Cooking at high elevation – a locals guide to cooking on vacation in Breck

family in condo

From sushi to fondue, there is no lack of dining options in Breck, but when you are equipped with your own kitchen it’s nice to lounge around in long johns, sip on a glass of wine and make your own meals.

Food shopping

There are two large grocery stores in Breck – City Market (a Kroger chain) on the North end of town (400 North Parkway) – the best place to find the freshest produce, exotic spices, herbs and special ingredients. Then there is the smaller, more centrally located Food Kingdom at 311 S. Ridge Rd. Conveniently, both have a liquor store next door but keep in mind, they are not 24-hour operations. City Market is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and Food Kingdom 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Right on Main Street (116 N.) lies The Local Market and Liquor Shed, open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It’s very small but equipped with a variety of homegrown goods, including a vast selection of Colorado-brewed beer.

At high altitude…

There are a few general pointers when it comes to cooking and baking at altitude, especially here at one of the highest ski towns in the world. If there’s anywhere that those special high altitude instructions you see on every baking box apply, it’s here at 9,600 feet.

When the altitude is high, the air pressure is low. This means that water boils faster and gases expand more. In general, the result is that everything will take a little bit longer to cook or bake.

Cooking

For pasta and rice, water boils faster, but the boiling temperature is lower. Plan to keep it on the stove longer and add more water to account for faster evaporation.

Turkeys and hams take longer to cook thoroughly. A meat thermometer can be handy around these parts.

When grilling, expect to be outside a little longer to make sure that the meat is cooking thoroughly. Be sure to keep it away from the direct flame to avoid charring it and grill at a lower heat to avoid drying it out.

For soups and sauces, all liquids evaporate quickly, so if you want to eat them with a spoon rather than a fork, plan to add up to a cup of water.

Baking

The first rule of thumb, make sure the oven is preheated to the designated recipe temperature before the baked good goes in.

Good news for holiday bakers … pie crust actually cooks well at altitude but if you’re making it from scratch, you might want to add a little more water to make sure the dough holds together well and isn’t too dry.

For fluffy pastries like muffins and biscuits, decrease sugar and baking soda or powder slightly, increase water or milk by a tablespoon and flour by a couple of tablespoons.

Making a cake? Be sure to grease the pans well and coat with flour. Don’t over-beat the eggs, slightly decrease the baking powder (if recipe calls for one teaspoon, decrease by ¼) and add two tablespoons of water for every one cup in the recipe. Add at least one tablespoon of flour. Fill pans only halfway to avoid overflowing. Increase baking time.

family in condosThere is nothing like coming home from the slopes to the smell of freshly baked cookies. When whipping up the batter, decrease the butter by two tablespoons and soften (don’t melt it!) first. Decrease the sugar slightly, add at least two tablespoons of flour, bake at a lower temperature for a couple of minutes longer and keep a close eye on progress.

Ski it off

Besides the obvious (breathtaking beauty, winter wonderland, etc) another great reason to be in Breck for the holidays is that even if you’re conjuring up daily feasts, a day of skiing can burn up to 3,000 calories. You won’t be the one packing on the pounds this holiday season!

— Shauna Farnell