Throughout my life, I’ve baked many a cookie. They’ve even baked well in the Mile High City whereas my cakes and brownies weren’t always so lucky. But, if you live at 7,000 feet or higher, even cookies might put up a bit of a fight. But don’t worry! These tips will will be your best friends when it comes to baking cookies at high altitude.
When you reduce the sugar in a recipe, you give the protein in the flour greater control over the structure of the cookies. Cut the sugar by one to four tablespoons, depending on altitude. Remember that the higher you are in elevation, the more sugar you should reduce. The flavor should not be affected much, if at all.
Reducing the fat in a recipe has a similar effect as reducing the sugar. Fats, like oil and butter, weaken the gluten in flour helping to create a more tender product. However, high altitudes cause increased moisture loss, which concentrates the fat and weakens the overall structure. Reducing it can help retain structural strength.
As with cakes, if you slightly increase the flour in a recipe, you can prevent the cookies from sinking too much. Add between one and four tablespoons depending on your elevation.
Increasing the liquid may also help, since high altitudes make liquid evaporate more quickly and can dry out the flour. Be careful though, since too much liquid can result in creating a tough cookie—the kind that doesn’t get along well with teeth.
Increase Oven Temperature
Sometimes cookies just need a slight increase in baking temperature, only 15 to 25°F. Experiment with this tip and see what works for you.
Use a Cool Baking Sheet
Make sure you place the cookies on a cool baking sheet. If the baking sheet is hot from a previous batch of cookies, the cookie dough will spread out too much during baking. Thus resulting in flat, crunchy cookies. It also helps to use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar if the recipe calls for it. Textures and consistency are key when baking cookies at altitude.
Illustrations by the talented Roman Martinez for FSW