"There is one extraordinary ingredient that goes into everything I cook and bake. Please, do not forget this ingredient for it is important to all recipes. When I am cooking or baking, I add extra spoonfuls of love to all my recipes. Love added to all things good makes them just a little bit better."
Welcome to High Altitude Baking and Cooking With Flavorful Ease
High Altitude baking can be a frustrating challenge for many. You may follow the recipe right down to the last morsel but occasionally cookies still come out flat, a cake’s center may sink, pecan pies can puff up beautifully and then explode, and bake treats in general can get lumpy, raw in the center or turn out just not quite as you expected.
I began baking at high altitude back in '77 when my rent in Denver Colorado was chocolate chip cookies. I came from sea level and knew nothing about how higher elevation combined with dry thinner air could affect a good but basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. But it did! The cookies, the same ones I had been baking for years at sea level, came out of the oven looking as if a buffalo stepped on all over them leaving tiny chocolate mountains in its wake. By the third attempt I called my grandmom, she suggested that I add some more flour and so I did. That was my first lesson in high altitude baking; you must add a little more flour when baking at high altitude.
That was a long time ago. Since then I have learned to adjust and develop many recipes for high altitude baking, as well as cooking. By popular demand I have written a couple of internationally award winning high altitude cookbooks. Some question my high altitude baking tips and adjustments, some thank me for them with smiles, compliments and even hugs while others around 4000 ft. claim not to need any ingredient adjustments when baking ‘some’ products but not all. By the way, this is partially why I know that ‘No’ sorry folks there are no adjustments per every thousand feet as many have come to believe.
Additionally, if such adjustments were necessary there would be hundreds of cookbooks available for baking at high altitude, rather than a handful! And if such was necessary than how come my recipes made at 8500 hundred feet also work well at 5280 (Denver CO. altitude). On top of this, I have asked friends in or from mountainous areas in the New England states and no they make no adjustments to recipes. However, if located ABOVE 9500-10,000 FEET: raise the temperature by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit; decrease the sugar by 1 tablespoon per cup and increase flour and liquid by 2 tablespoons per cup. IF the batter appears dry and crumbly then add a little more liquid (milk, water or fruit juice); a tablespoon extra should do it for you. Also only use large to extra-large eggs when so high up in elevation. See Sharing Mountain Recipes Cookbook for more detailed tips for baking above 9500/10,000 feet above sea level. Also it is recommended to freeze half of the fresh fruit indicated in the recipe and then thaw the fruit in the microwave and then add all fruit including the juice; this adds a bit more moisture to the final product!
A few tips to help you get started when baking at high altitude:
ALWAYS have butter at room temperature to prevent over beating unless indicated otherwise.
ALWAYS read through the entire recipe (ingredients and directions) prior to preparing said recipe.
NEVER OVERBEAT the batter or dough for this can add unwanted air pockets that may cause the product to deflate flatten possibly explode, or cause the product’s texture to thicken. It is suggested to always mix a batter or dough with the lowest speed on the mixer and when beating a dough or batter only mix/beat until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and no crumbs remain on the bottom of the mixing bowl unless the recipe indicates otherwise.
COOKIE DOUGH is not Play Dough! Hence, handle cookie dough lightly and do not press your fingers into the dough when shaping cookies into balls. Simply roll the balls in the palm of your hand until shaped. Also, if the cookie needs to be slightly flattened use the palm of your hand not your fingers---fingers can potentially cause a ridge or ridges in the final product.
CAKE FLOUR or highly sifted flour is not recommended for use at high altitude for it contains too many air pockets that can cause a cake to deflate or sink. When a recipe calls for sifted flour---as in sift the flour once and then re-measure ---simply do not add extra flour to the product—hence decreasing the amount accordingly. However if the recipe calls for the flour to be sifted twice, as in sift re-measure and then sift again and add---at high altitude sift the flour once and re-measure it and then add it. If the flour is too light (sifted), it can cause the product to sink.
MUFFINS AND SWEET BREADS: Always make sure to spray the pan well before adding the batter. These baked products tend to stick to the pan at high altitude; possibly because the oil evaporates. If your product is sticking to the pan simply use a butter knife or small rubber spatula to loosen it from the pan. Stick the utensil down the sides of the pan and loosen the product from the bottom upwards and it should pop out fine.
ROASTS and SOUPS could use 2-3 more cups of liquid (water juice wine broth) after the first 2-3 hours of simmering or roasting to ensure that the soup makes the adequate amount and that roasts have enough juice to make gravy out of.
GLUTEN FREE BAKING is not difficult. I have been doing it since I was a Special Ed teacher and found that some of my student’s bodies couldn’t digest wheat or were allergic to such. Since then my Gluten Free Substitute has been popularly requested and used successfully for decades to date. FYI: I use a combo of Buckwheat flour and Quinoa.
Gluten Free Flour Substitute: PER EACH CUP of FLOUR found in a recipe use ¾ cup plus 2 slightly rounded tablespoons of buckwheat flour plus 2 rounded tablespoons of quinoa. BTW: this works scrumptiously in muffins especially my blueberry and in my blackberry muffins.
And a few last tidbits to help make your products tasty and memorable
Homemade treats and meals are:
- Less expensive than prepackaged or take-out
- Last longer
- Promote better eating habits
- Bring families together around the table
- Makes memories that last a lifetime
- And can be made to meet specific dietary needs, (wheat free, diabetic, low fat, etc) and yes, my cookbooks supply such recipes!
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask!