High-Altitude Baking Tips From CSU
Cookies, brownies, bread and cake. I've made them year round, but especially at the holidays.
This is the first time I have heard that I should be adjusting recipes for high altitude; I didn't think Northern Colorado was high enough. Fort Collins sits at 5,003 feet above sea level.
Turns out that while hiking 8,000 feet above sea level is considered high-altitude, for baking high altitude is anything 3,500 feet or higher, according to Wheat Montana.
Our own Colorado State University has some tips for holiday baking with high altitude in mind. Turns out CSU is the birthplace of high-altitude cooking adjustments, thanks to early pioneering efforts by a couple alums who would drive to a high-elevation location, such as the Fall River Road shelter house near Estes Park, to do cooking experiments in the 1920's.
High-altitude baking tips from the CSU website:
Consider increasing the recommended oven temperature, by no more than 25 degrees, to keep cakes from collapsing and cookies from spreading. But you will likely have to reduce the baking time, so keep an eye on your goodies using the oven light (opening the oven door lets heat out).
Slightly decrease the amount of baking powder or baking soda the recipe calls for, since leaveners or yeast react with more force at higher elevations.
By the same token, slightly decreasing the amount of fat and sugar can offset their tendency to become more concentrated at altitude.
Switching to a higher-protein flour can solidify the structure of rising baked goods at our elevation. Even those labeled “all-purpose flour” can vary between 10 percent and 12 percent protein. (And don’t forget to deposit the flour into your measuring cup with a spoon instead of scooping it out of the bag with the cup, since weights can vary widely by how hard the flour is packed.)
Use extra-large eggs instead of large eggs. They not only provide more of the aforementioned protein, but contribute more moisture to offset the effects of our high, dry climate. For this reason, a slight increase in liquid ingredients is advisable as well.
Using a dark baking sheet can make cookies too brown; place them on a sheet of parchment paper.