Some of my readers share that they have trouble baking at high altitude, whether they are vegan or not. High altitude baking is a challenge for any eater, and I am glad that I can offer tips and recipes for those looking to overcome the inherent problems at higher altitudes.
Throughout my early research I uncovered a multitude of baking suggestions, and I was overjoyed to get hints on how to make my baked goods successful. I was willing to try anything that was relevant to vegan baking, and in doing so I discovered that not all high altitude “rules” were actually correct. Let me discuss those rules now so you don’t have to waste time with misguided information.
Raise your oven temperature by 25 degrees F. I tried this on many types of baked goods and didn’t see a positive effect. At first I thought it could be that my oven temperature wasn’t accurate, so I got an oven thermometer and had the oven adjusted accordingly. My resulting cakes had dry crusty exteriors, although cookies didn’t fare as badly. My guess is that the longer an item is in the oven, the more likely this method will have bad results.
No changes are needed when baking cookies. Speaking of cookies, here is a suggestion that I’ve learned to adapt. Some cookies turn out perfectly without alteration, but many cookies spread too much. In Pie in the Sky, Susan Purdy explains that “the more they spread, the thinner and crisper (or tougher) they get … (To) reduce spreading, strengthen the batter by reducing the sugar, leavening, and very occasionally, fat; sometimes you can also add a little flour.” I have also found that by placing the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes can give it the strength it needs to form proper cookies.
Reduce oven temperature when using glass baking dishes. Interestingly enough, this seems to contradict the tip for raising the temperature. One of the first recipes I tried to adapt was brownies, and at that time I was baking them in a Pyrex dish. After reading these two opposing suggestions, I decided to disregard them both because they seemed incorrect. Now I no longer bake in glass dishes, so it may be a moot point.
Bake in larger pans to avoid overflowing batter. My test for this was a disaster. The cake baked horribly uneven and the edges burned. My suggestion is to use the pan size listed in the recipe but make sure that the pans are not overfilled. If a sea-level muffin recipe says to fill the muffin cups to 2/3 full, it’s better to make them closer to 1/2 full. Any more and they are likely to rise quickly and spill out of the cups. The same concept holds true for quick breads and cakes.
The high altitude suggestions I follow on a regular basis are mentioned in my post It’s All in the Math. By reducing leaveners and sugars, while increasing liquid, I have been assured of greater success with my baking at altitudes up to 7,000 feet. Admittedly, I haven’t used an oven over that altitude. I have friends who live up at 10,000 feet, and after listening to their baking trials and setbacks I must say that they have far surpassed my efforts. My hat is off to them.
Until next time, happy baking!
photo credit: morgane perraud on unsplash