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Mountain Cooking & Baking and Adjusting for Altitude

Added: Mar 10, 2019
Category: Tell Me About Big Bear Lake, California

When cooking or baking in high altitude regions, don't forget to adjust accordingly. For those of you who are not sure what to do, here are things important to know.......

At high altitudes, the air density is lower than at sea level. This causes two basic problems:

At higher elevations, water boils at a LOWER temperature, thus requiring you to cook longer once you hit the boiling (and the time it takes you to prepare your recipe). For example, the water's not as hot in Denver as it is in L.A. even boiling. This is the reason, when cooking in the mountains, your coffee and hot chocolate can be merely tepid, even though the water was boiling.

Baked goods tend to rise faster, requiring a change in the proportion of ingredients used in leavened foods (such as breads and cakes). Sometimes, you may need to adjust the baking temperature in your oven as well!

However, changes in altitude do not affect over temperatures. P;ease Note: Since baking items often rise quicker at higher altitudes, you may want to increase the oven temperature. So, at elevations over 3500 feet, the oven temperature for batters and doughs should be 25 degrees fahrenheit higher than the temperature used at sea level. Proofing time for yeast breads should be reduced.

Boiling: In general, then, if you are making something that needs to be boiled, the cooking process will take longer at high altitude than at sea level. At as low as 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), the boiling point of water has changed enough to change cooking times significantly. For example, expect rice cooked at 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) to take 25-30 minutes instead of 20-25 minutes of simmering before the water is absorbed and the rice is done.

Baking: For any baked goods that rise (yeast breads, cakes or breads made with baking powder, etc.) it is important to adjust the recipe so that the rapid rise time doesn't make the resulting bread or cake too dry. This can be done as follows:

For Yeast Breads: Yeast breads rise more quickly at high altitudes, so be sure to watch your dough carefully and judge the rise time by the change in the dough's bulk, not by the amount of time it takes.

For recipes using baking powder:

Don't over beat the eggs. Over beating adds too much air to the bread or cake.

Raise the baking temperature slightly; the faster cooking time will keep the recipe from rising too much.

Decrease the amount of baking powder slightly; this also prevents the recipe from rising too much.

Always grease your baking pans thoroughly, as cakes and breads ten to stick more when they are baked at high altitudes.

Read the Directions!

When all else fails, read the directions! If you're baking something you've baked for years, take a close look to find any instructions about preparing your food at a higher elevation. Usually, there will be a note (in fine print) stating what to add or delete from the recipe to make your food come out just like you've always enjoyed it!

Baking Cakes at High Altitude

Most cake recipes for sea level need no modification up to the altitude of 3,000 feet. Above that, it is often necessary to adjust recipes slightly. Usually, a decrease in leavening or sugar (or both) and an increase in liquid are needed.

Each or all of these adjustments may be required for every recipe is different in its balance of ingredients. Only repeated experiments with each recipe can give the most successful proportions to use. Simply use the guide below to adjust your recipe as needed. Where two amounts appear in the table, the smaller adjustment should be tried first. Then, if the cake still needs improvement, the larger adjustment can be used the next time.

Adjustment for 3000+ feet:

Reduce baking powder: For each tsp., decrease 1/8 tsp.

Reduce sugar: For each cup, decrease 0 to 1 Tbsp.

Increase liquid: For each cup, add 1 to 2 Tbsp.

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