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Do your cakes collapse, soufflés slump, cookies crumble, and fruit pies fail? For those living at high altitude, baking can be a challenge at best, or a total disaster. More than thirty-four of the fifty United States, plus many Canadian regions, have cities and towns at altitudes of more than 2,500 feet, yet there are hardly any cookbooks that address the special needs of these local bakers. Until now. Award-winning cookbook author Susan G. Purdy has finally written the ...
Do your cakes collapse, soufflés slump, cookies crumble, and fruit pies fail? For those living at high altitude, baking can be a challenge at best, or a total disaster. More than thirty-four of the fifty United States, plus many Canadian regions, have cities and towns at altitudes of more than 2,500 feet, yet there are hardly any cookbooks that address the special needs of these local bakers. Until now. Award-winning cookbook author Susan G. Purdy has finally written the first-ever foolproof guide to high-altitude baking.
Purdy has actually "gone there and done that," staying as long as it took to bake these recipes to perfection at five different locations — and elevations — across thecountry. In Pie in the Sky, Purdy leaves behind old conversion tables, disproves many oft-repeated calculations and adjustments, and presents reliable recipes in their entirety for each altitude. She takes out the tinkering and guarantees success at any height.
In addition, she explains the hows and whys, gives tips and hints for problems specific to every altitude, and generally demystifies the subject of atmospheric obstacles that cause favorite recipes to flop. Whether they live in the eastern mountains or the far west, in Boston, Massachusetts; Boone, North Carolina; or Santa Fe, New Mexico; home bakers as well as experienced chefs will love the wide range of easy-to-make treats including Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie, Coconut Cake with Coconut Icing, Paradise Peak Chocolate Soufflé, Vail Lemon-Poppy Seed Loaf, Celestial Challah, and Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake.
Every recipe was tested at sea level (Connecticut), 3,000 feet (North Carolina and Virginia), 5,000 feet (Idaho and Colorado), 7,000 feet (New Mexico), and 10,000 feet (Colorado) and can be used at these elevations or any points in between.
"We live in the mountains, you know, why don't you come down to visit us?" my cousins Stacey and Jim Carson asked, inviting me to their North Carolina vacation home. Mountains? High altitude mountains? This could be a great opportunity to be with family and, coincidentally, perhaps be the answer to my search for a recipe-testing location at between 2,500 and 3,500 feet and east of the Rockies. "We're not exactly sure of our elevation. We'll figure it out once you get here, but we're near Boone [3,300 feet] and Blowing Rock [4,000 feet]," they assured me. "We're at the end of a dirt road, quiet, and private, and if you want to work here, it's all yours except when we come for weekend tastings."
How could I refuse? I immediately began to gather my recipes and make lists. Stacey and Jim, both good cooks, had carefully designed a well-equipped kitchen, but I knew I'd have to bring my own gear, from springform pans, whisks, and icing spatulas to digital timers and oven thermometers. My lists grew with my enthusiasm. By the time I packed my car with books, Bundt pans, recipe files, laptop, compass, camera, and dried mango snacks, there was barely room for me to squeeze into the driver's seat with my road map.
I started out on a sunny May morning, filled with optimism and a sense of adven-ture. As I drove across Virginia to the southwestern corner where the Appalachian Mountains meet the Blue Ridge in Ashe County, North Carolina, the hills got steeper, the valleys deeper, and the towns had more colorful names: Mouth-of-Wilson was my first landmark, not far from Trout Dale, en route to Grassy Creek and my new home on the north fork of the New River, a curling bronze ribbon that wound languorously through flatlands of tall emerald and ochre grass.
I followed the river road as Stacey had directed until I turned into their drive and began to climb into the woods. In a clearing at the top, I came to their gray clapboard loft-house nestled cozily into the wooded hillside. It reminded me a little of a chalet, with a side deck overlooking the terraced vegetable garden and lawn sloping down to the overflowing creek.
I spent the first morning organizing my clutter of cake pans and unpacking my suitcase office. In the afternoon on the deck, we caught up on Stacey's work as executive director of the Art Alliance of Greensboro, admired her beautifully hand-crafted pottery, and talked about Jim's projects as an educator and musician/leader of a popular swing band. The next day, they gave me a scenic tour of the town, the farmers' market, and the best local supermarket -- soon to become my primary destination.
My first job was to find out exactly where I was in terms of elevation. If my cousins' house turned out to be below 2,000 feet, I would have to rent a test kitchen in a higher spot. I went first to the local chamber of commerce. "Would you have any maps showing the elevation of the mountains in this area?" I asked. "You mean altitude? Nope," said the young attendant, "folks around here don't bother measuring their mountains, they just enjoy 'em. Can I rent you a canoe?" Smiling and shaking my head, I walked across the street to city hall. "Altitude? Why do you care? No one here's interested in that, try the Ashe County Court House." I did. I worked my way laboriously through the departments of deeds and records, taxes, and the (woefully misnamed) mapping office. It was hard to believe: I was in the mountains, but I couldn't find anyone who knew the altitude (let alone who would admit to having baking problems attributed to it). In mounting despair, I told my story to yet another office manager. "What you need, honey," she said, "is to meet "The Accidental Baker.' " She sent me a few miles down the road to an old high school converted into offices, where, in the revamped cafeteria kitchen under the sign "The Accidental Baker," I found Jacky Brown, a friendly young woman wrapped in a chocolate-spattered apron.
"Glad to meet you. Sure, I can answer your questions, but I have to keep moving here," she laughed. "Why the name? I guess I'm an accidental baker because I was a psychologist until four years ago, when I decided to do this instead." I could feel the rush of purposeful energy as she moved swiftly from a whirling Hobart mixer to a glass case of warm muffins and a cash register facing a line of hungry customers. At the first break, she handed me a big lemonpoppy seed muffin. "Try it," she said with a confident smile.
"Sorry I don't know our exact altitude, but it's a good question. That's certainly what caused all my trouble. My old recipes just don't work up here." (Bingo! My luck had finally turned!) "After lots of experiments, I've finally figured it out and now I can bake anything. I do all the breads and desserts for Sweet Aromas Bakery in town. When I adjust a recipe, I start small, but the changes I make are really important. Breads are easy. I just punch 'em down more often, because they rise too fast. I add a little extra flour to cookie dough, cut a bit of sugar or leavening from muffins, and tinker with oven temperatures. Have you talked to Carolyn Shepherd, our county cooperative extension service agent? She's in Jefferson, at the Agricultural Services building."
Another lead . . . I was on my way.
Excerpted from Pie in the Sky Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan Purdy Copyright © 2005 by Susan Purdy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Friends in High Places||1|
|Twelve High Altitude Myths Brought Down to Earth||23|
|About the Recipes||26|
|Tips for Success at All Altitudes||27|
|Equipment and Ingredients||28|
|Quick Breads, Scones, Biscuits, and Popovers||58|
|About Cake Mixes||317|
|Into Thin Air: The Science Behind High Altitude Baking||319|
|High Altitude Recipe Adjustment Guide||323|
|Useful Weights and Measurements and Ingredients||324|
|Frequently Used Measurements||327|
|Oven Temperature Chart||328|
Posted January 30, 2010
I have a B&B at 8500' elevation and bake every day. I moved here from sea level and baking was a nightmare for me until I found this book. I use it frequently - both the recipes in it and for conversion of other recipes. This purchase was a gift for some equally frustrated friends that moved here from a lower elevation.
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Posted February 13, 2012
After wasteing both precious time and good quality ingredients, I was tired of trying to bake for my family in the mountains. A friend showed me this cookbook, and I can tell you it is a lifesaver. Susan spent countless hours at several different altitudes, fine tuning and correcting each recipe to each specific altitude. After she perfected her own recipes, she went on to included a graph showing you how to alter your own family recipes to suit your altitude. There are many basic recipes, and a nice variety of options given to alter each recipe. I would not be without this cookbook in the mountains! THANK you, Susan Purdy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 9, 2009
I recently moved to just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico and live at 7,200 feet. I relocated from southern California at near sea level. I couldn't bake anything successfully, as you can imagine. So in a fit of frustration, I bought Susan Purdy's Pie in the Sky. This book is a fun read, very informative, and every recipe is spot-on accurate. I can't recommend it highly enough. This lady knows what she's doing, and anyone living in a high-altitude location would be wise to buy this book and enjoy the wonderful recipes within its pages. Bravo!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2006
I have never, in the 7 years I've lived in Denver, Co, been able to bake a successful cake that doesn't fall, and the 'tips' given by the CSU extension office rarely helped me. Since this book came out, I'm able to bake again! I cannot sing the praises of this book enough, every recipe is a winner, and the recipe for High Altitude Pound Cake is worth the cost of the book itself. There are only maybe 3 pie recipes, but the recipe for flakey pie crust can be used for any pie,and if you know anything about baking, then you can use the basic recipe for apple pie for any fruit. The recipe for Mile-High Meringue Pie is also worth having (meringues typically flop above 6,000 feet). If you're a high-altitude baker, this book will sure become your bible. Buy it now!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2005
We live at 6,000 feet (outside Santa Fe, New Mexico). I have tried the recipes and they really do work. They come out as they are supposed to and they are very delicious. This book is definitely a winner.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 29, 2008
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Posted November 6, 2010
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Posted December 23, 2009
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Posted June 27, 2012
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