baking hands

Running a Baking Business at High Altitude

Elevation can mess up most recipes. Baking in the Beehive State will require a lot of tweaking, and you’ll need to adjust your recipes and procedures to make sure your baked goods don’t come out dry or bloated.

Add More Water

Most recipes you’ll find in cookbooks assume you’ll be baking at sea level. Humidity drops as altitude increases, and Utah can be pretty arid. Add three to four teaspoons of liquid to your recipes. Water is fine, but you can also use an extra egg to add a bit of flavor and consistency. Fondant can be more difficult to work with, so add extra corn syrup or glycerin when rolling.

If you’re making fondant toppers, you’ll need to work a bit faster, especially if you’re using tylose. Without humidity, fondant hardens faster. Plan your shapes or use baking molds to quicken the pace. Working in an air-conditioned environment will further make the air dryer. However, you can increase humidity by constantly running the air conditioning fan to recirculate moisture instead of draining it outside. For particularly humid days or if you need more time to construct your pieces, use a humidifier or swamp cooler.

Control the Rise

Bread or any of your baking goods that require leavening agents will require diligent fine-tuning. Higher altitudes come with lower air pressure, so the water evaporates faster or boils at lower temperatures. Leaveners like yeast, baking soda, and baking powder produce gasses as they interact with various baking ingredients. Lower air pressure makes these gasses expand faster, increasing the amount of air in your bread.

Decreasing the amount of leaveners is a given, but the exact amounts vary depending on your recipe. Recipes that merely use one teaspoon of baking soda only need a 1/8 reduction. However, recipes that use more than four teaspoons may require a 35 to 40 percent reduction. These formulas assume you’re baking in Salt Lake City. If you’re in Park City, you might need to reduce the amount of leaveners by 75 percent.

Heat It Up

You’ll need to cut oven time to ensure your baked goods don’t shrivel and dry. The heat will also accelerate the effect of leaveners, and longer oven times may cause your bread to overly-rise and lose its structure or collapse. The Colorado State University (CSU) devoted extensive studies on the effect of altitude on baking, particularly on its effects on leaveners.

CSU studies suggest cutting down baking time by 25 to 30 percent and increasing oven temperatures by 25 degrees. However, increased temperatures can affect the texture of most baked goods. Alternatively, you can opt to stick to the usual oven times and temperatures but switch to using high-protein flour. The density of flour can affect the amount of rising, and opting for high-protein flour can limit the effects of leaveners.

Making Money

Utah laws and guidelines for the production and selling of baked goods are particularly light. Bakers don’t need any particular licenses or any home inspection. Unlike in more stringent states like New York and California, Utah bakers are not required to use separate kitchens. Bakers are free to use their regular kitchen items as long as they adhere to the usual safety and hygiene guidelines.

Baked goods can be sold from one’s home or delivered to customers. Farmer’s markets are also open to bakers, although there may be some restrictions on items that include meat. Bakers are free to cater to private events, no matter how large, without restrictions. Licenses and inspections are only required if you are opening an actual store or if you will be supplying your goods to restaurants, groceries, or other 3rd party sellers.

Expanding Your Business

Successful bakers often opt to open their own shops or cater to other businesses. In Utah, you can expand your operations and still run it from your home. Of course, bigger clients might be dissuaded by a home-based operation. However, it shouldn’t be a problem if you usually cater to individuals or private events.

Going full blast on your baking business will require increased speed and capacity. Baking mixers and fondant rollers/sheeters should cut your prep times, and batter depositors will allow you to frost hundreds of cupcakes in minutes. If you want to focus on weddings and corporate events, you might need a bigger oven, as large tiered cakes often have bases wider than 16 inches. Purchasing equipment can be expensive, so make sure to save up or apply for a small business loan.

Utah is one of the best places for bakers once you get the recipes right. There are little to no restrictions, and competent bakers can cater to large events and still run their business from home.