When I first moved to altitude I didn’t start baking immediately. I didn’t know I needed to until I sampled a fair amount of (awful) local cookies and cakes. That made me realize that if I wanted vegan treats with good taste and texture, then I had to make them myself. And I had to figure out how.
My first research source was Colorado State University. I requested their booklets on recipes for high altitude. Granted, these titles didn’t have the word “vegan” in them, but I figured I’d take one step at a time. Back then I only concerned myself with “dairy-free” and there were plenty of substitutes for dairy items. So, manned with my substitutes, I started baking for high altitude.
The immediate problem with the booklets is that the recipes called for shortening and all white flour. These weren’t the healthier ingredients I was hoping for, but I thought I could adapt things. Of course, when I substituted whole wheat flour in some baked goods they got too heavy. Add to that the density of dairy-free margarine and I encountered a few problems. So, what to do?
The next step was to find good vegan recipes and use some high-altitude tips. Oddly enough this worked better for me than making a high altitude recipe vegan. Even though I was examining baking science, I found that the lack of egg or butter made some high altitude treats unappealing.
As I take on the next venture of adding gluten-free to my bag of baking tricks, I find myself at a crossroads again. I have made gluten-free treats but found I couldn’t adapt the recipes to high altitude without massive failure. So I turned back to those pamphlets from the University and discovered one I forgot about entitled “Wheat, Gluten, Egg and Milk-Free Recipes.” Upon reading the brochure I saw a tip that recommended baking at lower temperatures for longer times when making products that are without gluten, milk and eggs. They also mention that low-gluten items get improved texture if they are refrigerated before baking.
Armed with my new hints for successful high-altitude, gluten-free and vegan baking, I run enthusiastically back into the kitchen. Who knows? I may get it right someday.