With great anticipation, I pulled the pan out of the oven. It’s the time of year for pumpkin, and I love all things pumpkin, including one of my favorites — pumpkin bread. I’d baked it for its prescribed time of 50 minutes as dictated by the recipe. Yet, when I pulled it from the oven, something was distinctly wrong. Where there should have been a puffed up golden loaf of bread, instead it looked like a souffle that had collapsed in the middle. Sunken. It got worse, when I cut it open — nothing but goo in the middle. Where I had gone wrong?
I had followed the directions — the ones written for 90% of the country living at less than 5000 feet. As I have found the last eight years, cooking at 8000 feet and above is a whole different deal, one that requires a lot of research, experimentation, and tweaking to make things baked and boiled come out remotely edible.
The worst was the foray into artichokes. Growing up as a kid, every now and then, we would have artichokes. My dad loved them, so it was mainly during Dad’s special dinners, that we would have them. How could a weird looking thistle plant produce such yumminess? And yet, peeling off the leaves, dipping them in melted butter, produced pure pleasure.
As an adult, one of my all time favorite dinners was having lamb chops and artichokes — pure decadence! So when I saw them on sale at the local market shortly after we moved to Nederland, I bought up a couple of plump ones to cook up that night. I boiled them, and after the standard 20 minutes, there weren’t tender at all. So I kept boiling them, and boiling them. After an hour, I finally extracted them, and they were no closer to being tender, but instead tasted like tough, shoe leather. Not to be deterred, I tried microwaving them, and even grilling them, with no better results.
Apparently, the fact that water boils at a much lower temperature, does not produce succulent artichokes. I finally abandoned hope of ever eating artichokes again, and gave up. Until I happened upon an internet article about high altitude cooking that introduced me to a pressure cooker.
I think my grandmother had a pressure cooker, but I hadn’t seen one since. But apparently, a pressure cooker is the key to boiling/steaming vegetables like artichokes. Now, we have tender artichokes, as well as corn-on-the-cob in 12 minutes thanks to our $30 purchase at the Boulder Macy’s.
But the baking thing took a lot more experimenting. Articles I would read said more water, more oil, more eggs, lower temperatures, more flour, and on and one. Honestly, it’s still a crap shoot whether the cake will rise in the middle or cave like a hollowed out canoe.
But this Thanksgiving, I finally got the turkey right. Lots of basting, cooking for an extra hour at 325 degrees produced the most juicy, savory turkey I’ve ever had.
Cooking at high altitude is never dull and always an adventure!