Dazzled by Science

science moleculeHigh altitude baking is fairly simple while still being somewhat difficult. The science is best described by Pat Kendall in High Altitude Baking: “The reason for most baking problems at high altitude is lower atmospheric pressure due to a thinner blanket of air above…This decreased pressure affects food preparation in three related ways.

  1. Leavening gases expand more quickly
  2. Moisture evaporates faster from foods
  3. Water and other liquids boil at lower temperatures

In addition, because the climate of higher altitude areas is usually drier than that of lower altitude areas, flour may be drier and doughs may therefore require more liquid to reach the proper consistency.”

The most troublesome baked goods are cakes as the decreased pressure may cause excess rising which can lead to coarse texture or a fallen cake. To solve this you can do any or all of the following: decrease baking soda, baking powder, or sugar; or increase liquids, flour, or oven temperature. I also cross my fingers on occasion.

This may all be a bit daunting, but I have found that the more I adapt recipes the simpler it seems. Don’t get me wrong – I am still impressed and ecstatic when baked items turn out right!