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High Altitude Baking Tips

The affects of the lower air pressure in the San Juan Mountain area (or anywhere more than 3,000 feet above sea level) affects the way foods react to cooking and baking. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, you don’t want your baked treats to suffer with a houseful of guests are set to arrive! When you’re cooking at high altitudes, you may notice only slight differences in how your favorite recipes turn out, if you notice any at all. Baking, on the other hand, relies on delicate chemical reactions to create a product that holds together as it rises, and the lower air pressure up here changes the way baking chemistry works. As with cooking, it’s worth trying every recipe once as-is when baking at altitude. Many recipes will turn out fine without alterations. Cookies do especially well, needing few, if any, changes. If you’re not satisfied with your baking results, though, here are a few tips to make high altitude baking more delicious:

Using Packaged Mixes

Check the package carefully before you bake. Most commercial baking mixes include high-altitude baking instructions on their packages, usually on one of the side panels or at the end of the regular instructions. The manufacturer’s test kitchens will have already figured out what changes you’ll need to make. Usually, you’ll be asked to add a few tablespoons of flour and a little more water.

General Considerations

This post from the Exploratorium’s Science of Cooking site explains the major ways baking at high altitudes is different from sea-level baking:

  • Everything evaporates faster, and water boils at a lower temperature, so all baked goods tend to be drier, crumblier, or gummier. They’re also more likely to stick, so using parchment paper, muffin pan liners, or well greased and floured pans is more important for high-altitude baking.
  • Quick evaporation also tends to make sugars more concentrated. You may get better results by using less sugar.
  • Less air pressure means less resistance for rising doughs and batters, so baked goods here rise faster—often too fast, making them tough, spongy and full of holes, or flat from puffing up too quickly, then falling. Using more of a stabilizer (like flour and/or eggs) or less of a leavening agent (like baking soda, baking powder, or yeast), or allowing less rising time may help.

Changes for Specific Types of Baking

Different chemical processes are at work in standard cakes, sponge cakes, yeast breads, biscuits, quick breads and muffins, pie crusts, and cookies. This brochure from the Colorado State University Extension suggests changes for more successful high-altitude baking with each type of baked goods.

The Staff at San Juan Realty, Inc. wishes you and yours a safe and happy July 4th holiday!

5300 County Road 5 Ridgway Colorado for sale

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