March 19th

Santa Fe is like nowhere else I have seen on my US travels so far. A soft edged, sand coloured city with splashes of vivid paintwork, worn wood and bright street art it is culturally mixed and eclectic with over 200 art galleries and a gentle feel. This area has been a magnet for artistic souls for decades, centuries even.

It is easy to forget how high up you are in this city – until the weather changes and the snow starts that is! Being high up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (it’s the highest state capital in the USA) Santa Fe offers respite in summer months from the searing New Mexico heat.

But did you know that because it’s over 7000 feet above sea level, baking in Santa Fe is a completely different ball-game to back home?

I’m told that oven temperatures need to be increased, longer baking times are necessary, extra liquid content, reduced sugar and even special flour with a higher protein content are often used. The locals really do know their stuff here though, because there are a multitude of great bakeries to choose from. These challenges apply to any baking done above 3500 feet, but in the UK, unless you’re planning to bake on top of Ben Nevis, you really don’t need to be worried!

Here I have had my first taste of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes. What’s not to like!

Download the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes here

Download a gooey Santa Fe Brownie recipe here too

Santa Fe is a great place for taking time over a coffee and a delicious chocolate brownie, but I must move on. My search continues.

March 1st

My approach to Santa Fe took me close to two amazingly different sites that sit only a few minutes apart. Los Alamos, the nuclear research facility known for the Manhattan Project, virtually shares a fence with Bandelier National Monument where you can see the remains of a settlement that has evidence of human presence spanning over 11,000 years, with rock paintings centuries old and Native American pueblo dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs.

All around the Santa Fe area is a surreal desert landscape softly sculpted by time and the elements, leaving exposed layers and gentle slopes. It is fascinating to watch the colours change as the sun goes down and shadows lengthen. Maybe that’s why I just loved this Mountain Layer Cheesecake when I saw it.

Click here for the Mountain Layer Cheesecake recipe

In Santa Fe you can see the influence of a mix of nationalities. Founded in 1607 by Spanish settlers and the second oldest city in the USA, there’s a continental theme running though many of the bakeries here, with plenty of fresh baked pastries in outlets such as the Sage Bakehouse and Clafoutis, but there is also a huge Mexican influence in New Mexico (the name’s a bit of a clue!). To the south-west, the annual Whole Enchilada Fiesta in Las Cruces held the record for the ‘world’s largest Enchilada’ until Mexico City claimed it in 2010. The true record holder is still hotly debated! Back in Santa Fe, the chilli pepper is celebrated at the Wine and Chile Festival every September.

At the Mexican inspired Chocolate Maven Bakery you can watch the team at work while sipping Hot Chocolate and sampling Coconut Macaroon Brownies or Chocolate Pinion Cookies. Try this Mexican themed Piñata Cake too, it’s great for parties.

Click here for the Piñata Cake recipe

I am beginning to realise that America is like a collection of countries. Each state has its own atmosphere (not to mention its own laws – in New Mexico it’s illegal for idiots to vote – now there’s an idea that could catch on….) and each city has a different pace.

Santa Fe has its hooks in me so I am going to stay a while and report back with more in a week or two.