Determine what your altitude is and adjust your recipes accordingly. It sounds hard but it is really very simple. It's scientific, and I've tried to explain it very simply below.
I want to make candy. How do I adjust for high altitudes and how can I find the temperature at which water boils in my area?
- Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a pan. Fill it with water, put it on your stove, and wait for it to boil. As soon as it reaches a rolling boil, look at the temperature that is registered on your thermometer. This is the boiling point for your altitude. At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees F. At my city home, it boils at 202 degrees F. and in the country it boils at 198 degrees F. That means when a recipe tells me to bring something to a certain temperature and I am in the city, I automatically adjust my temperature downward by 10 degrees. For example; if a candy recipe says I should cook my syrup to 238 degrees F. I would only cook my syrup to 228 degrees F. to adjust for my altitude. Correct altitude adjustments are essential in candy making. What if your thermometer is old or not calibrated properly? No problem; just note the temperature that water boils on your thermometer before making candy and adjust the recipe from the boiling point on your thermometer.
- For cookies, add 1 Tablespoon of extra flour to the specified amount; decrease the sugar slightly, and use 3/4 the amount of the baking powder or soda (leavening) called for in your recipe. Your cookies will not flatten out and run.
How do I adjust cake recipes for high altitudes?
- Sea level to 3,000 ft. - under-beat the eggs just a bit in your batter or raise your baking temperature by 25 degrees F (this helps "set" the cake before it can fall).
- 3,000 ft to 5,000 ft. - reduce the baking powder or soda by 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for each teaspoon specified in the original recipe. Decrease the sugar 1 to 2 Tablespoons per cup of sugar in the original recipe. Increase the liquid 2 to 3 Tablespoons for each cup specified in the original recipe.
- As your elevation increases just decrease the leavening and sugar a little bit more and increase the liquid. You will want to experiment to find the amounts that are right for your altitude. It just takes a little trial and error and your cakes will be beautiful. Watch them as they make bake faster at higher altitudes.
- You will want to decrease your yeast, sugar and raise time a bit for high altitudes. This will be determined by trial and error. Do not let your dough raise as long at higher altitudes. I stop the raise just before my dough has almost doubled. If you over-proof or over-raise your dough, the gluten threads will be stretched too thin and they will not hold up to the air pressure while baking. Your bread will collapse, making it tough and dense. I also increase my salt slightly if it is called for in a recipe.
- For example: if a bread recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons of yeast, I use 2 teaspoons at both of my altitudes. This is the amount of yeast I need to get a soft, light dough at my altitude. It works for me. This measurement may or may not work for your altitude, you'll need to experiment a bit. I also decrease the sugar just a little if it's called for in the recipe. Sugar feeds yeast and helps to activate it. I am trying to control the rise so I decrease my sweetener slightly. Salt retards yeast development so I often increase it slightly but be careful, you don't want too much salt.
- Adjust for your altitude and your baked items and candy will be successful. It may take you a few tries to get the adjustments right. Make smaller batches or cut your recipes down while you are experimenting. Start by adjusting just a little of each of the ingredients until you get it right. It shouldn't take you long to figure it out. When you do, write the adjustments down where you can readily find them. I know about how much to decrease or increase an ingredient for high altitude and can apply the same formula to most baked good recipes. Do I have failures? Once in a while, but not very often. Cooking is about improvisation but baking really is all about science and formulas. The rules need to be followed to have success.
I can't guarantee perfect results every time, but your baking should be considerably improved. Good luck and go experiment.
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