Baking at High Altitudes: Tips and Tricks

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Hola from Central Mexico, where I am about 7000 feet high. I am working throught the issues I have encountered coming from 500 feet in New Jersey to here. I am getting along nicely with cakes, slightly more stumped by bread, but cookies are a total mystery.

Following "back in the states" recipes with a few tweaks of leaveners and temperatures, bread and cake come out well, or at least acceptably, but my cookies become fragrant floor tiles. I am working on a basic ginger molasses cookie. I have tried adjusting temps up and down to no effect. I haven't fussed with the dry ingredients, but tried switching from butter to shortning this time - nothing. I am thinking that maybe I should add flour, or maybe use applesauce instead of butter.

Does anybody out there have experience or advice?

Thanks,
Siwsan
 
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Increase hydration and oven temperature. Decrease baking time.

 
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I did some work for someone in Mexico on high altitude baking. It was for cake, macarons, and I forget what else. I can’t find all my notes, but the conversions pretty apply across-the-board.

The flour in Mexico is different from the flour in the US. It’s lower protein, so that is part of the problem. In high altitude baking it’s better to use a higher protein flour. If you can find American brand flour, that would be best. But it’s very difficult to find it.


High Altitude Cake Baking
Cake always collapses at high altitude.

Air pressure determines the temperature at which water boils.
At sea level boiling temperature of water is 212°F (100°C).



The temperature the lower air pressure. At lower air pressure, it takes less energy to boil water.



And the temperature at which water boils becomes the key to the problem of baking at high altitude. But it’s also the key to solving the problems.



This causes the liquid in cake batter to evaporate at a faster rate. The faster evaporation of the liquid accelerates the rate of the leavening, which accelerates the rise of the batter. So everything rises to quickly but before the better has a chance to set, The leavening runs out and the cake collapses.



High altitude baking general guidelines to convert

  • Decrease sugar:
    • Less 14g per 130g flour 3500 - 5000 ft
    • Less 28g per 130g flour 5000 - 6500 ft
    • Less 42g per 130g flour above 6500 ft
  • Slightly more leavening
  • Reverse creaming mixing method for cake
  • Increased oven temperature 15 degrees
  • Decrease bake by 5 - 8 mins
Flour: higher protein is better. It’s difficult to find in Mexico. Most everything in high altitude baking is trial and error. I would begin by adjusting the flour first.

At 3,500 feet, add 1 more tablespoon (15g). For each additional 1,500 feet, add one tablespoon (15g) more.

Example, 3500 feet add 15g; 5000 feet add 30 g addition flour.



Leavening Adjustments
You actually have to use less leavening at higher altitude. The reason baked goods deflate is they rise to fast at high altitude, then collapse.

Reduce leavening by

20% at 3500 feet
50% at 5000 feet
75% at 6500 feet

The goal is a slow gradual rise in order to give the gluten structure time to form and set.

Baking powder or baking soda3,000-5,000 ft.5,000-6,500 ft.6,500-8,000 ft.
1 teaspoon7/81/21/4
1 1/2 teaspoons1 1/43/41/2
2 teaspoons1 1/213/4
2 1/2 teaspoons1 3/41 1/41
3 teaspoons21 1/41
3 1/2 teaspoons2 1/21 1/21
4 teaspoons2 1/21 1/2

Liquid Adjustments

Increase 1 - 2 Tablespoons (15mL - 30mL) at 3500 feet; 1 Tablespoon (15mL) for each additional 1500 feet.

Egg is the liquid in cookies; just slightly beat the egg, then weight out additional amount.
 

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