Baking Cookies At A High Altitude: What To Do and Why

Baking cookies at a high altitude is less complicated than adjusting to altitude for cakes or breads. Cookies are smaller than other baked items. They also require shorter baking time. Higher fat content and less fluid make cookies less temperamental at high altitudes, too.

Nevertheless, high altitudes offer challenges in the kitchen. The Elf offers these tips so that your cookies can turn out perfectly and you can enjoy them, no matter where you live.

Why Baking at a High Altitude Is Different

High altitude is considered to be 3,000 feet or more.

Air pressure decreases as the elevation increases. The higher up you live, the lower the air pressure in your kitchen. Because of that, ingredients in cookies respond differently than they do at lower altitudes and the baking process changes a bit, too.

Furthermore, if you reside at a high altitude you may find that you need to adjust cookie recipes to suit your specific conditions – both the ingredients and baking procedures. Different altitude heights impact ingredients and baking in different ways. For instance, if you live at 3,500 feet you will likely make different adjustments to cookie recipes than if you live at 5,700 feet.

Experiment to find out how cookies respond when you make adjustments in your region. Try small modifications at first. Adjust as needed until you find the right combinations for your situation.

Basic Principles to Follow When Baking Cookies at a High Altitude

Baking sheet with cookies with The Cookie Elf

For Ingredients

Decrease leavening agent

Increase fluid

In Baking Procedures

Increase baking temperature

Decrease baking time


Adjustments for Ingredients  

Leavening Agents

Baking powder, baking soda, and egg whites are main leavening agents used in cookies. When activated in dough, they create foam, which in turn releases gasses into the dough causing it to expand. 

How does this affect cookies? Lower air pressure (at high altitudes) means less weight pressing down on cookie dough. Because of that, leavening agents tend to release gases more quickly at higher altitudes than at normal altitudes. By the time cookies are done, most gasses have expanded and already escaped from the cookies. Bottom line: your cookies flatten. You can counteract the too-quick action of leaven at high altitudes by experimenting with adjustments so cookies don’t rise too quickly.

High-Altitude Adjustments

  • Baking powder and baking soda: decrease amount by 15% 25%
  • Egg whites: beat to soft-peak consistency rather than stiff-peak consistency

Liquid

Most cooks increase oven temperatures at a higher altitude (see below) so liquid in your cookie dough evaporates quicker. Extra liquid keeps products from drying out at higher temperatures.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Increase liquid by 1-3 tablespoons, experimenting first with the small end of the spectrum.

Adjustments to Baking Procedures

Oven Temperature

Leavening and evaporation are quicker when baking cookies at a high altitude. A higher oven temperature helps cookies to set before they expand or get too dry.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Increase oven temperature by 15º to 25º degrees – less if the dough contains chocolate, which has extra fat.

Baking Time

Higher oven temperatures mean cookies bake faster.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Decrease baking time 20-25%, which translates into 5-8 minutes for every 30 minutes.


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