Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
Where are you baking, and can you provide a link to your recipe?
It really depends on your elevation. Generally you'll decrease leavening just a bit since atmospheric pressure is less. If you're in a dry area, Rocky Mtns, you'll increase liquid a tiny bit. Most of these adjustments are made above 5000 ft.
I recommend the excellent book by Susan G. Purdy, "Pie in the Sky" which gives recipes and changes needed to be made in increments from Sea Level, 3000 ft, 5000 ft, 7000 ft up to 10000 ft. She gives general guidelines also so you can adapt your favorite recipes.
I'm in Sun Valley at 6,000ft. Here's the recipe... just don't know what to tweak
Pumpkin Bread Recipe
3 cups sugar
1 cup canola or safflower oil
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 cup water
2 cups (one small can) cooked pumpkin
3 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer. Divide into 3 bread pans ( 7 3/8 x 3 5/8 x 2 ¼) or two larger pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or til knife inserted comes out clean.
Add another egg. Increase your flour by 8% to a heavy 3 1/2 cups. I'm puzzled that your recipe doesn't call for any baking powder, just baking soda. Baking soda is used when there is an acid present, and is there to neutralize the acid, creating carbon dioxide in the process. There isn't a strong acid here (brown sugar, or bananas, for example). I'd suggest adding a teaspoon of baking powder on the theory that the recipe should probably call for a couple of teaspoons, and at your elevation you'd reduce it by 50% to 1 teaspoon. Enjoy beautiful Sun Valley!
From the incomparable Harold McGee: "The drops in pressure and boiling point [at higher altitudes] have several effects on a cake in the oven. The batter starts to lose moisture at lower temperatures, and dries out more rapidly. The air bubbles and leavening expand faster at temperatures below the setting temperature, and the protein and starch set and stabilize that structure slowly, because the batter temperature doesn't get as hot. So a cake baked in the mountains tends to end up dry, coarse, and flat. [...] The loss of moisture can be compensated for by the addition of extra liquid. The overexpansion of the gas cells can be reduced by reducing the amount of leavening. And the structure-stabilizing elements can be set earlier by reducing the levels of sugar and fat and increasing the eggs and/ or flour. Increasing the oven temperature also [helps to stabilize the structure of the cake]."
Hope that helps!
I too have had a time of it cooking at altitude. My general (extremely unscientific) rule of thumb is 'a little more flour a little less levening' For your recipe I would recommend adding a Tbs or 2 of extra flour and maybe going from 2 tsp baking soda to 1.5 tsp. Depending on how dry you are there perhaps a little extra egg might help too. Raise the temperature of your oven about 10 degrees higher than what's called for in the recipe. Hope this helps!
I live in Denver (4280k feet) and once went to a cupcake baking seminar where someone asked this question. The professional baker said that she just:
1) Rounds her scoops of flour so they're not completely flat on top but just a bit rounded; and
2) Does the opposite with sugar, so it's a bit concave.
Since doing that, I haven't had any problems... Does this seem ok? I don't mess with liquid or leavening. Oh ye experts... what say you?
You do, actually need to adjust your baking powder only. For your elevation, decrease it by 40%. Never adjust baking soda, as it is always proportional to the amount of acid present.
At altitude, water boils at a lower temperature so temperature can be affected. Also, leavening is less of an issue so often less of your leavener is necessary. Find a recipe for the altitude you are at and trust it.
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