What’s the Altitude? – Cooking and Baking Adventures

Not just the name of my favorite Cut Chemist song, it’s also the theme of my volunteering the past few weeks.  My first week on the farm the female host had gone on vacation leaving me quite a few cooking duties.  The altitude really messes with how fast liquids evaporate and how fast yeast works and that changes baking a bit.  After over a year of travel I’m quite pleased to have a kitchen to futz around and make a mess in.

When I was coming from the big city, I asked my host what he wanted.  All he said was bagels.  I didn't bring any but I made sure to bake a few batches.  This batch came out much nicer than the first.

When I was coming from the big city, I asked my host what he wanted. All he said was bagels. I didn’t bring any but I made sure to bake a few batches. This batch came out much nicer than the first.  We even had cream cheese here.

The hosts are American which meant my Thanksgiving was spent here, and for the second year in a row even out of the country, I had a feast.

IMG1027

Good ol’ American food. I even fried onions for the green bean casserole.

Although I’ve hosted Thanksgiving for over ten people, I’ve never had to cook for about six people every meal so leftovers disappeared faster than I’d like.  Some things had to be improvised as you can’t get everything in Ecuador, but I was quite pleased I had a turkey at all as opposed to my chickens and non working oven last year.

Moras, Andean blackberries, make a surprisingly almost cranberry like jelly.

Moras, Andean blackberries, make a surprisingly almost cranberry-like jelly.

Some things I made the next  day as leftovers is one of my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  My host’s request was a turkey egg noodle soup, which I happily obliged.

What is Thanksgiving without leftover sandwiches with jelly?

What is Thanksgiving without leftover sandwiches with jelly on squishy white bread?

Before I get ahead of myself though, we didn’t skip dessert.  Thanksgiving is nothing without the regret of too many plates as you stare down dessert, wondering what you can do since you’ve already unbuttoned your pants.

The world's tiniest apple for pies means the world's slowest pie filling to make.

The world’s tiniest apple for pies means the world’s slowest pie filling to make.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a pie. Perhaps the only downgrade from last year as someone made a fresh pumpkin pie, I had to settle for a just as American apple pie.

All butter crusts are just more delicious.

All butter crusts are just more delicious.

Three of the volunteers were not American and we explained traditions to them.  I explained that one was being uncomfortably full with seconds, thirds and maybe fourths.  In anticipation, I decided to hedge my drinking bets.

Turns out ginger beer is really easy to make.  Even the yeast in this worked faster than at sea level.

Turns out ginger beer is really easy to make. Even the yeast in this worked faster than at sea level.

One of the volunteers wanted to learn how to bake so I found a Barefoot Contessa recipe that was easy to do.  Everyone liked it so much I made one more during my time here.

Lemon yogurt cake moist with lemon syrup and glaze.

Lemon yogurt cake is never dry when it’s drenched with lemon syrup and glaze.

After bagels had gone so well I thought maybe my former bread curse had lifted and tried my hands at soft pretzels, which I used to do ok at back on sea level.

The first attempt was more bready but the second had a better crust.

The first attempt was more bready but the second had a better crust.

Sometimes I was just helping prep things for the farm or helped to preserve the large amount of vegetables getting harvested in the year round temperate weather.  There was such a variety that nothing really ever got old.

I've made multiple batches of pickled beets.  This board looks like a pixelated murder scene.

I’ve made multiple batches of pickled beets. This board looks like a pixelated murder scene.

Back to my favorite topic and most made dessert here! Pies luckily are not affected by altitude as bad as they lack rising agents.  Granted I’d only made a handful before coming here, I’d eaten enough to be very experienced.  I didn’t have very good luck with any crusts using lard or shortening though as they seemed to disintegrate while baking.  I’m not great at blind baking pie crusts yet I suppose but I did figured out using rice as pie weights is better than beans since you can still eat them afterwards and they taste great

The other people at the farm like my banana cream pie the best but I still think chocolate cream is my favorite.

The other people at the farm like my banana cream pie the best but I still think chocolate cream is my favorite.

One way around dough crusts is to make graham instead.  I couldn’t quite find those around here but found a similar honey bran cracker.  Sadly it still took me two attempts to make the crust.

This s'mores pie is as messy as it looks.

This s’mores pie is as messy as it looks.  So was trying to make marshmallows from scratch at altitude!  That alone took three tries.

The hosts like their American classics and I am more than happy to oblige, even if it is a tad more fat laden than I probably would cook alone.  Over time we’ve had tuna casseroles, sausage biscuits and gravy (one of my favorites), and multiple ham and bean soups.

A dish I haven't seen in years since I made it for a potluck, eggplant parmesan.

A dish I haven’t seen in years since I made it for a potluck: eggplant parmesan.

Although I do love American food, particularly Southern, I tend to cook a little more internationally on my own accord.  Here the spices lent themselves better to Mexican, Indian and Jamaican but I also snuck in a Chinese lettuce wrap made with cabbage leaves and orange chicken, except with broccoli and cauliflower by request of the hosts.  I’ve only ever made orange chicken twice now, always by request.  Not because I dislike gringo Chinese food, I just have other favorites.

My baking even extended to taking a whack at naan.

My baking even extended to taking a whack at naan.  It was ok but didn’t have the high heat necessary to really make it great.

While farm work has gotten progressively more intense, I’ve had less energy and pent up back logged dessert urges to get out.  I still made some of my favorites as they can be hard to find or just disappointing.  My chocaholism was full force and I made a chocolate yellow layer cake and some brownies just to alleviate that.  Otherwise it was a lot of pancakes and chocolate chip cookies made with leftover oatmeal from breakfast.

When in Ecuador, use their local Andean fruit.  When around British volunteers, enjoy pie and tea at elevenses.

When in Ecuador, use their local Andean fruit. When around British volunteers, enjoy pie and tea at elevenses.

Well, I still miss my kitchen greatly but this did help alleviate the stress of eating at restaurants on the road constantly and only eating pasta in hostels.  It is likely I did not need so many desserts, but at least my pants fit better now.  I’ve bought myself an old person travel medicine holder to grab some spices and I hope to continue this trend of cooking with flavor as I continue onwards.

Advertisements
1 comment
  1. jenn said:

    So funny I forgot to ask whether you put on weight during your month on the farm. Pants fit! REH

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: