Just about everyone out there loves pizza, and for good reason too. Pizza is one of the most universally well known and well loved foods out there. On top of that, it is incredibly versatile.
People can make pizza designed for meat lovers and they can make special vegan and vegetarian-friendly pizzas as well. There are plenty of ways to adapt pizza recipes both to taste and dietary preferences.
However, a lot of people do not realize that they can customize more than just the toppings and sauces.
There is actually quite a bit that you can do with the crust of the pizza as well. At first thought, you may think of stuffed pizza crusts, thin crusts, thick crusts, and seasoned crusts. However, this is far from all of the crusts out there.
One type of crust that you may not have heard of includes high-altitude pizza dough. The reason you may not have heard of this is because it is not a good type of pizza dough. In fact, it is one that many pizza lovers try to stay away from.
This is because high altitudes can drastically affect the way that you bake foods, and people who live in high-altitude areas may come to realize that their local pizza places don’t have the best crusts. More often than not, high-altitude pizza crusts will turn out dry and tasteless, which is something that nobody wants to have happen to their pizzas.
If you live in an area that is high-altitude and you are worried about making your own pizzas, then you won’t have to worry any more.
There are several workarounds that you can keep in mind for baking pizzas while being far above sea level. All it will take is a little bit of extra work and a few extra adjustments to ensure that your pizza turns out just as well as it could at sea level.
First things first, before you can begin making the necessary adjustments, you will need to understand how the changes in altitude affect the baking process. Understanding this will help you know what changes you will need to make and why certain adjustments need to be made.
Changing the way you bake is simply another change of life that comes with living at a high altitude.
How Does Altitude Affect Baking?
Chances are that you will not realize it until you begin baking at a high altitude, but it can truly make all the difference when you are baking. Generally, this effect will begin when you are trying to bake at 2,500 feet (762 meters) above sea level, and it will only become more pronounced the higher up you go.
The reason that changes need to be made to recipes is because almost all recipes that are made are done at laboratories and sites that are at sea level, or not notably higher than that.
When you rely on these recipes, you will come to realize that they were not modified to work at higher altitudes, meaning that you will need to do some of the work of figuring out how to properly bake at this elevation.
There are three aspects of the environment at high altitudes that affect the way that baking will work. Moisture will evaporate more quickly, water will begin to boil at slightly lower temperatures, and gasses will expand into the air more quickly.
All of these affect the baking process in different ways.
Because moisture evaporates more quickly, this can cause food to lose its moisture in ways that are not intended or expected. The most common problem tends to be problems with browning foods, and it happens both with foods prone to browning too fast and foods that don’t brown enough.
This also means that certain dry ingredients, especially flour, need to be in an environmentally controlled area so they can retain their properties.
Because water boils at a lower temperature, this means that most other substances that have water in them will reach their own maximum temperatures more quickly. This increases the chances of accidentally burning or drying out your food, which is something that nobody wants to have happen to their pizza crusts.
The best way to get around this is to bake at a slightly lower temperature than you otherwise would.
Finally, because gases expand more quickly at higher altitudes, this can cause doughs to overexpand, as well as cake batters. This subsequently pushes them against and over the walls of pans, which can make a mess when you are trying to create a beautiful dish.
This can also mean that the texture and taste of your dough doesn’t turn out as intended, contributing to that hallmark cardboard taste of high-altitude pizzas.
Now that you know how altitude affects baking, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments to your pizza to ensure that your pizzas will turn out as well as you want them to, no matter what altitude you are baking them at.
What Adjustments Do You Need to Make?
There are a few adjustments that are more prominent than others. For one, because of the way that water boils at lower temperatures and how baked goods will reach their maximum temperature more quickly, you will often need to lower the temperature at which you bake. At times, you may even need to bake for less time than you normally would.
Because high altitudes affect how quickly dough rises, rather than finding a warm spot for the dough to rise in a timely manner, you will actually want to find a cooler spot in the house for it to do this. This ensures that the dough rises slowly enough that you can keep an eye on it so it doesn’t over-expand.
Typically, you will want to have your oven at a high temperature to ensure that the pizza cooks properly. Many people suggest that you set your oven to as high as it will go, or 525 degrees Fahrenheit (274 degrees Celsius), whichever comes first. This will help make sure your pizza bakes properly and thoroughly.
Some people recommend letting the dough rise for four to eight hours. Other people will purposefully use cold water in their recipes to help the dough out.
Many people agree that it takes some time and effort to find the perfect recipe to combat the high altitude, but when you do, it will be well worth it in the end.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.