Monday, January 25, 2010

Snowpocalypse

Natural Disasters are not the end of the world. But the last few weeks it seems mother nature has flexed her biceps and reminded us just how fragile our existence is. After the news about Haiti landed on my internet scene, my eyeballs were glued (torturously so) to all the images from the devastation that is Port au Prince. From the first moment I saw the photos I felt summoned to help. That's when Flagstaff got our own taste of El Nino.
In one day, 3 feet of snow blanketed Flag in white. The next day, it dumped 2 more feet. With interstates closed, and buildings collapsing what is a person to do but go sledding, build five room igloos or perhaps just snowshoe down to a friends house for hot cocoa and a jam sesh. Ava (my daughter) kills it on the harmonica.
Driving through the desert where the houses look like hobbit holes and little lights peer out of buried windows. The usual browns and golden tans have been replaced by sparkling white and I feel like I'm in a whole new place. I didn't have to travel far, like a 360 degree circle I landed in the same place I started but a world apart.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dear Martha


Since the snow has made the top outs untop-able I have decided to become better acquainted with my kitchen. My first project was to find the perfect recipe for baking chocolate chip cookies at high altitude (we live at 6500 ft). I had always heard to add more flour (makes them very dry and crispy), add less flour (makes them thin and crunchy), don't add as much baking soda (blah)... I decided to try this recipe that was buried deep within the archives of Cooks Illustrated. If you've ever attempted any of these recipes you should know that Cooks LOVES butter. How wrong could it go really? And they turned out to be the best cookies EVER. So here's the recipe:

Warning: Do not bake cookies in batches!!!! Bake them separately!

Be amazed, not afraid, of the size of the dough balls you place on your cookie sheet.

Makes 16 cookies. Published May 1, 2009. From ATK Books.

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Instructions

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

  2. 2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

  3. 3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

  4. 4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

  5. 5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Have fun!! Bon appetit.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

misguided

My favorite way to see the back country in Hueco is to just throw down the extra cash for a commercial tour. That way I can go wherever I want with my friends. When Andy Klier is my guide I pretty much just let him show me around and we usually end up in some far reaching obscure area on West mountain. The approach is usually the warm up: Climbing up 5.8's, leaping over crevasses, and traversing exposed ledges with a crash pad strapped to my back. The time it takes to get to the boulder problem is one of the best parts about climbing in Hueco. I like to call these adventurous meanderings, "Misguided Tours".
On one misguided tour we found ourselves on all manner of "trad" boulder problems. The fin next to Uncut Yogi for example, Nick actually taped his hands to hand jam. We all did the "hourglass", I arm jammed to finish a beautiful v7 called Belly of the Beast because I couldn't reach the positive crimp another 6 inches away....the list goes on. So, if you come to hueco and you "aren't a boulderer" cause you've been trad climbing or whatever, keep in mind that the only four star problem in the park that Fred Nicole hasn't done is a 35 foot roof crack on north mountain called, "The Morgue" (v5). Happy hunting!
video