Avoid Holiday Baking Disasters with High Altitude Recipe Modifications

Baking recipes that work at lower altitudes may not work in Colorado without the proper high-altitude modifications, according Colorado State University Cooperative Extension experts. However, making the proper high-altitude adjustments is easy to do and can save breads, cookies and cakes this holiday season.

"Many people don’t realize the entire state of Colorado is at least 3,000 feet above sea level," explained Pat Kendall, Colorado State Cooperative Extension food science specialist. "Recipes tested for sea level may need modifications to succeed at Colorado’s high altitudes."

Baking adjustments are necessary because air pressure decreases as altitude increases, which causes gases in breads and cakes to expand more and water and other liquids to evaporate faster and boil at lower temperatures.

The type of recipe adjustment necessary depends on the initial recipe and the altitude. The higher the altitude and the richer the product in sugar and fat, the greater the level of adjustment needed. When baking a cake at a higher altitude, reduce the leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder by one-eighth to one-forth. Also, increase baking temperatures by 15 to 20 degrees to help set the batter before it over-expands and collapses.

Colorado State Cooperative Extension offers booklets with high-altitude recipes and baking tips to help ensure holiday banquets look and taste perfect.

Available booklets include 516A Mile-High Cakes, 415A Quick Mixes for High-Altitude Baking, 513A Making Yeast Breads at High-Altitude, 496A Today’s Sourdough at High-Altitude and 497A High-Altitude Baking. All six booklets can be purchased for a minimal fee through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Resource Center. For prices or to order, call toll-free at 877-692-9358.