Monday, July 5, 2010

Altitude Adjustment

I have a ton of photos and stories to share from this weekend, but I'm taking today off, mostly, so you'll get all of that tomorrow and the next few days.  For today, a little tip I stumbled across which would have been extremely useful a week ago!

Last Tuesday, I decided to bake some cookies.  I had a half cup of chocolate chips just hanging out in my freezer, so I picked up my handy-dandy Joy of Cooking.  The book has some years on it, to be sure.  It's a 1970s edition which belonged to my mother, but in my opinion its chocolate chip drop cookie recipe is second to none.  I've made batches of cookies using the very same recipe dozens of times, so imagine my surprise when the cookies came out flat and ugly.

They were tasty, to be sure, but ugly as all get-out, hoo-boy.  Was it because I don't have a sifter and used my hands instead?  That had to be it, didn't it?  I'd done everything else the same!  A conversation I had last night with Jamie set me straight.  Because the Allegheny Mountains are so much older than, say, the Tetons or the Rockies, they don't feel so very high.  It's easy to forget they we're up above 3,000 feet, but we are, and that difference can make the crucial difference in a recipe.  So today I did some research and came up with some tips.
The table is meant to apply to cakes, but it's actually pretty universal.  You can bet I'm going to have this on my fridge from now on.  This was my fatal cookie flaw: "Only cookies with lots of chocolate, nuts or dates need adjustment: reduce baking powder/soda by 1/2."  Whoops!  I used WAY too much baking soda, hence the bulldozer-flat cookies.

Here's the full list of adjustments for 3000+ feet:

- Add an additional egg to rich cakes to help keep them from falling.
- Increase flour: For each cup of flour increase by 1 tblsp
- Decrease fat: For each cup of fat, decrease 1 to 2 tblsp.
- Reduce baking powder: For each tsp., decrease 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp
- Reduce sugar: For each cup, decrease 0 to 1 tblsp.
- Increase liquid: For each cup, add 2 to 4 tblsp.
- Increasing oven temperature 15 to 25°F more will help set the batter before cells formed by leavening gases expand to much. 

I took my tips from The Cooking Inn's page on High Altitude.  I hope it will prove useful to any other first-time high altitude bakers!

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