High Altitude Baking
Does anyone know of any good high altitude baking sites?
My pies turn out ok in Mexico City, but I'm struggling with brownies and cookies. I have tried adjusting the recipe, but just can't seem to get it. If anyone can point me in the right direction, it would be much appreciated.
Wwe live at 7000 feet asl near Pátzcuaro. I've made very little change to my baking, other than the baking time seems to need an increase.
Have had little or no problem with brownies, but when I followed the Nestle's Toll Hous choclate mosreses cookie recipe, they were greatly improved over what I'd made earlier at the same altitude.
There are other factors, especially sugar and shortening, that may impact your results.
I live in DF and have struggled with this too. Haven't found one particular website with all the answers. I've had the most problems with bread -- sometimes it rises, and sometimes it doesn't. Although that could be because my apartment is drafty. I've had no problems with pies, pancakes and muffins. Made brownies once and they were fantastic.
My best advice would be to not trust any recipe 100 percent, and be cautious with the amount of flour and liquid you add. Sometimes I end up adding more flour than the recipe calls for, because the dough is too wet; sometimes it seems like I need more liquid. I know that's kind of a lame answer.
Dane, that's a situation not confined to Mexico City or high altitude. It's near universal. Baking is an art based on a science. Precision in measuring is important when making cakes and to a lesser degree, cookies, but bread dough has a wider latitude of tolerance.
(I can imagine this thread getting moved to Home Cooking or something like that because it's not Mexico-specific.)
Other factors are evenness and control of oven heat; type and size of baking pan, color of baking pan, and as I mentioned before, sugars, flours and fats.
For example, Mexican "Azúcar Mascabada" is not equivalent to the brown sugar in the U.S. It may be challenging to find baking shortenings similar to Crisco. I've found that Manteca Vegetal "Cristal" is very close.
I once attempted to make pizza crusts with a retail white flour that was probably intended for flour tortillas. The results were disastrous.
The altitude is among the least of the factors in baking at home in Mexico.
I found a book called "Pie in the Sky" and she adjusts each recipe for sea level, 2500 ft, 5000 ft, 7500 ft, and 10,000ft. It's an amazing book that also explains what adjustments you should make to your own recipes.
I found this to be the biggest help here in Colorado.
I hope this helps.
I baked professionally at 7,000' in Santa Fe, NM, for many years by following these adjustments:
Increase the oven temp. by 25 deg. F.
For each one teaspoon of baking powder or baking soda called for in a recipe, decrease by 1/4 teaspoon (25%)
Increase liquid by 3-4 tablespoons for each one cup called for in the recipe. "Liquid' includes the amount of egg called for
Decrease sugar by 25%. (By volume, a cake recipe should call for one part sugar to two parts of flour for baking at 7,000').
I learned this from Joy of Cooking. I hope this helps you.
I inherited a 1937 baking book from my grandmother. When I first started testing recipes I had the same problem. They'd rise fine in the oven but fall in the middle when I took them out. The ratios were off in the recipe because ingredients and baking equipment had changed in the 65+ years since the recipes were published.
What solved my problem was reducing the leavening. In the end I had the best results when I decreased it by at least half and sometimes a little more. Gasses expand faster at altitude, you're getting the full expansion of the gas before your cake is done causing the center to sink. I'm at sea-level, but the same gas expansion principle also applies to baking at high altitude. With sunken cake centers the first thing I would try is reducing the leavening. For every 1 teaspoon of leavening called for in your recipe, reduce it by 1/4-1/2 teaspoon. If you recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking soda, try it by reducing to 3/4 tsp. If it still falls reduce it to 1/2 teaspoon.
How accurate is your oven temperature. While this may not be the primary cause of your cake falling in the center it could be a contributing factor. Many ovens (no matter the country) can be off by 25* or more. If your oven is too hot, it could contribute to the speed at which gas is produced by the leavening reaction. An oven thermometer can be your best friend :-)
Other factors that can affect baking at altitude are:
* the water content of the fat used. Just as gasses expand more quickly at altitude, fats with a high fluid content (think lard, butter and shortening) liquify faster at altitude. This is more likely to lead to gumminess and a cake that is too moist.
* the sugar content sometimes need to reduced a little as well
* oven temperature may need to be reduced and cooking times lenghtened.
I found a lot of this information just by Googling for information about cakes that fall in the center. Googling for high altitude baking also works.