Tips for Baking at High-Altitude
Our Test Kitchen is here in New England and I am a northeast girl, so I am not an expert on high-altitude baking. There are certain guidelines to be aware of for best baking results and it made perfect sense to turn to someone who has the experience. Barbara Schieving blogs at Barbarabakes.com and she agreed to chat with me to set us all straight. Turns out that high-altitude baking is not that hard to understand as long as you follow a few rules – and her baked goods are testament to how great the results can be.
Dédé Wilson: Barbara thank you for taking the time to chat with us about high-altitude baking. How long have you had your blog?
Barbara Schieving: 6 years!
Why did you start it?
My daughter called at 10:30 one night to get a recipe – a recipe that I had given her before – and I realized it would be so much handier to just have it online…it would be easy to share! Also there was a Daring Baker project starting and I wanted to participate.
Let’s get right into it. Where do you live and what is the altitude?
A suburb of Salt Lake at 4500 feet.
Have you always lived at a high altitude?
I was in CA for a while, but yes, most of my time has been somewhere at a higher altitude.
So most of your baking has been with these challenges?
It wasn’t until I started the blog that I noticed the challenges…before then I would try a scratch recipe and not have great results so I would end up going back to a boxed cake mix and tweaking it…
So when did you begin baking from scratch?
I had always made cookies from scratch and pies and cream puffs…in fact I have a cream puff book coming out called Dream Puffs in October 2015…
Congratulations! Put us on the list to see it please!
Pate a choux does great at higher altitudes…they puff up bigger…there is less air pressure weighing them down! But cakes are a bigger challenge. I was after creating a big fluffy cake…
What did you do that made a huge positive difference from your first attempts?
I am friends with the blogger from CityhomeCountryhome and her recommendations were really helpful. It depends on what you are making. For cakes you reduce leavening – baking soda and baking powder – but you also decrease the sugar and increase liquid…the higher up you go the more you need to change those three things…pate a choux (for cream puffs) uses eggs to leaven and I didn’t have to change anything…
What others work without tweaking?
That’s the main one…yeast breads tend to over rise at high altitude so you might try less yeast…sugar feeds on the yeast so reduce the sugar too…and then you might want to increase the salt in those recipes for a right balance….
How about equipment or tools? Anything special there?
Not really, but when it comes to the oven a lot of guides for high altitude baking will say increase the temperature by 25 degrees. You don’t have the atmosphere weighing down the leaveners so if you increase the temperature it helps the batter or dough set faster…
Are baking times over all shorter?
No, actually they aren’t…water boils at a lower temperature but food doesn’t cook faster…unless it’s under pressure…(Barbara also has a pressure cooking site).
Oh! You are a busy lady? Which is your focus?
I try to post 2 times a week on baking and 1 time a week on pressure-cooking. The new electric pressure cookers are such a breeze to use.
Well since cakes seem to require a bit of finessing we are thrilled that you agreed to share your take on the classic Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake (seen above) and your Key Lime Pound Cake (seen below).
The University of Utah also has some good information that might be helpful to your Bakepedia community.
Thank you Barbara! You have taken a misunderstood problem and made it much easier for us to understand.
Hi Barbara, my name is Kim and I am trying to make cream puffs in Bogota, 8300 and they are coming out very flat. I didnt alter the temperture, but I did have to bake them longer. However regarding the flatness, do you think it may have somethng to do with the flour, the flour here doesnt seem to be very strong. the final dough mixture was not very stiff as it should have been. your advice is greatly appreciated.
Kimberly, Barbara was a guest at Bakepedia when we posted this article. I would be happy to forward your question to her. Please email me directly email@example.com and then I can send to her for hopefully a direct reply. FYI I do like a very strong flour when making cream puffs even when I am not dealing with altitude issues.