Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Perfect High Altitude Baking

Baking at a high altitude can be a challenge. Bogota is located at 8,500 ft. and I've found the altitude does weird things to my baking. Cookies flatten and become brittle, cakes explode leaving the oven covered in baked batter, and brownies spill-over smoking the kitchen and setting off the smoke detector. Is there a way to combat the altitude and return to beautifully baked goods? Of course!
A quick Google search will give you many charts and suggestions. I found the Pillsbury website to be the most helpful. I don't like to feel overwhelmed with too much information or science. Just give me a simple formula to fix the problem. The truth is there are several factors to take into account when finding the perfect combination of ingredients, temperature and proportions at altitude.

Here is what Pillsbury suggests:
Ingredient                                  3,000 ft           5,000 ft           7,000 ft
Liquid: Add for each cup            1-2 Tbs.          2-4 Tbs.          3-4 Tbs.
Baking Powder: Decrease for     1/8 tsp.            1/8 - ¼ tsp.      ¼ tsp.
Each teaspoon
Sugar: decrease for each cup       0-1 Tbs.          0-2 Tbs.           1-3 Tbs.

For me the magical combination has been quiet simple. Don't change the liquid, decrease ¼ tsp. baking powder for each tsp., and decrease 3 Tbs. sugar for each cup. Occasionally I will add a bit of flour to make the consistency of the batter the same as it was at home, but be careful not to add too much or you will get a bland flavor. I do this for all brownies, cakes, quick breads and cookies.
Yeast breads don't need any changing. The more you knead by hand, the easier you will find it to determine the correct consistency. Some days require a little more flour and other days a little less. It depends on the humidity in the air.
It takes a bit of playing around. The sugar in your country may be a different consistency than the heavy granules here in Colombia or the air might have more humidity. Good luck and just keep in mind that just when you think you've got it figured out, something will rise too high and then flatten, but don't get discouraged, just keep baking!

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