We’re really high up…baking

Baking has always been a joy of mine. I always wanted to help in the kitchen and then finally in high school I had home economics. I was hooked!  I still remember preparing recipes.  I would take those recipes home and make them for my family. Interesting enough, I’m not a huge fan of sweets but the process and science of baking is exciting.  I love food science, the how and why leading to the finished product…that gives me pleasure in baking.

Baking isn’t just about mixing ingredients together and popping into the oven.  There is lots of science in there!  It makes me happy to be able to pass that information on to my daughter now that she is learning to bake.  My heart beams with joy when she opens up a muffin to examine the effects of leavening.  Haha, okay…maybe a little over the top, but I love to see she is learning.

So, we recently moved from Texas to Colorado and baking is a bit different at this altitude.  We are at an elevation of over 7,000 ft and cooking and baking do require some adjustments.  Air pressure decreases as elevation increases so formulas, aka recipes, have to be adjusted to avoid collapsed baked goods. Leavening agents work too quickly at higher altitudes, so before your dessert is done gases escape and leave you with a flat product.  Strengthening the gluten with a little increased mixing will provide an increased resistance for the  pressure created by leavening agents.  The key is to strengthen the cell walls and balance internal and external pressures by adjusting your recipes.

High-Altitude Adjustments:

  • Increase flour 1 tablespoon for each cup
  • Decrease baking powder, baking soda by 1/8-1/4 teaspoon
  • Decrease sugar by 1-3 tablespoons
  • Decrease fat by -2 tablespoons
  • Increase liquid 2-4 tablespoons for each cup
  • Try increasing baking temperature 15-25 degrees to allow batter to set before leavening gases expand too much

Lastly, you may have to experiment with the formula beginning with small adjustments to see what works best for your oven and altitude.

Reference: McWilliams, M. (2011) Foods: Experimental Perspectives

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup + 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips

In mixer combine sugars and softened butter.  Add vanilla and eggs, beat well. Stir together flours, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture. once thoroughly combined mix in oats and chocolate chips. Scoop tablespoon of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. (I use a Silpat). Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes.  Yield: 4 dozen cookies  Enjoy!

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