Altitude Changes Everything
People say your baked goods are delicious, but when you moved from Buffalo to mile-high Denver, your cakes changed to, well, manhole covers. Why? The higher you go above sea level, the lower the air pressure is. Cakes and breads rise faster and fall harder. While there is no blanket fix for the many changes at high altitudes, expert bakers suggest these tips for elevated success.
Decrease Dry Ingredients
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon less baking powder per teaspoon for 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level
1/4 teaspoon less for 7,000
0 to 1 tablespoon less sugar per cup for 3,000 feet above sea level
1 to 2 tablespoons less for 5,000 feet
1 to 3 tablespoons less for 7,000 feet
Dry yeast measures the same whatever the altitude, but use half the sea level time to proof your yeast. Punch down dough much sooner, or even punch it down twice. Leavening gasses increase more rapidly at high altitude, impacting the texture, taste and appearance of your final product. To help bypass puffiness, some cooks recommend replacing half of your all-purpose flour with whole wheat, or you can try adding one tablespoon per cup at 3,000 feet and one tablespoon more at 5,000 and at 7,000.
1 to 2 tablespoons more liquid per cup for 3,000 feet above sea level
2 to 4 tablespoons more for 5,000 feet
3 to 4 tablespoons more for 7,000 feet
Increase Temperature, and Keep “Eyes On”
15 to 25 degrees
This sets batter and dough before it rises too much. Check your cake or bread well before the recommended baking time. A separate oven thermometer is useful as the one in your stove may not be accurate.
Experienced high-altitude cooks say try your scratch recipe without altering it to see what happens. Then adjust if necessary. Experiment with various guidelines. Yes, all cooking involves science and trial and error. High altitude baking is no exception.
Ask questions and research. The Colorado State University Extension Resource Center has a staggering wealth of online resources, including an “Ask an Expert” section for personalized answers to your specific issue. Most important, don’t give up. A great scratch baker at sea level can soar at high altitude.
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 12th edition, 2003