High Altitude Baking: Almost-candy cookies | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Baking: Almost-candy cookies

Vera Dawson
High Altitude Baking
Be sure to toast the nuts for optimum flavor and crunch in these almost-candy cookies.
Vera Dawson | Special to the Daily |

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.

Rich and gooey — almost like a candy bar. Crunchy nuts and sweet caramel on a brown-sugar shortbread base — a to-die-for combination and an easy-to-make recipe. What more could you want?

I used hazelnuts in the cookies in the photograph, but walnuts, pecans, almonds or even peanuts are good in this recipe; be sure to toast them for optimum flavor and crunch.

The topping must boil long enough for the sugar to dissolve completely or the topping will be grainy and unappealing. To test it, take the pan off the heat, remove a small amount from the saucepan and rub it between your clean fingers; it should be completely smooth. If it isn’t, then return the pan to the heat and boil the mixture a little longer.

Line your pan completely with greased or non-stick foil and make sure there are no holes in it. The filling will end up glued to the pan if you don’t.

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Almost-Candy Cookies

Make in an 8-by-8-inch metal baking pan


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spoon and level)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)

1/3 cup light corn syrup

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped toasted nuts

1/3 cup chopped semisweet chocolate

1. With a rack in the center, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the pan with nonstick aluminum foil or regular foil, covering the inside completely and extending it several inches on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the slab of cookies. If using regular foil, grease it generously with a flour-vegetable oil spray. Set the prepared pan aside.

2. Make the crust: Combine the flour, brown sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, add them with the vanilla, and process until moist clumps form. Dump the dough into the prepared pan, pressing it until it’s level and smooth. Bake until light golden and dry, about 20 minutes. Move to a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

3. Make the topping: Cut the butter into 8 pieces, add to a medium saucepan with the corn syrup, brown sugar, heavy cream and salt. Place on a stove burner over low heat and stir with a silicone spatula until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Increase the heat to low-medium and bring to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved (swirl pan rather than stirring while the mixture boils; watch closely, it will bubble up). Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the nuts, and pour over the crust, smoothing it so it is level. Place the pan back in 325 degree oven and bake until the entire surface has small bubbles (the mixture will start to bubble on the edges and slowly move to the center), about 15-20 minutes.

4. Remove the pan to a rack and immediately scatter the chopped chocolate over the hot top. Let the slab of cookies cool in the pan. Use the foil handles to remove the it from the pan and place it in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for about an hour until slightly chilled. Carefully pull the foil from the slab of cookies and use a thin-bladed sharp knife to cut it into squares. If it’s hard to cut or the knife gets sticky, run the knife under hot water and dry it between cuts. Store the cookies, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve at room temperature.

Vera Dawson is a high altitude baking teacher and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Baking Above It All” and “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). 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.

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