Baking at altitude

The last time I lived in Colorado, I bought a great book about baking at altitude. I still have that book, and it would sure come in handy now that I’m back. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the box of books that contains my cookbooks. It’s in our storage unit, and I can’t bear to tackle that right now.

However, I have been really excited about cooking and baking again. In the desert, it was too hot to turn on the oven or to boil water. We kept the toaster oven outside and sometimes cooked in that, but the heat made even the food prep indoors difficult.

Since the move, I’ve been on a cooking and baking binge. I’ve made a lavender sour cream cake, several batches of brownies, pancakes, cookies, and more. Much of it tasted good, but none of it was bakery quality.

I love a challenge, so I am going to try to conquer cooking & baking at 5280 feet. In addition to the book I own, there are web sites with guidelines for adjusting recipes for altitude. I’ll work on cakes, pies, and such first. The cooking will be easier; a few adjustments in liquids, salt, and cooking temps/times should do the trick. Then I’ll move on to bread, which has never been my strong suit, even at sea level.

Of course, I also need to pay more attention to more subtle changes in height. While making cookies, I thought I’d speed the process by putting both trays in the oven at the same time. As you can see below, rack placement gave me two very different trays of cookies. Looks like I need to learn to use my new oven correctly, too.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Baking at altitude

  1. Unless a recipe specifies that it’s been adjusted for altitude, you always have to adjust it yourself. The most valuable things I learned in pastry school for high alt baking:

    1. Watch your oven temp: convection ovens are 25 degrees higher than conventional ovens. Commercial recipes will assume you have a convection oven.
    2. Decrease your chemical leavening by 40% if you’re at 5280 ft and reduce it another 10% for each 1,000 degrees of altitude. (If you’re baking on top of Mt. Evans, you won’t need much leavening!)
    3. Add 1-2 tbs of flour per cup to make a denser batter
    4. Increase liquid 2-4 tbs per recipe

    I realize #3 and #4 sound counter-intuitive but if you’re doing a lot of baking, you’ll figure out which ones work best.

    Jeez, I need to go bake something now!

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