Tips for Baking Quick Breads at High Altitude
"Quick bread" is the term for items like muffins, scones, biscuits, and cake-like breads, such as banana bread. These breads typically rise without the addition of yeast. Bakers hope to achieve a delicate, moist crumb in muffins and banana breads, and a flaky, layered texture in biscuits. Try these suggestions for recipe adjustments when baking quick breads at high altitudes.
Reduce leavening agent. Since lower air pressure increases the rate that air bubbles in quick breads rise, it is important to reduce the amount of leavener at high altitudes. This usually takes the form of baking powder or baking soda, also known as chemical leaveners. Reducing the baking soda—an acid neutralizer—also helps create a slightly more acidic batter, which can result in a better rise. Reduce by about 1/8 to 2/3 teaspoon, depending on the altitude.
Reduce sugar. Reducing the sugar can strengthen the batter and help to prevent collapse. Sugar weakens the gluten in flour, which in turn weakens the overall structure of a cake or quick bread. Try reducing by one to four tablespoons as the rise in altitude increases.
Increase flour. Increasing flour by one to four tablespoons will improve the protein content in the recipe, helping to sustain the form and shape and prevent collapse.
Increase liquid. One way to improve moisture content is to add liquid, but be discerning when it comes to the type of liquid you add. Buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt might be good replacements for water, as they are more acidic and help to retain more moisture, especially in recipes with baking soda. Acidic batters tend to set up better for a moister yet firmer result.
Increase oven temperature or baking time. As with cake, the heat can be increased by about 15 or 25°F if the baking time is kept the same. This goes for elevations from about 4,000 ft to 6,000 ft. Higher than that, it’s best to up the baking time.
High altitude can be a hassle, but after a while it becomes a way of life. Instead of letting it make your muffins and banana breads hard and dense, try some of these suggestions improve the moisture, texture and taste of your quick breads.
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