Baking at high altitudes is as frustrating as it is rewarding. Standard recipes just don’t work right, because high altitudes actually affect the process on a fundamental level. Water boils at a lower temperature, which causes the trapped bubbles in the batter to rise much quicker than at sea level. This results in a dry, dense item that may not cook completely in the center. However, a few simple adjustments will help those cookies, cakes and pies come out picture perfect.
Decrease the Leaving
The lower air pressure coupled with a lower boil point means baked good will rise faster. To compensate you can lower the amount of leavening agents (baking powder, baking soda, yeast). This will help prevent over rising which can lead to a collapsed and dry cake.
The amount you decrease will depend on your altitude. At heights between 3,000 feet and 4,999 feet reduce your leaving by ⅛ teaspoon for every teaspoon called for. At 5,000 to 6,999 feet reduce by ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon per teaspoon. And for altitudes over 7,000 feet decrease by ¼ teaspoon per teaspoon.
Due to the lower boiling point of water baked goods at higher altitudes lose moisture quicker, leaving the treats dry and tough. By increasing the liquids, there will be more moisture left once the baking is complete. Keep in mind that butter, even when used cold, is considered a liquid because it melts during cooking, while egg is not a liquid but rather a stabilizer.
Again, the amount you increase will depend on how high you live. For heights above 3,000 feet increase by 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons per cup at altitudes above 5,000 feet and 3 to 4 tablespoons per cup above 7,000 feet.
Increase Baking Temperature By 25 Degrees
By rising the oven temperature, the baked goodie will cook in proportion to how fast it rises. This will help prevent underdone middles, fallen cakes and overly dry cookies. You’ll want to watch them carefully to prevent burning as they are more likely to finish baking sooner than specified in the recipe.
Judge Rise By Bulk Not Time
Once again the speed of air bubbles rising affects the way yeast breads rise. This can result in over-proofed dough, which will fall during cooking or become tough and chewy. Because of this, it’s important to gage the rise time by how much the dough has increased in size instead of how much time is needed to let it rise. Keep an eye on the dough to make sure it does not rise more than ⅓ its original bulk.
Grease and Dust or Line Baking Dishes
Baked goods are more likely to stick to their pans at high altitudes. To ensure a smooth release be sure to completely grease your pans and dust lightly with flour. You can also line your baking dishes with parchment paper to keep them from sticking.
Baking at high altitudes takes practice to get just right. You’ll have to experiment with how much to add and leave out to get the perfect cake at your particular height. By using the above tips much of the guess work is taken out of the equation and you have a solid foundation on which to perfect your baking magic.