Rocky Mountain Baking 101: The Best High Altitude Baking Tips
Transplants and visitors are often shocked when tried and true baking recipes just don't work here in Colorado, but there's a perfectly good reason as to why.
Since the entire state of Colorado sits high above sea level, baking and cooking adjustments often have to be made due to the high elevation.
Baking Truly Is A Science in Higher Elevations
Growing up, I always heard the saying that "baking is a science." Honestly, I never paid much attention to what it truly meant despite my mom's fondness for the show Good Eats with Alton Brown.
Coming from a land with little to no elevation, it was easy to simply follow recipes exactly as they were written. 99% of the time anything I baked or cooked came out just the way I wanted it, but when I arrived in Colorado it seemed I had lost all of my baking skills.
I quickly discovered that understanding the science behind baking is absolutely critical when learning to bake at higher elevations.
Why is Baking Different at Higher Elevations?
Simply put, baking is different in higher elevations because the air pressure is lower. According to Colorado State University Extension, these are two big ways that lower air pressure can affect your recipes:
- Water and other liquids evaporate faster and boil at lower temperatures.
- Leavening gases in loaves of bread and cakes expand more quickly.
While some are hesitant to change, you're going to want to adjust some of your normal recipes ASAP or be left with an uneatable mess.
High Altitude Baking Tips
In order to successfully bake banana muffins here in Colorado, I simply had to adjust the cooking temperature, cooking time, and the number of liquids and flour in my recipe.
Is your head spinning yet? Don't worry, you'll catch on.
I first raised the oven's temperature by 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit so that my batter would set. Due to the temperature being raised, I needed to decrease the baking time by 5 to 8 minutes.
Since liquids evaporate faster at higher elevations I also added more liquid (1-2 Tbsp.), in this case, it was butter, than what the recipe initially called for. Finally, for elevations of 3,500 feet, you should add 1 Tbsp of flour to provide further support.
I popped my muffins in the oven and 22 minutes later I had the perfect treat. Turns out, that science isn't that bad, as long as you're rewarded with something sweet later.