Tuesday, November 23, 2010

High altitude brownies

High altitude brownies” might not be what you’re thinking. Or maybe they are, if you’ve done some baking at high elevations. You’ll notice that the instructions on the back of most brownie and cake mix packages have a set of special instructions for baking at higher elevations, i.e., above 4,000 ft. Well, RMBL is close to 10,000 ft, and the decidedly lower air pressure means that following conventional baking rules often leads to unexpected and (more often than not) unpleasant results. For example, if you use an unmodified brownie recipe, you’re apt to end up with rock hard edges and a gooey, undercooked center. I’m actually not sure why there is this particular response in brownies (anyone out there care to explain?), but in general, the low air pressure changes the way baked goodies rise, so anything that depends on the dough or batter rising will go awry unless you account for the air pressure.

Exhibit A: Successful high elevation brownies. (Photo: Irene

In spite of these challenges (or maybe partly because of them?), I have rarely been so prolific or creative of a baker as I always was at RMBL. Over the years, our cabin (inevitably good ol’ Forest Queen) has churned out goodies that included: brownies galore, piles of cookies, numerous variations of rhubarb pies, cobblers, and crumbles (thanks to a lovely rhubarb bush just across Happy Valley from us; yes, there is actually a spot called Happy Valley), pineapple upside down cake, lemon bars, focaccia bread, pizza from homemade dough (one time baked with the oven propped as close to shut as possible with a chair because we rolled out the dough on a baking sheet that was too big), and, in one of my more ambitious and glorious moments, even fresh cinnamon rolls from scratch (that was a good day).

Just thinking about it makes me smile (and drool). Yes, combine fieldwork with several girls living together in a cabin in the mountains, maybe with some snow outside and/or a warm fire crackling in the stove, and you have the perfect set up for adventures in baking. Hey, researchers also need the extra calories for the cold, right? Right??

The kitchen of Forest Queen, a.k.a. baking central (Photos: Tina W. Wey):

Wouldn’t you bake a lot too, if you lived here?

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