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods, a baking business honoring the legacy of Lewis’s maternal great-grandmother Hulda, who immigrated to the United States from southeastern Sweden in 1902. Hulda owned and operated a bakery in Chicago, where she made traditional Swedish baked goods like kanelbullar, or cinnamon rolls (“kanel” means cinnamon and “bullar” or “bulle” means bun or roll, according to Lewis).
The dough used for Hulda’s cinnamon rolls, Lewis said, is the same basic yeast bread also used for their dinner rolls and cardamom loaf. Kanelbullar are characterized by their braid-like texture, made by twisting multiple strands of dough across one another before the rolls go in the oven. They are also known for containing cardamom and not normally having an icing on top.
“If you use some of the cinnamon rolls you might buy at the mall, like at Cinnabon, as a point of reference then ours are a lot smaller,” Schur said. “It’s more the size of a dinner roll in an individual serving, so if you eat two you’re not going to feel terrible about yourself.”
Schur said cinnamon rolls in Sweden are also often enjoyed during a social tradition known as fika, which is popular all over the country and continues to be a major part of its culture.
“When somebody says ‘fika,’ it just means a social gathering or get-together. It’s a little bit like a mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee break at work or at home,” he said. “You’re enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and in this case kanelbullar, or maybe cookies or another treat that goes with it.”

How to cut cinnamon rolls with floss, and the finished product. Photos courtesy of Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm.

Make your own cinnamon rolls
Several of the sources for this story — including Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm in Goffstown and Maria Bares of The Baker’s Hands in Deerfield — pointed to King Arthur Baking Co.’s products or recipes when it comes to making cinnamon rolls. The company, which sells flours and other ingredients and has a school which holds baking classes in Vermont, recently picked the “Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls” recipe as its 2021 Recipe of the Year; LaRoche, who tried this recipe out the day before her interview with us, reported that it indeed produced soft pillow-like rolls.

This version of yeasted dough cinnamon rolls starts with making a tangzhong, which is a blend of flour and milk that is warmed in a saucepan before being put in the mixing bowl with the rest of the flour and other ingredients added, the website explains. This technique “pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which makes them more able to retain liquid — thus enhancing the resulting loaf’s softness and shelf life,” according to the recipe’s notes. The recipe follows an otherwise standard pattern of two rises (one of the enriched dough, one of the rolls after they’re assembled).

King Arthur has other takes on cinnamon rolls. There is a more straight-forward Cinnamon Rolls yeasted recipe, sans tangzhong.

If you’ve kept your sourdough starter alive beyond those first yeast-less weeks of the pandemic, they have a Sourdough Cinnamon Buns recipe that uses one cup of ripe starter along with a small amount of yeast. This recipe has a longer rise time for the dough and the assembled rolls.

For cinnamon rolls right now (-ish), King Arthur also has an Instant Gratification Cinnamon Roll recipe, where the dough’s rising agent is baking soda and Bakewell Cream for a kind of soda-bread cinnamon roll which doesn’t require a rise time.

Beyond these basic rolls, King Arthur has gluten-free and keto friendly recipes as well as variations to the dough (brioche, for example) and flavors. Notes on the recipes mentioned here explain how to assemble the rolls and then refrigerate overnight so that you can have hot fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning without waking up at 3 a.m. Find these recipes (which offer photos to help with some of the tricky steps and baking notes about techniques and ingredients) at

Where to get locally-made cinnamon rolls

This list includes bakeries and homestead businesses in southern New Hampshire where you can order cinnamon rolls. Some have them more regularly than others contact them directly for the most up-to-date availability.

The Baker’s Hands (find them on Facebook @thebakershands) is a homestead business based in Deerfield that offers a variety of baked goods made to order, including cinnamon rolls.

The Bakeshop on Kelley Street (171 Kelley St., Manchester, 624-3500, usually takes orders for cinnamon rolls on weekends and will sometimes have limited availability in the pastry case during the week.

Bearded Baking Co. (819 Union St., Manchester, 647-7150, has a daily offering of cinnamon rolls in its pastry case.

Benson’s Bakery & Cafe (203 Central St., Hudson, 718-8683, takes special orders for cinnamon rolls and will often have a limited amount in their pastry case.

Bite Me Kupcakez (4 Mound Court, Merrimack, 674-4459, features a variety of gluten-free pastries and baked goods, including cinnamon rolls.

Blue Loon Bakery (12 Lovering Lane, New London, 526-2892, takes orders for cinnamon rolls and pecan sticky buns on Saturdays and Sundays.

Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe (436 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 262-5929; 9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522; will sometimes have a limited amount of cinnamon rolls in their pastry case. Special orders of at least a dozen cinnamon rolls can be placed with a 48-hour notice.

Cooking Up a Storm (, find them on Facebook @cookingupastorm.nh) is a homestead business based in Goffstown that offers a variety of baked goods made to order, including cinnamon rolls.

Crosby Bakery (51 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 882-1851, has a daily offering of cinnamon rolls in its pastry case.

The Crust & Crumb Baking Co. (126 N. Main St., Concord, 219-0763, takes special orders for cinnamon rolls, typically on the weekends.

Culture (75 Mont Vernon St., Milford, 249-5011, will often have a limited offering of fresh baked cinnamon rolls in its pastry case.

Dutch Epicure Bakery (141 Route 101A, Amherst, 879-9400, has a limited amount of cinnamon rolls available every day until they sell out. Larger custom orders can also be placed.

Étagère (114B Route 101A, Amherst, 417-3121, features a rotating selection of homemade baked goods out of its pastry case, including cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns and stuffed cardamom buns.

Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods ( is a homestead business based in Brookline that specializes in Swedish baked goods, including kanelbullar, or cinnamon rolls with cardamom. Hulda’s also appears at the Milford Farmers Market in the summer.

It’s All Good in the Kitchen (184 N. Broadway, Salem, 458-7434, takes orders for fresh baked gluten-free cinnamon rolls that are available for pickup on Saturdays.

Klemm’s Bakery (29 Indian Rock Road, Windham, 437-8810, offers fresh baked cinnamon rolls out of its pastry case daily, or you can special order them for pickup.

Sarno’s Sweets (416 Daniel Webster Hwy., Suite E, Merrimack, 261-3791, accepts specialty orders for cinnamon rolls.

Wild Orchid Bakery (484 S. Main St., Manchester, 935-7338, offers a rotating selection of freshly baked pastries, including cinnamon rolls.

Featured photo: Cinnamon Roll by Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 21/01/14

News from the local food scene

Tastes of yore: Join the Goffstown Public Library virtually for a medieval cooking demonstration on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. featuring local author M. Allyson Szabo. She’ll talk about the history of food from the Middle Ages and feature a recipe from her recently released book, The Reenactor’s Cookbook: Historical and Modern Recipes for Cooking Over an Open Fire. In addition to its many recipes, the book is full of historical references, as well as practical tips on everything from creating a cooking fire to what type of cooking vessels to use and how to make the featured foods on a home electric stove. Recipes also include many vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Registration is required at Email Michelle Sprague at for more details.

Restaurant Week at the Inn: Now through Jan. 23, the Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford) is hosting Restaurant Week in its dining room, featuring a three-course prix fixe menu of popular French- and Italian-inspired dishes. The menu will include your choice of a first course (lobster bisque, gnocchi or Giannone chicken thigh); an entree (smoked sea scallops, cider-braised pork shank or prime sirloin); and a dessert (chocolate fondant, profiteroles or lemon sorbet). The cost is $49 per person and reservations are encouraged. Visit

Tucker’s coming to Bedford: Local diner chain Tucker’s will open a new location in Bedford this summer, according to a Jan. 4 announcement on its website and social media channels, in the former Outback Steakhouse at 95 S. River Road, which closed last year. This will be the sixth Tucker’s restaurant and also its largest — the other five locations are in Hooksett, Dover, New London, Concord and Merrimack. Tucker’s features a menu of breakfast items like omelets and scramblers, and lunch items like sandwiches and bowls, plus a rotating selection of specials. Meghann Clifford, executive vice president of business development and marketing for Tucker’s, told the Hippo that the new location is expected to be open by early July and will introduce new menu concepts like fresh juices, smoothie bowls and brunch-baked cocktails. Visit

New liquor store to open in Manchester: Construction will soon begin on a new state Liquor & Wine Outlet store at 850 Gold St. in southern Manchester, according to a press release from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. The 13,000-square-foot store is due to open by the end of 2021. According to the release, the NHLC has opened new or renovated existing Liquor & Wine Outlet stores in more than 30 communities statewide over the last decade. Visit

Treasure Hunt 21/01/14

Dear Donna,

I have an assortment of these wood block letters in many sizes. I collected them for years and ended up with a large collection. I’m wondering if prices have changed for them and if they are still collected now. Any information would be helpful.


Dear Angie,

I can relate to how things turn into collections easily! Collecting is a fun thing to do.

The print block letters you have served their purpose first in print shops. Now they are rarely used for that. Instead, they tend to be displayed decoratively.

I’m not sure what you paid when you collected them, but today the value on them runs from $2 to $4 each. Larger ones can net more, so if you have a collection of them it could bring a bit of a value in total. They have stayed in the same value range for a while now.

One thing I have learned over the years is to never let children play with them. They were made in a time when using lead was common. The lead is still present even after washing, so keep these away from children.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo

Know your trees

Winter is a good time to get outside and explore

This is a good time to be outdoors exploring the fields and woods. There is so much to see that will be buried in snow later on. But, you may ask, what is there to see? Trees, winter weeds, animal footprints, signs of insects, shelf fungi on trees, evergreen woodland plants and more. If I had to choose one person to show me the outdoors in winter, it would be Donald W. Stokes, who wrote A Guide to Nature in Winter, which covers all these topics and more.

I find that learning the names and characteristics of plants and animals makes them more interesting. Many people look at all evergreen conifers and call them “pine trees.” But if you know the difference between a white pine and a Canadian hemlock or a balsam fir, you can decide whether you want to grow one or the other on your property.

Donald Stokes’ book explains that if you learn to identify the six most common deciduous trees and the six most common trees with needles or cones, you will know 80 percent of the trees in most northern forests. And you can do this in winter. Bud location, size and shape are good indicators for identifying trees.

1. Maples. As on ash trees, the buds, branches and, later, leaves are arranged opposite each other, while most other trees alternate the location of them on stems. Maples have oval buds that are between ¼ and ½ inch long.

2. Ash. Buds on ash trees are larger than maple buds and are dark and dome shaped. The twigs on ash trees are generally thicker than on maples.

3. Oak. These have clusters of buds at the end of each branch, and the younger trees often hold onto their brown leaves through the winter. Buds and branches appear in an alternating pattern.

4. Beech. The buds on beech are long and pointy. But the most distinguishing characteristic is its smooth, gray bark. There is a beech fungal disease that can mar the bark, making it look like a bad case of acne.

5. White Birch. Most people can recognize white birch by its bright white and peeling bark, but other birch species can have golden or greyish bark. The bark also has long horizontal lines marking it, and they often have catkins hanging from the tips of upper branches.

6. Poplar, also called aspen. These trees tend to grow in clumps in places with poor soil. The upper bark has a greenish tinge, and their buds are variable in color but always have sharp, pointy ends.

Then there are the evergreens:

1. Pines. They have clumps of needles in groups of two, three or five. White pine, the most common, has groups of five long, soft needles.

2. Hemlock. These trees have short (1/2-inch) soft needles with two white lines on the underneath side. There is a short stem between needle and twig.

3. Balsam fir. One-inch needles, also with two white lines underneath but no stem between needle and twig.

4. Cedar. Small, scale-like needles arranged along the twigs.

5. Spruce. Four-sided needles that are uncomfortably sharp to the touch.

6. Larch. No needles in winter, but cones may be present. Stubby twigs on branches.

After that basic list of characteristics, the Stokes book provides interesting details about the various species of trees, and differences within a genus. So, for example, he explains that most wooden sports equipment and the handles of our garden tools are made from ash because it is strong, relatively light, and flexible. And he notes that sycamores, known for beautiful variegated bark, are often hollow when large, and home to nesting mammals like raccoons and skunks.

I was fascinated to read that willow seeds, if washed away and deposited on a muddy bank (in spring), can germinate in two days and grow seven feet during the first year.

Poplars or aspen are often the first trees to grow after land has been burned or damaged by construction of roads. They often appear in clusters, as new trees pop up from the roots. They are not long-lived like maples or oaks, which can live hundreds of years: poplars, Stokes noted, generally last no more than 80 years, and frequently less.

Did you know that the sounding boards of many musical instruments are made of spruce? Stokes points out that it is especially clear of knots and imperfections, and resonates better than other woods.

If you pay attention to your trees, you will learn to identify them by shape and bark. Sugar maples, for instance, have nice rounded tops and older ones have craggy bark. I can identify a white pine from a fast-moving vehicle: branches on the lower part of the tree droop downward, upper branches reach for the sky.

So head outdoors and study the trees along a woodland path. And bring along A Guide to Nature in Winter. Almost anyone will learn something from it in no time.

Featured Photo: Birches have horizontal lines on their bark. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

Kiddie Pool 21/01/14

Family fun for the weekend

Planes and iBOTs

Beat three-day-weekend boredom at the museum! Along with their regular exhibits, two local museums are currently offering special events. The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, 669-4820, is hosting a Festival of Planes, a walk-through exhibit that includes aviation-themed toys, models and puzzles, plus vintage aircraft piloted by celebrities like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. According to a press release, the toys span the 20th century, from custom-made cast iron planes to today’s mass-produced Hello Kitty airplane toys. In addition, hundreds of collectible model aircrafts will be displayed on a new Wall of Planes in the museum’s learning center. This weekend, the museum will be open Friday, Jan. 15, and Saturday, Jan. 16, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17, from 1 to 7 p.m. The exhibit is included with museum admission of $10 per person; $5 for seniors 65+, veterans/active military and students under 13. Members and children under age 5 get in free.

Or head to the SEE Science Center (200 Bedford St., Manchester, 669-0400, to watch a special demonstration of an iBOT. The center is open Saturday, Jan. 16, Sunday, Jan. 17, and Monday, Jan. 18, with sessions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2 to 5 p.m. The iBOT wheelchair is SEE’s newest demonstration and shows how technology can help people with limited mobility do things they could never do in any other wheelchair. The demonstration is part of regular museum admission, which is $9 per person for ages 3 and up. Registration is required to reserve a time during one of the sessions; register online or via phone.

Skate sessions

At the Everett Arena in Concord (15 Loudon Road,, public skating hours are Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sunday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Admission is $6 for ages 14 and up and $5 for ages 4 to 13; kids 3 and under skate for free. Skate rentals are available for $5. Public skating has been reduced to 50 percent capacity, and masks are required inside the building and while on the ice. Tri-Town Ice Arena (311 W. River Road, Hooksett) is offering public skating sessions for $6, with skate rentals available for $4. Skating times vary and are subject to change; visit for an updated schedule. All skaters and spectators entering the facility are now required to complete a Covid-19 screening online the day of their visit before arriving at the arena. After completing the screening, a QR code that will allow access to the entry system at the front doors will be provided.

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