Taking the Guesswork Out of High-Altitude Baking

While it is difficult to completely take the guesswork out of high-altitude baking, renowned chefs around the world do offer some tips for how to be mostly certain that you've adjusted correctly for high altitudes the first time. Obviously, the first important step is to find out at what the elevation above sea level you live, and then adjust accordingly in your recipes.

One big challenge in altering unknown recipes is that you often will not know where the recipe was developed, and so you won't know the starting altitude for the recipe. We're going to assume that the original recipe was developed at sea level, or you can read the altitude measurements as "feet above baseline." Thankfully, with the help of the Internet, you will be able to look up the altitude in any location that is given with a recipe so that you will have a much clearer idea where you're starting.

Leavening

At high altitudes, the air pressure is lower than at sea level. This means that any leavening such as baking soda, baking powder, egg whites, or yeast will work much faster -- often before the dish is baked very much, resulting in flat cakes and overly dense breads. The solution is to reduce your dry leavening agent by about 3-5 percent per 1,000-foot increase. Soft peak eggs should work well without having to reduce the amount.

Liquid

Dry ingredients, such as flour, often have even less moisture content at high altitudes. The climate is also much more likely to be arid, causing liquid to evaporate out quickly. To combat this issue, add about 1/2 tablespoon of liquid per cup of flour, per 1,000 feet. Sugar may also need to be decreased.

Binders

Various binding agents, such as eggs, oatmeal, or bread crumbs, may need to be increased if the finished baked goods are still coming out flat even after adjustments have been made to the leavening. This will help keep the leavening gasses from escaping out of thin batters and doughs, allowing for much better rising throughout the baking time. Following these tips, you can make any recipe perfect for your location.

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