Vera Dawson, high-altitude baking columnist, pens new cookbook
"Cookies for People in High Places" focuses on baking in high altitudes
If you’re an avid reader of the Vail Daily, then you’ve likely seen Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking.”
Dawson, a baker and an author, has written a new book — her third — called “Cookies for People in High Places.” The book focuses on, well, cookies and specifically how to bake them above 9,000 feet.
“I come from a family that likes to cook and it’s something I’ve basically done all my life and really enjoyed,” Dawson said. “My mother enjoyed baking and my uncle was a great cook in all ways and they inspired me.”
Dawson has lived in Summit County for 20 years now, visiting frequently for eight years before that, making her an expert in all things altitude — a trait that’s helpful when crafting and retooling recipes designed for lower elevations.
The recipes in Dawson’s book, especially the ones that she adapts from other publications, never make it to print without being tested several times.
“There are certain things you learn about how ingredients react at high altitudes,” Dawson said. “The more I became knowledgeable about altitude, the faster I get (at testing recipes). But sometimes, I have to adjust it six or seven times.”
Dawson won’t publish a recipe in her books or columns until it’s “totally reliable.”
Although some of the recipes aren’t entirely original, a great deal of them are. Dawson also recognizes that a truly original recipe is a rarity.
“We laugh at people who are really into baking because there’s never an original recipe,” Dawson said. “There’s a certain science to it.”
With over 200 baking books, a plethora of blogs and a number of baking friends, it’s not hard for Dawson to find inspiration and make the recipes her own.
“Sometimes (the recipe) is more mine than anyone else’s, and sometimes it’s one that I’ve seen and I put my spin on it.”
And it’s not just crafting recipes — she also teaches baking classes. Nowadays, she teaches private classes in homes on a freelance budget, but for a time, she taught at Colorado Mountain College. She’s also been writing her column since the early 2000s.
Like her first book (“Cookies in the Clouds”), this one focuses solely on cookies.
“Cookies are what most people in America bake,” Dawson said. “If you ask people if they bake, they’ll say ‘well just cookies.’ So I decided to make a book about cookies.”
Additionally, her first cookie book has sold out completely, and Dawson said that bookstore owners encouraged her to write another book based on cookies.
“Cookies for People in High Places” features five sections:
- Cookies baked in a pan
- Cookies in disguise
- Cookies on the savory side
- Hand-formed and cut-out cookies
Additionally, the book begins with an introduction and a run-down of high-altitude baking basics and equipment, as well as Dawson’s keys to successful high-altitude baking, giving a solid foundation to anyone looking to take on the task of baking above 9,000 feet.
“Cookies for People in High Places” can be purchased at The Bookworm of Edwards for $14.95, and Dawson’s columns featuring complete recipes can be seen in the Vail Daily and on http://www.vaildaily.com.
Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2932.