High Altitude Baking: Five-ingredient pecan crunchies (recipe) | VailDaily.com

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High Altitude Baking: Five-ingredient pecan crunchies (recipe)

Special to the Daily

Editor's note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

Right about now is a time when many of us suffer from a serious case of dietary remorse. (All those holiday indulgences — why didn't we resist?) If you're experiencing it, these cookies could be the perfect antidotes. They're low fat and gluten-free, so you can enjoy their brown sugar-pecan taste and light, crunchy texture with very little guilt. Nibble them alone or when you're on friendlier terms with sweets, as an accompaniment to any creamy dessert (think ice cream, puddings and custards).

With only five ingredients, they're as easy to make as they are to eat. Just be sure your brown sugar is soft and lump-free and your pecans are fresh and nicely toasted. Be patient as you beat the egg white; it needs to be quite firm in order to blend with the dry ingredients.

Pecan crunchies

(Yields 20, 2 ½-inch cookies.)

1 large egg white, room temperature

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped into ¼-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. (Don't grease the pan; the cookies may spread too much.)

Beat the egg white and salt with an electric mixer (use a whisk attachment if you have one) on low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium-high, and continue beating until stiff peaks form. This takes a few minutes. Add the vanilla, sugar and nuts, and use a large silicone or rubber spatula to thoroughly fold them into the beaten egg white. The egg white will deflate, and once blended, the dough will be thick and sticky.

Use a spoon to make round mounds of dough, 1 inch high and 1 inch wide, spaced about 2 inches apart, on the prepared pan. If necessary, wet your hands to shape the dough correctly. Bake until the cookies puff and spread and the dough is set but still slightly soft when touched. This takes from 16 to 21 minutes. If you want the cookies to be a little chewy, remove them when the dough is set but very springy when touched; if you want them completely dry and crunchy, give them a little more oven time.

Remove the pan to a rack. Leave the cookies on the pan until cool. Slip a metal spatula under each one to gently detach it from the parchment or foil. Store, covered, for six days at cool room temperature.

This is a variation of a recipe in "Cookies Unlimited." Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook "Cookies in the Clouds" (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.