High-Altitude Baking

highaltitudeWelcome to living above sea level. Though you are living at least a step above the rest, you'll need to elevate your baking game. Lower atmospheric pressure at high altitudes has a greater effect on baking than it does on other types of cooking, since the quality of the finished product depends on a delicate balance of ingredients. If just one ingredient is adversely affected, the entire recipe can fail. There are no "formulas" for adjusting, and only repeated trials can determine the most successful adjusted recipe.

Here are some general guidelines:

  Adjustment Reason for Adjustment
Oven temperature Increase 15 to 25°F, except when baking chocolate or delicate cakes, which might burn.
  • High temperatures help to "set" the batter before the cells formed by leavening gases expand too much.
  • Cookies may or may not need a temperature increase.
Baking time Decrease the amount of time your recipe bakes. Higher oven temperature. 
  • Reduce baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon at 3,000 feet, or more at higher altitudes.
  • Reduce baking soda in quick breads by 1/4 of total amount, but use at least 1/2 teaspoon for each cup of acidic liquid (i.e. buttermilk, citrus juices, etc.)
  • Adjustments in the amount of yeast are generally not made. Instead, the cook must carefully watch that the dough does not rise more than double its size. The faster rise also means flavor doesn't have time to develop. Punching down the dough twice will improve flavor and texture.

Prevents excess rising, which:

  • stretches the cell structure, producing coarse, irregular texture;
  • causes dough to sink in the center, and
  • results in low volume.
Sugar For each 1 cup of sugar, decrease up to 1 tablespoon at 3,000 feet, more at higher altitudes. Because of faster liquid evaporation, sugar solutions become more concentrated, which affects the texture of baked goods.
  • For each 1 cup liquid, add 1 to 2 tablespoons at 3,000 feet, more at higher altitudes.
  • In cookies, add 1/2 to 2 teaspoons water per recipe.
  • If biscuit dough seems dry, add 1 tablespoon liquid per one cup flour.
Liquids evaporate faster in all cooking processes.
  • Add 1 to 4 tablespoons at 5,000 feet, more at higher altitudes.
  • Cookie dough used in a cookie press may need less flour.
  • For self-rising flour, use only high altitude-adjusted recipes.
Flour strengthens the structure of baked goods.