With soaring altitudes of 8,150 in Vail and 7,430 in Avon, baking at high altitudes is often something that can frustrate even the most seasoned of bakers.
While there are great local bakeries like Mountain Cupcakes (Vail), Bonjour Bakery (Edwards), Columbine Bakery (Avon) and even Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery (a little ways off the beaten path in Minturn, but a locals favorite!) for those times you just need something quick and predictable, learning to bake from scratch up here is a valued and appreciated skill.
So whether you are new transplant to Vail Valley or just vacationing, here are my top 5 tips for successful, high altitude baking. Give yourself a little time, have patience and keep trying!
- Add a little more flour than the recipe calls for. About ⅛-¼ cup flour for every cup. This will give your batter a thicker consistency and the results will be more even looking. This is especially true for cookies and muffins where I add closer to ½ cup extra.
- When making cookies, be sure to refrigerate the dough between batches and form the dough more into tall ovals than round balls. The higher the dough balls are, the more likely the cookies will look perfectly rounded when baked (and not wide and flat like a pancake.)
- Some people have shared that reducing the baking soda called for in a recipe by about ¼ tsp per 1 tsp helps, but I have not found that it matters very much when I have baked.
- Be sure to blend dry ingredients very well. Baking soda and powder, when not carefully mixed can make your batter unevenly rise. While skillful frosting of a cake can cover a multitude of mistakes, mixing the dry ingredients thoroughly before adding into the wet mixture will save you a headache later.
- When at all possible, bake in cupcake tins! It’s much easier to get consistent and good looking results when baking in pre-molded tins. Note: your ingredients will rise much more than they do at lower altitudes, but then fall when they are taken out of the oven, so be careful not to overfill. Keep it at about ½ full to avoid messy and ugly overflow.
- If you have added extra flour and greased the pan VERY well- sometimes filling them to the top can create beautiful and perfect looking cupcakes and muffins. This might be something to aspire towards as many times the run over batter can stick and make the treats unstable and crumbly.
- In that line of thinking- bundt pans are extremely helpful as well since most of the problems when baking cakes in cake pans is how uneven they can turn out. Be sure to carefully grease and flour before use. Note: a fun idea is to use cocoa powder instead of flour if it will work with the recipe!
- Keep your baked goods in the oven a little longer than the recipe calls for. Watch and monitor closely to avoid burning but things do bake slower up here. Note: Some people increase the temperature by about 25 degrees to speed up the cooking time.
So get out your favorite, tried and true recipes that you have been avoiding, and give them another try!
For some fool-proof recipes that are intentionally written for high altitudes by locals, head over to Vail Valley Daily for bi-monthly inspiration: