High Altitude Baking
developed for baking at sea level react differently when prepared
at high altitudes. Baking results depend on many factors:
food chemistry, atmospheric pressure, humidity, and climatic
conditions, in addition to elevation.
first thing you notice as you climb in altitude is that the
higher you go, the thinner the air – the lower the atmospheric
pressure – which begins to affect baking at between
2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea level.
the elevation rises, three major factors may cause a recipe
to need adjustment in ingredients, cooking times, and/or temperatures.
The higher in elevation you go:
The lower the boiling point of water
2. The faster liquids (and moisture in general) evaporate
3. The more quickly leavening gases expand
500-foot increase in altitude causes the boiling point of
water to drop about one degree. Under standard atmospheric
conditions, water boils at 212°F at sea level, 203.2°F
at 5,000 feet, and 194.7°F at 10,000 feet. When water
boils at a lower temperature,
it takes longer to cook foods in or over liquid; custards
take longer to set; foods in the top of a double boiler may
not receive sufficient heat to cook properly; dense moist
cake batter may resist setting or crust over on top before
the interior gets hot enough to set; pie crust can over-brown
on top before fruit inside bakes through.
water evaporates from a batter or dough, it changes the ratio
of liquids to solids and leaves a higher concentration of
sugar and fat. This can weaken the structure of baked goods,
causing them to set too slowly, have a coarse texture, or
collapse. Pies, cakes, and cookies baked at high altitude
using sea level times and temperatures may not brown enough
on top because faster evaporation lowers the temperature on
the surface of baked goods. This inhibits browning usually
created by the caramelization of sugars.
leavening gases expand quickly, baked goods can rise too fast.
Yeast breads can over-proof, or rise and then droop; butter
or foam cakes and soufflés can pop up, then collapse.
also means drier. Drier air can mean drier flour, so high
altitude recipes can require more liquid (though gluten content
of flour primarily governs liquid absorption). High altitude
baking is an art, not a science. There is no magic wand or
single adjustment that will save (or stabilize) every recipe.
Each one needs carefully balanced adjustments (found in PIE
IN THE SKY) to overcome the forces, and challenges, that multiply
as fast as altitude rises.
more? Order Pie in the Sky.