Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baking With Altitude - Sugar

Welcome to Week 6 of How to Fix Common Baking Disasters.  

Week 1 How to Fix Common Baking Disasters
Week 2 Baking With Altitude - Flour
Week 3 Baking With Altitude - Leavening Agents 
Week 4 Baking With Altitude - Fats
Week 5 Baking With Altitude - Eggs

Chicago, IL (USA) 625 feet above sea level 
Santa Cruz (Bolivia) 1365 feet above sea level  
La Paz (Bolivia) 13,000 feet above sea level    

Sweeteners do more than give a sweet taste to baked items. The type of sweetener you use and the quantity you use can also change the texture and appearance of baked items. Depending on how sweeteners are incorporated they can inhibit gluten development which increases the tenderness of the baked item. Sweeteners also caramelize when they cook which helps turn baked goods the appealing golden brown that makes our mouths water. 

At high altitudes liquid evaporates more quickly. Sugar, when heated, melts and is treated as a liquid in baking. Because of faster liquid evaporation, sugar solutions become more concentrated. This affects the texture of baked goods. The increased concentration of sugar can weaken the structure of your baked goods causing cakes to cave in the center or to be too dense. Sugar quantity and concentration can also affect the crust of your baked goods.  


Granulated Sugar
The most common sweetener in home baking.

Superfine Granulated Sugar/Baker's Sugar 
Slightly finer grains then regular granulated sugar. You can make your own superfine sugar by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for a few pulses.

Powdered Sugar/Confectioner's Sugar
Ultra fine granulated sugar. The tiny grains of sugar are typically mixed with cornstarch to keep the sugar from clumping together. Often used to garnish baked goods especially fried dough. Used to make icing and glazes.

Brown Sugar
Comes in light and dark versions. Brown sugar is granulated sugar and molasses combined together. The amount of molasses in the sugar determines whether it is classified as light or dark. Brown sugar gives baked items a chewy texture and a rich flavor.

Adds sweetness and flavor to baked goods. The color and flavor of honey depends on which flowers provided the nectar that the bees used to produced the honey. 


Is a thick dark syrup that is the byproduct of sugar making. It is what is left over after granulated sugar is made. It is very dark brown and syrupy. Adds flavor and color to baked goods but can be a bit bitter if used in large quantities. 

Is a natural sweetener that is sweeter than regular sugar. If using agave you might want to use less than if you were using one of the other sweeteners.

Corn Syrup 
Is available in light or dark versions. Caramel coloring and molasses are added to dark corn syrup to give it a darker color and a more robust flavor. In home cooking, corn syrup is often used in making candies and brittles but it is sometimes used in baked goods and frostings. Corn syrup is more often used in commercial baking.

There are sweetening choices but for the purpose of this post and converting recipes to high altitude I will focus on granulated sugar.

Chicago, IL (USA)
When converting a recipe from a high altitude recipe to a low altitude kitchen (Chicago) reverse the instructions below by decreasing sugar quantity.

When converting a recipe from a low altitude kitchen (Chicago) to a high altitude kitchen try the following:
Santa Cruz  (Bolivia)
For each 1 cup of sugar, decrease 1 teaspoon up to 1 tablespoon
La Paz (Bolivia)

For each 1 cup of sugar, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Chef Noly
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To read more about Bolivia please visit our friend Bella at

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