Vail High Country Baking column: Mountain Jumbles |

Vail High Country Baking column: Mountain Jumbles

Vera Dawson
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude 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 to make baking in the mountains successful.

“Dry, flat and tasteless”… those words introduced an email I recently received. Since that description could apply to a variety of things from politicians to TV shows, my interest was piqued. It turns out the writer was portraying the results she got when she used a sea-level drop cookie recipe at an elevation of 9,000 feet. Unfortunately, her experience is a common one. Home-baked drop cookies are one of the few disappointments of mountain living. Most recipes need some significant changes to produce anything worth eating at our altitude.

I’ve finally developed a mountain recipe for jumbles – cookies filled with a jumble of nuts, chocolate chips and dried fruit – that turns out to be a close approximation to its low-country kin. The result is a mixture of complementary tastes and textures barely held together by a not-too-sweet dough. Crisp on the edges and chewy within, the cookies are wholesome, very satisfying, and appealing to both adults and children. Like many drop cookies, these are at their best when they’re warm, but they are also good at room temperature, right out of the cookie jar.

Their success depends upon baking them at a low temperature and removing them from the oven when, at sea level, we’d consider them slightly under baked. Any more baking time than this will yield a jumble that is dry and hard.

These cookies keep for a week or so at cool room temperature and freeze very well. If you freeze them, after defrosting, refresh them by reheating for a few minutes in a low oven (325 degrees or so) until they are warm to the touch.

Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet

Makes approximately four dozen two-inch cookies


1 1/4 cups of semisweet chocolate chips

1 1/4 cups of raisins (make sure they are soft)

1 cup of pecans, toasted and coarsely shopped

3/4 cup of almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

11/2 cups of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup of light or dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one stick)

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon of light corn syrup

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack positioned in the lower third. Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or Reynold’s Release non-stick aluminum foil. Don’t grease the cookie sheets or the cookies might spread as they bake. Combine the chocolate chips, raisins, chopped pecans and almonds in a large bowl. Toss to combine well and to separate any raisins that may be stuck together. Set this aside.

If using a food processor: Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Set this aside. Place the brown and the granulated sugar in the bowl of the processor and process until they are very fine. Cut the butter into six pieces, add it to the processor and pulse until the mixture is creamy and smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg, egg yolk, corn syrup, and vanilla and process until combined. Add the flour mixture and process only until the flour is no longer visible.

If using a mixer: Soften the butter. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Set this aside. Combine the butter and the brown and granulated sugars and cream with your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, corn syrup and the vanilla until well mixed. Add the flour mixture and, using the mixer’s low speed, beat only until incorporated.

Scrape the cookie batter onto the mixture of chocolate chips, raisins and nuts. With wet hands or a large spoon, gently knead and mix all the components together until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Using wet hands, form the dough into balls about the size of a small walnut (rounded tablespoons) and place them on the lined cookie sheets, about an inch and a half apart.

Bake one cookie sheet at a time, reversing the pan half way through the baking time. The cookies are done when the bottoms start to color, the tops are just set, still soft, and hardly colored. The time will depend on the temperature of the dough and the size of your dough balls. Start checking at about 12 minutes, though it may take several minutes longer. Don’t overbake these cookies or they will be hard. Remove the cookies from the cookie sheets to a cooling rack as soon as possible. When cool, store in an airtight container or freeze.

Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at This is a variation of a recipe in “Rose’s Christmas Cookies.”

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