With the holiday season on the horizon, you may soon be digging through the ole’ family cookbook to grab Aunt Betsy’s famous apple pie or sugar cookie recipe.
Believe it or not, certain weather conditions can actually impact the process of baking your favorite holiday goods. Here’s how:
- As it often impacts many things, weather can impact baking your favorite recipes, too
- Days with lower humidity (less moisture) can lead to shorter bake times and cause dry ingredients to dry out faster
- Warmer air temperature can cause butter and other fats to melt quicker in doughs and batters
- Baking at higher altitudes can cause cakes and doughs to rise quicker and lose moisture faster
- Adjusting bake times, the amount of liquid in your recipes, and where you store dry ingredients can help to make sure that your holiday treats come out just the way you like them!
Changes in humidity can affect how cookies, cakes, breads, and other pastries turn out in a few different ways.
Dry ingredients (like flour, sugar, baking powder, etc.) can often absorb some of the extra moisture in the air when it’s humid and muggy. Experts say that removing a fraction of the liquid that a recipe calls for could help make sure that there’s not too much moisture in your dough.
A good rule of thumb if baking on a humid day is to start by removing a quarter of the total amount (so use 3/4 cup of liquid if your recipe calls for a full cup), and then add some of the moisture back in (one tablespoon at a time) if it looks like your dough or batter has not yet reached the ideal consistency.
You may also need to add on a few minutes to the overall bake time in order to remove the excess moisture. Start by adding an additional three to five minutes to the total cook time before checking to see if your product is done. If your cake or bread is still undercooked, keep adding time in two-to-three minute intervals until cooked through. For cookies, experts say to only add additional time in one minute intervals since they’re easier to overbake.
Another trick to prevent dry ingredients from absorbing excess moisture in the air is to store them in the fridge or freezer. If you choose to go this route, take them out about an hour before baking to allow the ingredients to warm up to room temperature.
Higher humidity also prevents baked goods from rising efficiently. Roseann Ximenez, owner of RX Baked Goods, knows this concept all to well. “If it’s really humid and we are making chocolate chip cookies, they will flatten out faster (instead of rising up more first) when baked,” Ximenez said.
Differences in air temperature can also impact how your holiday treats turn out.
If your kitchen is hot, experts say that using chilled liquid ingredients can help slow the melting of butter or any other fats you may be using. Cooling the air temperature in your kitchen by closing the windows and/or turning on the air conditioner can help lower the amount of excess moisture in the air.
Chilling your cookie dough by placing it in the fridge can also help prevent the butter from melting faster, which can end up causing cookies to flatten out more when baking.
If you’re traveling to a location at a higher altitude to spend the holidays with family, your sweets and treats may turn out differently if baked there compared to here in South Texas.
Air pressure falls as altitude increases, and can cause baked goods to rise easier and lose moisture quicker. As the rising process occurs at a faster rate, large bubbles can form in cakes and breads, creating a coarse-textured product. The pressure inside a quickly rising cake can increase so much that the cake bursts and then falls during the baking process.
Reducing leavening agents and adjusting the amounts of sugar, eggs, and sometimes flour can help. Here’s a list of adjustments you can make to your recipe if planning on making your recipes at a higher elevation this year!
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