need special ingredients or exotic equipment for baking at high altitude,
but you do need to be aware of a few potential problems. Among the many
items that are affected, a few are included below (Scroll Down). To avoid
hit-or-miss testing of recipe adjustments, use the balanced, reliable
recipes found in PIE IN THE SKY.
Different types of flour have different characteristics depending upon
many factors including geographic and climatic conditions where the wheat
was grown and the type of wheat from which it were milled. In high altitude
baking, batter strength is critical; a cake can rise or fall depending
upon a small adjustment in the amount of flour; it is especially important
to use the type of flour specified in the recipe: bread flour, all-purpose,
or cake. High altitude bakers must be aware of the amount of gluten-producing
protein in their flour. Gluten is the stretchy elastic substance present
in wheat flour that develops when two of the many proteins present in
wheat blend with liquid. Dry atmospheric conditions at altitude may require
recipe adjustments in the amount of flour and liquid used. Bread flour
contains the most gluten, 12 to 16 percent; all-purpose flour contains
roughly 10 to 13 percent gluten; bleached cake flour contains about 8
percent. High Altitude Hungarian Flour (sold primarily in Colorado, New
Mexico, and Southwestern markets) contains about 12 percent gluten.
Air, steam, and the carbon dioxide gas produced by baking powder and baking
soda are the principal leaveners for baked goods (yeast leavens bread,
see below). As altitude increases, air pressure lessens. When there is
less air pushing down on the surface of a batter, it has less resistance,
so it can rise much more easily. The higher the elevation, the less air
resistance and the more easily the leavening (of any type) works. The
amount of leavening in most recipes developed for sea level need to be
reduced at high altitude or the baked goods will rise too much and/or
Yeast is available to the home baker in several forms – granulated
active dry, compressed, and instant active dry. Many home bread-bakers
like to use granulated (active) dry yeast, sold in foil packets or jars
in supermarkets and specialty food stores, either in dairy or baking departments.
Instant active dry is designed to eliminate the need for proofing and
to hasten rising. It is fine for sea-level baking with recipes designed
for quick-rise products (sweet breads, especially), but if used at altitude,
quantities must be severely cut because the reduced air pressure itself
encourages rapid yeast expansion; the combination of quick-rising yeast
and low air pressure make bread rise too fast to develop good flavor and
Buttermilk is a favored product in high altitude baking because it contribute
acidity as well as richness, moisture, flavor, and tenderness. If a sea-level
recipe calls for regular milk, you can replace it with buttermilk. Acidity
weakens the elasticity and/or strength of gluten in wheat flour, thereby
keeping baked products tender.
For additional information buy PIE IN THE SKY by Susan G. Purdy.
high altitude shiny or matte-finish pans of fairly heavy quality work
better than those that are thin, warped, or with scratched nonstick surfaces.
Avoid heavy black steel pans because they hold heat and give cakes a dark
At 7000 feet and above, (and especially at 10,000 feet), heavy dense cake
batters rise more in tube pans than in any other shape because the tube
carries heat to the center of the batter, making it set before the top
Use only single-layer cookie sheets at all altitudes above sea level.
Double layer, insulated, or cushioned cookie sheets prevent adequate heat
from reaching the bottom of the cookies, so they either don’t brown
fast enough or don’t brown at all. For good results and a crisply
browned cookie, you need plenty of heat.
PARCHMENT, WAX PAPER, AND NO-STICK BAKING MATS
At high altitude, cakes have a tendency to stick to the pan more than
they do at sea level. From sea level to 2,000 feet, pans can be prepared
by greasing and dusting with flour. Above 2,000 feet, cake pans should
be greased, lined with baking parchment or wax paper (or foil pressed
in place in a Bundt pan), then greased and floured (tap out excess flour).
Ovens are notoriously inaccurate, and most bakers get used to their cranky
appliances and learn how to adapt to their foibles. Even brand new ovens
rarely hold accurate calibration for long. In high altitude baking, oven
temperatures are critical; a variation of 15 to 25 degrees can make the
difference between a cake that rises or falls. Use an auxiliary thermometer
instead of the exterior heat indicator to determine the actual oven chamber
additional information buy PIE IN THE SKY by Susan G. Purdy.
Biscuit | Barnes
© 2005 Susan G. Purdy. All Rights reserved.