WHY IS BAKING AT ALTITUDE SO DIFFERENT?

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Because Denver is our home, we completely understand why so many people are moving here.  Sunshine, outdoor activities galore, and our fun, relaxed lifestyle make our hometown arguably the best place to live in the nation!

But when people move to the altitude, there are a couple things that they have to look forward to experiencing. Stairs are all of a sudden a difficult task, we’re constantly using hand lotion and lip balm due to the dry air, and our home baked goods turn out a little… different.

While we love learning and educating, we’ll admit that we’re not the expert scientists that can talk about how lack of oxygen impacts your lungs, but we can help you out with at least one of these life adjustments.  Specifically, why is baking at altitude so different?!

THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT ALL

Simply put, high altitude equals low air pressure.  This has two equally important effects on baked goods:

  • They are going to rise more easily because the atmosphere is lighter

  • They lose moisture more quickly because liquids evaporate more quickly at altitude

Because of these scientific effects, sticking to the same recipes that you used elsewhere in the nation will cause a lot of fallen cakes and overflowing batters!

So here are some of our few, quick rules that will help you out before putting that cookie dough or cake in the oven.

GUIDELINES FOR BAKING IN HIGH ALTITUDE

While we have several suggestions that will help to make your baked goods delicacies, even at a high altitude, there are a few immediate adjustments that we would suggest trying out.  To find out what works best for your specific recipe, we suggest trying out each adjustment individually at first and noticing the results prior to dramatically switching all of your recipes at once.

  • Work to make your recipes less dense. For example, add 1-2 more tablespoons of liquid per cup of liquid you would usually use.  This allows for the additional moisture loss and will keep your recipes more stable and similar to low altitude.

  • Increase your baking temperatures by up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit over your usual temperature. This allows for the baking to set before the cells overstretch.

  • Check for doneness early and often. You’ll likely want to reduce baking time from your usual.

  • Add one additional tablespoon of flour per cup of flour within your recipe. This will help your cake to set faster.

  • Consider adding an additional egg or egg white to your recipe. This adds both more liquid (see guideline #1), as well as more protein.  The protein coagulates quickly and helps your cake set a bit faster, too.

DID YOU KNOW…

Our resident pastry chef, Kelly, teaches an entire series of classes based completely on baking at altitude.  In these classes, called Baking at 5280, she teaches technique, decorating, and quick tips that will have you baking like an all-star in no time at all.

To see the next class in this series and sign up, click here.

Spoonfuls BlogJose Mascaro