I love living in a ski town and am stoked to call Park City, Utah home. Those that live here are blessed with a climate that delivers 100+ days a year of skiing and snowboarding and the most gorgeous summers you could ever imagine. While the cooler and drier climate is terrific for light, fluffy snow and perfectly cool summer nights, it can wreak havoc in the kitchen, especially when baking. The challenges of high altitude cooking and baking can be discouraging to say the least but it’s not impossible. Most sea-level recipes work up to around 3,000 feet, but above that, they usually require adjustment(s) to be successful. Through much trial and error, I’ve come to rely on a set of adjustments I use whenever I’m in the kitchen. Because my house sits just above 7000 feet, all of my recipes are formulated with this in mind. If you live higher or lower than 7000 feet, please use my recipes as a guideline and adjust a little further. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or find me on Facebook and I’ll do my best to get back to you as quickly as I can!
High Altitude Baking:
The main factor affecting baked items is the low pressure resulting from the higher altitude; this leads to lower boiling points, faster evaporation and rapid rising. In addition, low humidity can dry ingredients out resulting in a dry texture and crumbly product. I use three basic adjustments for high-altitude baking: reduce leavening agent, reduce sugar, and increase liquid. Often, one or all of these things is enough to adjust a sea level recipe successfully. Keep in mind that every recipe is different and any or all of these adjustments I suggest may be required. Keep notes of how you adjust recipes until you know what works best for your particular location. Have faith, you’ll get it right eventually!
–Decrease Leavening Agents:
When adjusting a sea level recipe, for each 1 teaspoon of leavening agent called for, decrease it by 1/8-1/2 teaspoon. FOR MY RECIPES: If you live above 7000 feet, decrease the amount of leavening agent just a bit. If you live below 7000 feet, increase the amount of leavening agent called for by just a bit. I recommend starting with 1/8 teaspoon increase or decrease at a time.
Because at higher elevations, faster evaporation occurs and drier climates can lead to a drier product to begin with, it’s important to add additional liquid in any recipe. Also, flavors in baked goods can become weaker or less pronounced as there are fewer moisture molecules to carry the essence; adding 1/2-1 teaspoon extra of whatever flavoring you’re using will assure a flavorful baked good. When adjusting any sea level recipe, add 2-4 tablespoons more liquid per 1 cup called for.FOR MY RECIPES: If you live above 7000 feet, increase the amount of liquid 1-2 tablespoons. If you live below 7000 feet, decrease the amount of liquid by 1-2 tablespoons.
The increased evaporation also results in the concentration of the sugar in the recipe. This leads to a weaker structure. As we noted above, a weak structure leads to fallen cakes and flat cookies. When adjusting a sea level recipe, decrease the amount of sugar by 1-3 tablespoons of sugar per cup called for. I rarely measure but generally do a scant cup for each 1 cup called for. FOR MY RECIPES: If you live above 7000 feet, decrease the sugar by 1 tablespoon. If you live below 7000 feet, increase the sugar by 1 tablespoon.
When making rice, add 15%-20% more liquid and cook a few extra minutes.
When a recipe calls for oatmeal, always use quick oats. Old fashioned oats tend to dry a baked good out faster as they absorb more liquid.
Adding an extra egg yolk when baking or using extra large eggs will help ensure your baked goods won’t turn out dry.
When making a batter that involves folding in whipped egg whites, under beat them slightly. Again, this has to do with air pressure. Over whipped egg whites will make the batter rise too much and then you risk the chances of a collapse.
Yeast doughs rise quicker at higher altitudes, so the proof time will be significantly less. I like to punch the dough down and let it rise a second time. It’s great for developing a stronger yeast flavor and will ensure the dough doesn’t over rise!
Pasta takes longer to cook the higher in altitude you go. Plan on 3-5 minutes longer than what the package recommends.
Hard boiled eggs are tricky at high altitude. Find my fool proof recipe here.
The liquid in soups and stews evaporates during cooking. Add 25% more cooking liquid than the sea level recipe calls for.
Air pressure is lower, so foods and baked goods can take longer to bake in the oven. You may need to increase the temperature and/or increase cooking time. Start with one or the other and see how it works.
When grilling, avoid direct heat so foods don’t dry out and baste meat last 5-10 minutes to add extra moisture.