Ask Peggy

Are there special rules for high-altitude baking?

DEAR PEGGY: Is there a rule of thumb to follow when preparing baked goods at high altitudes? —P.F., Grand Junction, Colorado

The best advice I can give you is to experiment, because so much depends on what altitude you're at—and what recipes you are working with.

That said, I can recommend a few general adjustments you can make to most baked goods leavened with baking powder or baking soda.

  • At 5,000 feet or above, add 1 to 4 tablespoons additional flour to the recipe to help strengthen the structure of the baked item.
  • Increase the recipe's liquid by 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup at 3,000 feet, adding even more liquid at higher altitudes.
  • Decrease the sugar called for by 1 tablespoon per cup if you're at 3,000 feet, and cut the sugar back even further at higher altitudes.
  • Reduce the leavener in quick breads. Decrease baking soda by one-fourth of the amount called for, but remember that you need 1/2 teaspoon leavening per cup of acidic ingredient such as buttermilk. Use 1/8 teaspoon less baking powder if you're at 3,000 feet, and decrease the total amount a bit further at higher altitudes.
  • When working with a batter, increase the oven temperature about 25°. Decrease the baking time to accommodate increases in oven temperature.
  • When working with yeast dough, keep a close eye on the dough because it rises quicker at high altitudes. Be careful not to let dough rise more than double its size.