Tahoe Top 5: No more soggy bread
April 7, 2017
If you're a transplant to North Lake Tahoe-Truckee or simply have experience baking closer to sea level, then you know that not all of your culinary skills are directly translatable when cooking at the lake – especially when you're going for fluffy bread and soft cookies.
"Even soup takes longer to cook up here," said Barbara Vogt Melrose, owner and baker at Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet.
One of North Lake Tahoe's most esteemed bakeries, Tahoe House, has cracked the code on making delicious bakery treats that are perfect every time.
"In general, things take longer to cook up here, not just when baking. These are the tips we've come up with based on the questions we get asked most often," Melrose said.
Give these tips a try to bake to perfection, but keep in mind it takes a lot of trial and error. Luckily, that's what makes cooking fun – find what works and you'll be mastering baked recipes in no time, adding your personal touch and offering advice to fellow bakers who've collapsed a cake, or two.
1. Less powder, more flour
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In general, when baking at high altitudes, you should decrease the amount of baking powder the recipe calls for by about 10 percent and increase the flour you're using, also by about 10 percent. There is less atmospheric pressure at high altitude meaning you need less to make your baked goods rise.
2. Everything dries out faster
Always let food cool all the way down before storing it to keep from getting soggy bread, muffins, and baked goods in general. Once you're ready to put away your delicious dish, opt for a food storage container to seal out oxygen rather than a piece of plastic wrap over a plate.
Not so fast…if you're looking to store some nice crusty bread, this rule does not apply! First cool the bread thoroughly for six to eight hours, then put it right into a paper bag to keep the crunch.
3. Baking bread in winter
In order for your homemade bread to rise, it needs to be at least 70 degrees, something we don't often think about during the colder months. Using cold bowls and cold water won't allow the yeast to react, which makes for light, fluffy bread. Start with warmer water in your recipe and introduce humidity into the air so your bread will rise nicely – try spraying water into the air above the rising bread or making your dough next to a boiling pot of water.
4. No one likes a tough cookie
One of the most nerve wrecking parts of baking cookies is time — take them out too early and you'll have a runny mess. Wait too long and you're stuck with cookies as hard as rocks. For soft cookies every time take them out as soon as they start looking slightly golden. They might look too pale, but you must take them out. The cookies will continue to cook even after they've been removed from the oven so pull earlier than you might think to keep them chewy.
5. A healthier alternative
Applesauce is a delicious and healthy alternative to using butter or oil in a baking recipe. Of course, this trick depends on the recipe you're using; but for cookies or muffins, for example, give applesauce a try! It will keep your treats moist while also cutting some unnecessary fat.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.