Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My First High Altitude Baked Cake

Having lived at sea level for my entire life, I never gave a second thought to those "high altitude" instructions on cake mixes. Now as an informed adult, I have learned that altitude makes a difference and not adjusting your recipe correctly can lead to flat, dry, or over-proofed cakes and breads.

Thanks to the internets, I found an easy-to-follow scientific explanation here. There's a lot of good stuff in the explanation. The coolest factoid from the article is at higher elevation, flavors tend to be less pronounced because there are fewer moisture molecules to carry aroma to the nose. What?! Isn't that interesting?

Here's the applied science summary: 
  • Make your batter strong so that it doesn't collapse by using less sugar, adding an extra egg, or by adding more flour. 
    • Fats and sugar weaken gluten structure in flour at high altitude.
  • Acidity helps the cake firm up faster in the oven and helps hold in moisture when it is being used with baking soda, so replace regular milk with buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt (high acidity). 
  • To make your cake not dry, if you cake recipe calls for a liquid, add in extra liquid.
How I adjusted the banana cake recipe
  • Decreased sugar by 1/2 cup - I usually do this anyways because the bananas are usually sweet enough. 
  • Added one extra whole egg 
  • Decreased shortening by 1/4 cup
  • Used 5 bananas  - I usually do this anyways. I prefer a stronger banana flavor.
  • Didn't sift my flour as much as I usually do to add in extra flour. 

Next time, I may add an extra yolk in the cake to see if that will help bind it together better and use a little less sugar to see if that helps the cake be a little denser. Otherwise, I'd say it was a success!

Nat
Monday, June 23, 2014

Colorado Life - The First Week

I have been in Colorado for a week now. It hasn't fully sunk in yet that I am becoming a Coloradan resident because, to be honest, I have only left the house for grocery, Home Depot, and Super Walmart trips for living and building essentials. Right now, it kind of feels like I am on vacation, lol. Until I find my next career opportunity, I am going to make the most of this transition time.

Having been to the major attractions (listed above) in town and having met a few of the neighbors, Colorado versus California living has interesting differences.

One fashion trend here that I am taking a liking to is camo errthang. Seriously, you can get tasteful camo bikinis, camisoles, hats or any clothing for that matter. In the Bay, I usually saw camo gear.... well, unless it was a seasonal cropped top at Forever 21, I never saw camo fashions so readily available.

Excellent assortment of camo bikinis at the local Big R.
Camo Coors hat - great deal at the local Super Walmart, only $7!

Instead of telling you whether the good local eats are, the neighbors tell you to carry bear spray when you walk your dogs. After S. told me that he spotted a bear running downhill from a neighbors house, I went ahead and ordered a canister of bear spray. It was waiting for me when I arrived here :)
Frontiersman Bear Spray was the highest rated one on Amazon.com. It even came with a handy holster!
One thing that I was looking forward to was letting the dogs roam free on the deck and in an enclosed yard. According to the wildlife education brochures that came with the keys to this place, it is not advisable to leave your pets unsupervised, even in the day time. Coyotes and mountain lion in the area can snatch them or lure them out of the fenced areas. Who knew that house dogs wouldn't have survival instincts against mountain predators?
Excellent reads for living with animals in the mountains.
Rex loves eating the pine needles and laying in the sun on the deck. Too bad I can't leave him out there all day when I go work.
Mountain living tips are welcomed in the comments section.

- Nat