Adjusting Homemade Brownies For High Altitude

This week I received a comment from one of my readers about my homemade brownie mix. She loved the flavor of the brownies, but was having trouble getting the right texture. She lives at a high altitude and thought that might be the prombelm and she asked if I knew of any tips that might help.

Although I have made my homemade brownies many times, in both the regular and gluten free version, I have never lived at a high altitude, so I was clueless on how to help.

So, I asked my friend Carrie who lives in Colorado, and blogs at  Springs Bargains and  Denver Bargains, if she had any tips that might help. She took on the challenge and offered to share her thoughts with my readers.

Thanks Carrie!

When Lynn told me one of her readers was having trouble adjusting her homemade brownie mix recipe for high-altitude, I jumped at the chance to try it out and see what I could tweak to make it work.

Now, I live in Colorado Springs, which is 6,035 feet above sea level.  It really doesn’t feel like high-altitude to me, as we can see the mountains but aren’t really in them, so the thought of having to adjust recipes for the elevation hadn’t occurred to me until our first Easter in Colorado found me assigned to make two cakes, both of which rose beautifully, and then fell in just as dramatic of a fashion.

When Lynn’s reader said the brownie recipe turned out extremely gooey, I knew exactly what she was talking about.  It’s exactly the same problem I had when making brownies from a box, before I started following the high-altitude directions.

For Duncan Hines brownie mixes, the box says to decrease the egg from 2 to 1, add two tablespoons of flour, and switch the amounts of water and oil (1/3 cup oil becomes 1/3 cup water, and 1/4 cup water because 1/4 cup oil).  I personally like to say that brownies are healthier in Colorado because of the decreased egg and oil!

I was thinking of doing something similar to the boxed directions with Lynn’s recipe, but asked people on my Springs Bargains Facebook page what they would do.  A knowledgeable baker recommended following the guidelines found in the High Altitude Baking, which were:

  • Decrease sugar by 1 T per cup
  • Decrease baking powder by 1/8 tsp per teaspoon
  • Add 1 to 2 T liquid, such as water

So, I followed those recommendations, and also intended to try it with two eggs instead of three; but as I started mixing it up I could tell that the batter was too dry without the third egg, so I went ahead and threw it in.

I baked the brownies at 350º as recommended in the original recipe, and preheated the oven for at least 30 minutes beforehand just to make sure an improperly-heated oven wasn’t going to throw off my results.

After the minimum recommended time of 22 minutes, I checked the brownies.  Knowing that the problem I was trying to prevent was gooeyness, I inserted a toothpick into the middle to see how the inside was doing, as the outside looked quite done.  I’m not sure that using a toothpick is the proper way to test brownies, but I didn’t want to mutilate them with a knife – yet.

The middle was nowhere near done, so I put them back in for another 3 minutes.  And another 3 minutes, and another three minutes.  By now, we were about 10 minutes over the recommended baking time, and I was starting to get worried about the edges being hard (I’ve done that a time or two in an effort to prevent gooey brownies)!  By this point, I had given up the idea of a perfect-looking pan of brownies and was testing with a knife.

Finally, after about 12 minutes over the recommended time of 22 minutes, I thought they looked basically done, but popped them back in for another minute or two just to make sure.

After 35 minutes of baking, they were finally deemed done!  After allowing them to cool, I tested them – I know, such a hard job! – and they were a great texture throughout the pan.   And, my worried about the edges being crusty were unfounded: they were nice and chewy, just like a brownie edge should be.

I’d like to try making these again without the sugar, baking powder, and liquid adjustments.  I’m not convinced adjusting those items actually did much – I think the key is just to be prepared to bake them much longer than the sea-level recipe states.

I’ll test them out again sometime without the adjustments and let you know how they turn out!  For now, I would say you can totally use Lynn’s brownie mix recipe – just be prepared to bake them anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes longer than the recipe states!

Carrie Isaac shares savings information for high-altitude bargain hunters living in Colorado at Colorado Spring Springs Bargains and Denver Bargains.  She frequently gets brownie mixes for 50¢ or less using coupons, but might just start making Lynn’s recipe – they were much tastier!

I would love to hear your thoughts on baking at high altitudes? Do you have any other tips to add?

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Comments

  1. I’m the one who asked the question – thank you so much!!! It’s funny you say it doesn’t feel like high-altitude here, because I’m in northern Colorado, and I feel like I’m in the plains, but it’s still right at 5,000 feet, and it really does make a difference in cooking. I am getting better, but some things still puzzle me.

  2. This is very interesting I had never thought about the altitude causing problems with baking. It makes sense though!

  3. I’m not at high altitude, but I make these quite often and also had a problem with the center being gooey the first few times. What I do now is bake them for 25 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave them in there for another 7 to 10 minutes. They are perfect every time.

    My whole family loves these, Lynn!! Thanks!!

  4. BeingJennifer says:

    The elevation of my town in NC is 2134 ft. Not has high as you all, but still higher than the flatlands. I appreciate the info because I have the rise/fall problem with some of my recipes. Not all of them though. I wonder if it has to do with the leavening or the combination of ingredients. It’s curious. Baking is definitely a chemistry experiment. ;)
    Thanks a bunch!

  5. I am from Northern Colorado (Ft. Collins) and never used to adjust anything… but currently I live in Bogota, Colombia which is at 8700 feet and I’m having to relearn everything I knew about baking. Thanks for the brownie tips… I’m off to try it out right now.

  6. I’ve had the same issues with baking in high altitude. But not only do you need to adjust time and ingredients, but even how long you mix it for — makes a difference. It’s even important on the order in which you mix the ingredients. Baking in high altitude can be a pain!!

  7. I live near Denver and have had to make adjustments in baking. After researching it sometime ago I found that increasing the liquid (by 1/4c) & the oven temp (by 25deg.) helped in a favorite cake recipe (that utterly fell the first time I made it). For these brownies tho I’m thinking that the butter is way too much. I’ve mostly switched over to using coconut oil (but do use butter too in my baking) and I’ve noticed that with coconut oil *and* high altitude that I have to really cut that back (or things get way too greasy). For instance I made some delicious oatmeal coconut cookies yesterday that called for 1c. shortening (half butter, half shortening), so I just used 1/2c. coconut oil. They were perfect!
    I think I would try using only 2/3 or 3/4c butter and maybe 375 for baking (or just longer, as Carrie did). (If they seem too dry with less butter, I’d just add a little water, but if I recall, boxed mixes are usually fairly stiff.)

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