Friday, April 18, 2008

High Altitude Cornbread

We live at about 6000 feet - something that would have meant nothing to me 3 years ago. I never paid attention to altitude until we moved to Colorado. I didn't even know how high "high" was until we moved here. Now I am always curious about what altitude we are at. I even asked Matt for one of those thing-a-ma-jigs that tells you what altitude you are at. Sorta like a GPS for altitude.

Other than breathing a bit harder after walking up the stairs, the only way that living at a higher altitude has affected my life is baking (and cooking beans, but that is for another post!). I find it really difficult to bake. I have yet to make a yeast bread that comes out better than decent. Muffins are flat and dry. Even cookies seem a bit off. Part of it is altitude and part of it is the dry climate. The moisture in baked goods disappears almost instantaneously. I have heard all kinds of theories on how to adjust recipes, but those slight adjustments make it difficult to bake consistently. So I am continually on the search for recipes that work well. Of course, when I find a recipe that works well at home, it never seems to work well when we travel up into the mountains (about 10,000 feet).

This winter I finally found a cornbread muffin recipe that works great at altitude. Makes a nice dome muffin, isn't too dry, and tastes good! Miraculously the recipe works well up in the mountains as well. I adapted it from a corn muffin recipe in the cookbook Baking at High Altitude.

This recipe makes at least 36 corn muffins. We like corn muffins a lot in our house, but that is a bit too many for one meal. I've tried cutting the recipe in half, but it doesn't seem to work as well. (It also doesn't make good mini muffins.) What to do with all that extra corn bread?? I usually make one pan to eat with our original meal, one pan to make Cornbread Salad to eat the next night, and I save some batter to make Corn Dog Muffins for lunch the next day.

High Altitude Corn Muffins
3 cups corn meal
3 cups white whole wheat flour
3T ground flax seed
3T wheat germ
1/3 cup sugar
1T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional - I usually use about 1/2 tsp)
1 cup shredded cheese (optional)
5 eggs
3/4 cup melted butter
3 1/3 cups buttermilk

Mix all the dry ingredients including the cheese in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix batter well.

Grease (don't skip this!) muffin cups. Fill each section to the top.

Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes.

Cornbread Salad
1 pan of crumbled corn muffins (this works really well with stale cornbread as well)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
several tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups frozen corn
splash of apple cider vinegar
2 cups mayonnaise (more or less to taste)

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 12-18 hours

Corn Dog Muffins
Leftover corn muffin mix
hot dogs (meat or veggie), cut into quarters
Shredded cheese (optional)

Fill muffin sections half full of muffin mix. Place hot dog pieces and a pinch of cheese in each section with corn muffin mix (I chop the hot dog pieces up pretty small and put a spoonful in each section). Cover hot dog pieces with remaining muffin mix. Bake as directed.


Tiffany said...

One thing I have learned with high altidue cooking is boxes are the best. My cornbread and misc. cakes and muffins turn out great if I use a box. Chocolate chip cookies are ok but they are flat. Baking bread is a whole other story! I am going to try a no knead receipe tonight - we will see if it works.

Penny said...

interesting :) you could freeze some too I guess.

Chelle said...

When I read that you are at 6000 ft it made me think about how Im basically at sea-level here in FL. So I just looked up and thought about how high above me 6000 ft must be. LOL! Crazy!!

I am going to try those corn dog muffins. Wayne & the girls will LOVE those!

Everyday Yogini said...

I was going to say the same thing Penny said. I keep frozen corn muffins wrapped in foil, in a bag, in our freezer to pull out and pop in the oven as needed. They are just as good, suprisingly enough!

N. & J. said...

I have a couple recipes on my blog for bread that worked including corn bread. Cookies are what frustrates me the most. I have recipes for gingerbread cookies and citrus sugar cookies that I got from Epicurious that I loved until I tried to make them here and they came out flat and dry- bleck!

Green Me said...

Hi! I too am in Colorado and I will have to try this corn bread recipe. My husband LOVES corn bread and honey!

I grew up in Colorado at over 8000 feet so cooking at 6000 is practically sea level to me ;)

Just kidding, this is serious business. I learned from my mom that one key to adjusting recipes is to very slightly increase the flour (one to two tbsp) and to significantly reduce the sugar.

For example, if you are making chocolate chip cookies, cut the sugar by a 1/4 or 1/3, add 2 tbsp of flour and you should be good.

You may also want to play with reducing the amount of baking soda or powder in some recipes.

Oz said...

I'm in Denver - I'm going to have to try that recipe. Thanks for sharing it! About half the time I try to ignore the altitude and just follow regular instructions; that works sometimes and fails miserably other times.

ames said...

Oh, I'm so happy you included the recipes for the salad and corn dog muffins! I'm always trying to figure out what to do with leftover cornbread other than nuke it with some butter :) Gotta try those corn dog muffins, sounds fantastic for kids!

Anonymous said...

Check out Pie In The Sky - phenomenally helpful baking book (and a pretty good read as well). I'm recently relocated to 10,000 ft and have had the same problems. ;)

breeAz said...

We live at 7500 ft, and I find it SO difficult to bake! Cooking is about the same but I can't bake for nothing, as I lived at sea level for 20 yrs. Thanks for this.. I'm gonna try it tonight:)!