Honey loaf at sea level

Up, up and away

Honey cake

Rosh Hashana draws near and tradition calls for honey cake. No point in toasting the new year with a sweet, sunken mess. Best to start right, with a bite of high-achieving cake. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

The mountain makes a fine vacation companion. It offers gaspingly beautiful views and, midhike, gasp-inducing terrain.

The mountain's sunny days inspire the fitness fantasy, easily relinquished for cool nights of deep sleep.

In the kitchen, though, the mountain meddles.

Here's the problem: It's high. So high that even gravity gasps. Under ordinary low-lying, high-pressure circumstances, water boils at the recommended 212 degrees. But in the relaxed atmosphere of the upper reaches, bubbles pop at the least provocation. Cooking is cooler, slower and more exasperating. Baking is downright infuriating.

Things that normally rise don't. Things that normally crisp won't. It drives the baker to relinquish her spatula for research. Which I've long avoided.

Then my mom gave me a book full of actual information. I gasped. "Pie in the Sky" reworks many a classic muffin or crumble at sea level, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000 and 10,000 feet. It inspires even the cloud-high cake to achieve cloud-light crumb.

Which comes in handy at Rosh Hashana, when tradition calls for honey cake. No point in toasting the new year with a sweet, sunken mess. Best to start right, with a bite of high-achieving cake and a gasp of appreciation.

Honey loaf at sea level

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 1 hour
Makes: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon instant espresso
¾ cup hot water
¾ cup honey
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup canola oil
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts

Dissolve:
In a medium bowl, dissolve espresso in hot water. Whisk in (in order): honey, sugar, eggs, oil.

Whisk:
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Make a well in the center. Pour in honey mixture. Whisk smooth.

Bake:
Scrape batter into a greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle on walnuts. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until top turns dark, about 45 minutes. Cover with foil and continue baking until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean, about 15 more minutes. Cool 30 minutes in pan, then tip out loaf and cool completely.

Provenance:
Adapted from "Pie in the Sky" by Susan G. Purdy.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

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