How to Tweak Bread Recipes for Baking in High Altitudes

Mmmmm...cookies!
Mmmmm...cookies! | Source

Unless your goal is to make flatbread, baking bread at high altitudes can be extremely frustrating. If no adjustments are made to recipes, chances are really good that your bread will turn out flatter than desired. In addition to being flatter, dough consistency can also be a problem. At higher altitude, bread dough tends to be chewier, mushier, or less baked.

High Altitude

Living in higher altitude means that the air pressure is lower than normal. Since baking depends on a perfect balance of flour, leavening, fats, and liquids, doing so in higher altitudes can be tricky, to say the least. The lower air pressure makes liquids boil at lower temperatures, affecting both cooking time and temperatures. As a result, small adjustments have to be made in order to bake goods with perfect results.

Baking Tweaks for High Altitude Living

There are definitely things that can be done to recipes to help you bake in higher altitudes. Necessary adjustments will likely vary from location to location, so the best thing to do is tweak ingredients little by little, using trial and error, until you get the recipes just right.

Don't forget to take note of the adjustments that you make!

Whiskey Chocolate Cake
Whiskey Chocolate Cake | Source

Increase The Oven Temperature

At higher altitudes, leavening and evaporation occur at faster rates due to the lower air pressure. As a result, dough will rise much more rapidly than desired and eventually collapse, leaving you with an over-expanded, dried out mess.

Increasing the oven temperature by 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit will prevent the over-expansion to occur.

This is particularly helpful if you are baking chocolate or delicate cakes.

Decrease Baking Time

Since baking at higher temperatures is a necessary evil in higher altitudes, it is a good idea to also tweak your baking time. This will prevent your baked goods from drying out and being over done.

For every 30 minutes of required baking time, decrease the overall time by 7 minutes.

Decrease Sugar.
Decrease Sugar. | Source

Decrease Sugar

The lowered air pressure in higher altitudes causes rapid evaporation resulting in increased concentrations of sugar in your baked goods. When this happens, two things occur. First, your baked good loses a great deal of its structure and collapses onto itself. Second, you end up with clumps of sugar pockets deposited throughout your cake.

For best results, decrease the amount of sugar by 1 tablespoon for every cup required in the recipe.

This is particularly true for sweet breads such as pound cakes and fruit loaves (banana bread).

Increase Liquids.
Increase Liquids. | Source

Increase Liquids

As mentioned before, the lower air pressure in high altitude environments increases evaporation rates of liquids, causing your bread dough to dry out too quickly. To remedy the situation, increasing the amount of liquid called for in a recipe is one way to tweak it for high altitudes. This is true for water, milk, or any other liquid.

At 3,000 feet or higher, it is best to increase the amount of liquid by 1 to 2 tablespoons. For each additional 1,000 feet, increase the amount by 2 teaspoons.

** By the way, adding an extra egg to the recipe also helps increase liquid and prevent the dough from drying out.

Adjust Leavening

When a recipe calls for baking powder or baking soda as leavening agents, it is important to make the appropriate adjustments when living in high altitudes.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder Adjustments

Recipe Amount
3,000 to 5,000 feet
5,000 to 6,500 feet
6,500 to 8,000 feet
1 teaspoon
7/8 teaspoons
1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons
3/4 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon
2 teaspoons
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
3/4 teaspoon
2 1/2 teaspoons
1 3/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
3 teaspoons
2 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
3 1/2 teaspoons
2 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
4 teaspoons
2 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
Adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Different adjustments will need to be made to different types of baked goods. Patience is the key when figuring out the right balance of fats, liquids, temperature, and leavening agents. The list below is a great place to start depending on what you're trying to bake.

Crackers and Pie Crust

Usually, a minimal amount of adjustments are necessary for crackers and pie crusts. You will occasionally have to increase the amount of water used to help the pie crust form, but that's about it!

Cakes

The best way to increase liquids for cakes is to use an extra egg. If there is a concern for increased egg yolks in the cake, then only add egg whites for the extra liquid.

Cookies

Due to the short baking time and higher fat content in cookies, there aren't too many adjustments that can be made. Cookies are going to appear flatter than usual. Increasing the amount of water used and decreasing leavening such as baking powder and baking soda should do the trick for cookies.

Fried Doughs

Lower your frying temperature by 3 degrees for every 1,000 feet increase over 3,000 feet. Cooking times may also need to be increased.

Yeast Breads

When a recipe requires yeast, decrease the amount called for by 25%. You will have to adjust the amount of water and flour needed until you find the right consistency in the dough. Since the dough will rise at a much faster rate, give the dough an extra punch and rise. To slow the rising down, if necessary, put the dough in the refrigerator, covered with a damp cloth, for its first rise.

Why Does This Happen??

No one solution is right for every single recipe. When it comes to baking at high altitudes, you must adopt a laissez-faire attitude and not be disappointed when a recipe does not turn out. It helps to look at it as a challenge and adventure.

Some recipes will be easier to adjust than others. Play around with the ingredients, implement the suggestions, and don't forget to write the adjustments down!

If you are into Bundt cakes, here are some High Altitude Bundt Cake Recipes!

GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN!!

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Comments 2 comments

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A fun filled recipe and look so delicious. You have included many helpful ways in baking here and I look forward to reading more of your recipes.


gypsumgirl profile image

gypsumgirl 3 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado Author

DDE - thanks for reading my hub!

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