Cooking Tips · Techniques

Candy Making at Altitude

The temperatures outside are definitely telling us that Fall is here. And, with possible snow showers on the horizon, some of you may be beginning to think about the holidays. If you love to cook, that often means making holiday food gifts. What do you like to make for holiday gifts – cookies, candied nuts, chocolate truffles, caramels or something else? For those of us that live at a higher altitude, some of the items can prove challenging. In this tip, I will explain how altitude can affect your candy making and how to make adjustments.

Making candies such as caramels or hard candies is much more scientific than savory cooking. You must pay attention to proportions of ingredients, the techniques involved and, especially, temperature. The latter is where we get into trouble at altitude.

At sea level, water boils at 212°F. For every 1000 feet above sea level, that number drops by 2°F. For example, I live at 6000 feet. My water boils right around 200°. These 12 degrees can make the difference between a soft chewy caramel and a dangerous weapon.

When making candy, the recipe almost always directs you to cook the mixture to a specific temperature. For example, one of my favorite recipes for Apple Cider Caramels calls for cooking the ingredients until they register 248°F on a thermometer. That may work in San Diego, California but if you do that here, you end up with little rocks – not what your Christmas gifts are meant to be.

To have success, you need to lower your desired temperature 2°F for every 1000 feet above sea level. In my kitchen, that means I cook it only to 236°F. Then, I end up with those yummy, soft and chewy delights that will make your recipients smile!

There are many other ways in which altitude wreaks havoc with your cooking & baking. We will cover some of those in future tips. In the meantime, you can always email me with your questions.

Happy Baking & Happy Candy Making!