For some, baking can be a tricky task. While some bakers are natural-born, others take years of training and experience to perfect decadent desserts. However, baking at a high altitude can be a challenge for individuals of any skill level. Changes in the weight of air that are prevalent with high-altitude cooking can greatly alter the outcome of dishes that are baked, particularly desserts and cakes. As a result, it is important to follow high-altitude baking directions and tips to ensure optimal results.
Science of High-Altitude Baking
Though the general techniques of baking are uniform across a wide array of environmental factors and demographic conditions, why are high-altitude climates so different? The answer is simple: low altitude pressure causes baked goods to rise more easily and lose pressure more quickly. Since water requires a lower boiling point at higher altitudes, baked goods lose this water faster as the liquid evaporates. As leavening occurs at a quicker rate, the result includes the creation of gas bubbles that coalesce into larger, irregular pockets in dough and batter. This leads to a more coarse cake that is less desirable than fluffy, moister versions. In addition, these bubbles can become so great that they burst, causing cake walls to stretch to their maximum point. As a result, bakers are left with a fallen cake.
If the results depicted in the previous paragraph seem less-than-desirable, you may want to try one of these tricks to achieve indulgent baked goods in high-altitude regions.
- In general, with the exception of angel food cake or sponge cake, use parchment paper inside cake pans or dust with flour and grease to prevent sticking. Cupcake liners are acceptable for muffins and cupcakes.
- In every recipe, subtract one to three tablespoons of sugar per cup of ingredients. Cakes that display a mottled surface depict the use of too much sugar. The removal of one to three tablespoons of fat per cup may also be necessary.
- Add one additional egg or egg white. This increases the amount of protein in a recipe and coagulates to make the cake set faster.
- Decrease the amount of baking soda or baking powder by 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon for every teaspoon needed. Baked goods that have a stronger structure, such as cookies, squares, and quick bread may not require this improvisation.
- Add one to two teaspoons of extra liquid per cup to make up for lost moisture during the baking process.
- Decrease the rising time for bread, and only allow the dough to rise twice before reshaping. Using 20% less yeast may also suffice.
- Beat egg whites for foam cakes prior to incorporation to allow for better expansion.
- Increase baking temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit to allow baking to set and reduce the risk of overstretched cells.
- As always, check for doneness and manipulate baking time accordingly.
Since most recipes are formulated for sea-level baking, making a few adjustments can leave bakers with a spectacular cake or mouth-watering loaf of bread. Instead of utilizing every tip at once, simply try one or two and determine how these changes affected the overall product. If needed, incorporate one or two more techniques to improve the outcome.
In order to enhance your high-altitude baking experience, we have include the following high-altitude baking video. Just remember, the higher the altitude the more drastic you will need to be with your baking implementations and adjustments. With just a few minor changes, you will be baking delicious breads and sweet desserts in no time!