high altitude

High Altitude Gluten Free Baking Tips

I get lots of questions from folks asking how to adjust gluten free recipes for high altitude and my first answer is that you might not have to make an adjustment at all.

High Altitude Gluten-Free Baking Tips

Those of us unaccustomed to high altitudes often experience shortness of breath, headaches and quick sunburns when we visit higher locations. The air is thinner and the pressure is lower at 5,000 feet above sea level and beyond, but people aren’t the only things affected.

The same conditions that create these physical problems for living creatures can also affect baking, but not always.

First let’s look at what happens when there is low atmospheric pressure, low humidity and thinner air. The first things you’ll notice in the kitchen are a lower boiling point, more rapid rising and drier baked goods from the reduced humidity.

Where this requires a change in gluten-free baked goods is primarily in the leavening. Breads rise faster, leading to potential cave-ins because the cell structure isn’t set well enough to hold the bread’s shape. Other leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda will also cause the gases in breads and cakes to expand/rise faster. (I read once that 1 teaspoon of baking powder at 5,000 feet yields 20% more volume than at sea level!)

So my recommendation is to try the recipe without adjustment first. Keep good notes so that you remember any problems that developed with each recipe, and what solutions you devised that worked. If you encounter problems, reference these tips to help.

If your bread or cakes rise too fast and then collapse:

Gluten-Free White Bread after rise.

  • Adjust the leavening agents: reduce baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon for each teaspoon called for in the recipe if you are baking above 6,000 feet. If you are baking at 8,000 feet or higher, reduce by 1/2 teaspoon for each teaspoon in the recipe.
  • Reduce the rise time of yeast breads. Do not let the dough rise higher than the side of the pan. Check frequently to ensure bread is not rising more than double its size before baking.
  • ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Do not fill muffins or cake pans more than 1/2 full.
  • Do not omit salt in yeast bread recipes because salt will help to contain the rise.
  • Try increasing the baking temperature by 25 degrees to help heat then set the cell structure faster so that it is better supported after cooling.
  • Use extra large eggs instead of large eggs (eggs contain protein which helps to provide structure)
  • Do not overbeat eggs, as this will enhance the rising of batters, which is not advised at high altitudes.

If the recipe results in baked goods that are drier and more crumbly than they ought to be:

  • Increase liquid by approximately 2 tablespoons if baking at 6,000 feet; 3-5 tablespoons if baking at 7,000 feet or higher.
  • OR decrease gluten-free flour by 1 tablespoon per cup of flour.
  • Try substituting shortening for butter – it holds more liquid. (I use Earth Balance® Shortening Sticks)

Your gluten-free cookies ought to look like this — even at high altitude!

If your cookies flatten:

  • Reduce the shortening or butter by 1-2 tablespoons.
  • Substitute shortening for butter.
  • Add 1/8 cup more gluten free flour per each cup of flour in the recipe.
  • Reduce the amount of additions like chocolate chips.
  • Add powdered milk or non-dairy powdered milk (not reconstituted)

If your pie crusts or pastries are dry or tough:

  • Reduce gluten free flour or use less flour to dust with and handle the crust as little as possible.
  • Ensure your fats and liquids are cold when mixing.
  • Increase liquid by up to 25% (I add 2-3 tablespoons of vodka to the liquids in my pie crusts with great success!)

 

36 thoughts on “High Altitude Gluten Free Baking Tips

  1. Thank you so much for your tips. When I am in high altitude I am between 8000-10000. Is there a good all purpose gf flour that works really well in recipes? Thanks for your input!

  2. So, this past weekend, we were baking zucchini banana bread (yum, by the way) and when we pulled it out of the oven, it had exploded! Now exploded might not have been the best description baking wise, but the bread definitely caved in. So what I’m wondering, because we actually haven’t tried this yet, is when the bread is done, should it be moist or a bit drier than normal?

    • Hi Redd, we’ve all had that happen once in awhile. It’s easy with recipes calling for fruit or veggies like zucchini for the batter to be too moist, which causes cave-ins (the bread still tastes great, though!) Quick breads like zucchini bread should not be dry, but there’s a fine line between too wet and perfectly moist. If it needs to cook longer, try covering the bread with aluminum foil to keep the top from cooking too quickly and allowing the inside to cook longer.

  3. I live at about 7,200 ft. I been having problems with my bread crumbling. I’ve adjusted my liquid and still having problems. I also mill my own flour and the bread is more dense. It has problems on the 2 rise not rising like it should. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Susan, it’s hard to say without knowing exactly what flours you’re using, but it sounds like there may be a problem with technique, as well. Are you using a bread machine or are you manually punching the bread down and giving it a second rise? There should be NO punchdown with gluten-free bread, and thus, no second rise. Unlike gluten breads, punching down and kneading gluten-free doughs will just take the life right out of the loaf and it will not rebound with a second rise. Hence the dense cell structure it sounds like you’re experiencing. I hope that helps you find the problem!

  4. Thanks for posting this article! We live at 10,500 feet and I just experienced a cupcake explosion while preparing for my son’s birthday. I’ll try again with your suggestions.

  5. Thank you! I live at high altitude and am newly diagnosed to the GF diet. I was feeling very daunted at doing all this new baking myself, at altitude to boot. But this post is so enormously helpful!

  6. Thanks for the tips! I live at 9000 feet elevation, and I rarely have to make adjustments, but it definitely has been a learning experience finding out what works/doesn’t work! I will try some of these tips, thank you!

  7. Jules, you do a great job on everything, I have been Gluten Free since 2007 I still find new thing every day , thank-you so very much.

  8. I do not have problems with high altitudes, but I have really enjoyed all your sharing info these past 10 days. I have learned a lot.
    Thanks.

  9. This “10 Days of Gluten Free” has been amazing! Your tips are always excellent and appreciated. I am learning so much!! Thank you so much for the ideas and for your “Getting Started” pack! I have really enjoyed it!!!

  10. Jules, thank you so much for sharing so much wisdom these past 10 days. I’ve looked forward to reading each day’s post and will continue to follow your blog in the months to come :)

  11. I do travel, but it tends to all be at low altitudes. Though now I have information if anyone ever asks me. That’s nice.

  12. I live at 6500 ft., and I do have to adjust. There were a few suggestions here I’ve never heard of even after more than a decade of living here! I’ll have to give them a try. Thanks!

  13. Almost everything I’ve made has come out fine. I’m never quite sure if I live at a high elevation (just over 3000 ft.) Some cookbooks say 3000 and some say 3100. But if most of my baked goods come out fine, I guess I don’t need to adjust.

  14. I’ve shared my love of your products and baking insights on Twitter! Thank you for all of your mixes and recipes over the last 6 years. You’ve been my gf baking savior!

  15. Oh, cool! And helpful stuff for avid bakers like me, who have a tendency to travel to odd places at times. :)

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