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Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes

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Pie in the SkyBaking at high altitudes can be a real challenge – especially since most cookbooks are written for those of us baking at, or near, sea level. It’s hard to get reliable recipes and good tips that will guarantee good results when you live 5,000-ft. or more above the ocean. I’m a sea-level baker and, while I would love to take a several month long sabbatical into the mountains to perfect some higher elevation pastries, I just don’t have time at the moment. Fortunately, there are some cookbooks already out there that have already tackled the topic, like Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes, which is full of recipes that have been successfully tested in ovens from 0 to 10,000-ft.

The recipes in the book cover a fairly standard array of baked goods, from butter cakes and pies (not surprising, given the title) to cookies and cheesecakes. But it is not the recipes themselves that really make this book a good one: it’s all the extras. Author Susan Purdy packed this book with stories that recount her successes and failures at high altitude baking. Not only does this give the reader something to relate to, it also provides a great jumping off point for explanations of the science of high altitude baking. The changes needed to make a “standard” recipe successful high in the mountains are explained well and – better still – all the conversions can be taken and applied to recipes from other sources, as well. This means that in addition to getting this one cookbook, other cookbooks are made to be more accessible.

While many books include tips and hints that make baking from other recipes easier, this is one of the few that can actually be said to serve as a guidebook. Definitely a good way to get a fresh start (and a good rise) from some high elevation baking.

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  • Heidi
    July 28, 2008

    Another book with good high altitude instructions that I found recently is “CakeLove” by Warren Brown. Not only does he specify quantities by weight (my preferred way of measuring), but he also includes high altitude compensations for all his recipes.

  • Christy
    July 28, 2008

    Hi! Just wanted to thank you for your website. I am an American living overseas – and I was craving a bit of home – oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I found the recipe on your website and they are just coming out of the oven. Delicious!

  • Heidi German
    July 28, 2008

    I really like this book! I live in the Denver area (approx 5500 ft) so high altitude adjustments are almost always necessary for successful baking here–I will admit that I rarely bother with from-scratch cakes anymore because of the constant frustration. I love this book because it has done all the work for me–I don’t have the patience or time or ingredients to be trying again and again to tweak my recipes to get them to turn out. The author’s recipe for Breckenridge biscuits is my go-to buttermilk biscuit recipe!

  • Charlsie Swadley
    July 28, 2008

    Ok first of all I love this blog. Second I wish I had this cookbook when we lived in Mexico at a high altitude. It was by much trial and error that I learned how to bake there. Funny thing is that now that we moved back to the USA I am having to learn how to bake at a normal altitude all over again!

  • Jeanmarie
    July 28, 2008

    This is a great blog. Living in Colorado, it comes in handy.

  • Jeri
    July 28, 2008

    What a great idea! I’m at about 4,700 feet and have trouble with some recipes. Others seem to turn out OK. I need to check out this book.

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