whats the best way to adjust a cookie recipe for baking at high altitude?

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AntoniaJames October 5, 2010
Okay, I can't see the table that I just tried to upload. I suppose I could take a photo of it, but I think it will be easier at this point just to translate it into text. At 3000 feet, decrease your baking powder by 5-10%, your sugar by 10-25% and for each cup of liquid, add 5-10%. At 5,000 feet, decrease your baking powder by 10%, your sugar by 10% and for each cup of liquid, add 20%. At 7,000 feet, decrease your baking powder by 25%, your sugar by 20% and for each cup of liquid, add 20-25%.
Frankly, that 10-25% range for the sugar at 3,000 feet makes no sense. I'll send the company an email to follow up on this and report back once I hear from them. ;o)
AntoniaJames October 5, 2010
I just happened to have my convection oven manual open for another reason and I noticed for the first time a little chart with some rules of thumb for high-altitude baking! Your oven’s manual may have a similar chart. (Can’t find your manual? Look for it online. It’s probably there, on the website of the company that made your oven. If it is, click on that little icon on the top left of your screen in Adobe, the one that looks like a floppy disk, and save it to PDF. Then you'll always have it on your computer AND you can search it!!)

Anyway, my convection oven manufacturer makes these recommendations. I have some additional thoughts on this, so skip to the bottom if the particulars of this don’t interest you.

“High Altitude Cooking”
High Altitude Cooking
Due to the lower atmospheric pressure at higher altitudes, foods tend to take longer to cook. Therefore, recipe adjustments should be made in some cases. In general, no recipe adjustment is necessary for yeast-risen baked goods, although allowing the dough or batter to rise twice before the final pan rising develops a better flavor. Try making the adjustments below for successful recipes. Take note of the changes that work best and mark your recipes accordingly. You may also consult a cookbook on high altitude cooking for specific recommendations.

(Take from the manual for my Dacor range. Copyright owned by Dacor. Please reproduce only for your personal use.)

[I could not include Dacor’s helpful rule-of-thumb table in the text field for this foodpickle, so I’ve edited the relevant page from my PDF version of the manual, and will try to upload it as a photo with this post. If it doesn’t come through, I’ll re-format it when I have time later today or more likely, late tonight.]

I would caution you though that altitude affects different types of baked goods differently. To my mind, yeast breads and rustic cookies (i.e., made with whole oats or other grains, or a lot of chunky, crunchy or chewing add-ins) are the easiest. You can monitor the rise of the bread and punch it down early, and manage the consistency of the dough more easily, if you have experience generally in working with yeast dough. The rustic cookies are generally easy because they don’t rise much anyway, due to all the add-ins, the whole oats, etc. If I were doing a lot of different kinds of baking at high altitudes, I’d get the book I recommended in an earlier post. Actually, I’d get two or three books, to try to learn from them all, and find some reliable blogs, too, of people who bake at high altitudes every day.

One other thing I’d do would be to see if your oven manufacturer has a showroom with kitchen facilities in a higher altitude city, with people on staff who do demos there. We have one nearby for owners or prospective owners of Dacor products. The manager is so knowledgeable (and amazingly helpful, too. She called me back one important Saturday morning when I was making a cake for a potluck that evening, when I had a question after realizing that I’d never baked that particular cake in my recently-purchased oven.) Showroom staff who do demos have to know a lot, because they questions of all kinds, and they are paid to trouble shoot for their customers. Good luck!!
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ShieldCook7 September 30, 2010
Thanks for the tip Suzanne, good stuff. I've just never had the chance to experiment under those conditions, heh.
TheWimpyVegetarian September 28, 2010
I've been experimenting with cookies at around 7000 ft for over a year now and have had some hits and misses. I agree with AJ's excellent points here and add the following: 1) since the air is drier, so will anything you bake. Increase your liquids like eggs, milk, etc 3-4 tablespoons for every cup the recipe calls for; 2) For dry ingredients like sugar and flour, decrease the amounts called for in the recipe by 2-4 tablespoons for every cup called for; and 3) lower the oven heat by 25 degrees F. At one time I was able to access exerpts of High Altitude Baking using some search engine, and I got these tips from there. Great book!
AntoniaJames September 27, 2010
Incidentally, when I was last up at Deer Valley (6600 feet), I saw a high altitude baking cookbook in one of the gift shops there (very thoughtful, really). I had already researched my baking issues before arriving there, so I passed on picking it up at the time. I just found the title in my cooking diary for that week, and the book seems still to be available. It's called High Altitude Baking: 200 Delicious Recipes & Tips for Great Cookies, Cakes, Breads & More, by the Colorado State University Extension Service. The woman who owned the shop mentioned that there were several baking books out there, but that this was her favorite.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/188959315X/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0394513088&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1TX88FZVJHT9JSNY3E7X Have fun!! ;o)
AntoniaJames September 27, 2010
What is the altitude, and what is the recipe? The higher up you are, the more leavening agent needs to be eliminated. It also helps to put the dough, after shaped or formed and on the baking sheets, into the freezer for at least a half an hour. At 6600 feet, I've eliminated baking soda altogether and increased the salt by a third, with great results for chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. I haven't tried a finer-textured cookie, or one you'd want actually to rise a bit, though. I expect that playing with the adjustments would be a bit trickier, and as I was only visiting that altitude on vacation for a few days, without a lot of time to experiment, I actually just went with the somewhat more rustic cookies. Good luck! ;o)
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