It’s the High Altitude

Moving to Colorado provided me with the perfect excuse for cooking failures. Pie crust not tender? It’s the high altitude. Cake falls? The high altitude is to blame. Brownies gooey? High altitude again. Candy too hard? You guessed it, high altitude.

Our family loves homemade candy, so once again making candy was my seasonal challenge. After six years of trying to figure out candy making in Colorado using the old-fashioned cold water testing method, I decided to purchase a very nice (interpret pricey) candy thermometer. The first batch of fudge cooked to “soft ball” stage on said designer thermometer proved to be a dismal failure.

My next step should maybe have been my first. I searched the web and located the following directions on the Colorado State University website: “Both humidity and altitude affect candy making. To prevent excessive water evaporation during the cooking of sugar mixtures at [high] altitude[s], cook to a ‘finish’ temperature that is lower than that given in sea-level recipes. If you use a candy thermometer, first test the temperature at which your water boils, then reduce the finish temperature by the difference between the temperature of your boiling water and 212 degrees. This is an approximate decrease of two degrees F for every increase of 1,000 feet in elevation. You may also use the cold-water test, which is reliable at any altitude.”

Turned off by directions that reminded me of math story problems from my elementary school years, I decided to forget the thermometer and go back to the cold water method. But one set of directions caused extra stress. The cooking time for the syrup is to be “exactly twenty-three minutes.” This is a Kansas recipe. What to do? How much time should be added (or subtracted) at over 6000 feet? That candy is now done and I can tell you that I still don’t know how many minutes it should have cooked.

After midnight last night, during my staring at the ceiling time, I was wondering if my family would notice the difference if I made a visit to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory™. It’s located right down the street and they have the high altitude cooking times down to a science.

Maybe next year!


  1. That's right- blame it on the altitude, or on the fifth-grade arithmetic, or on the humidity, or...

    I solved the whole issue by eliminating the candy-making process. Mmmm! That breaded okra is delicious.

  2. Your family will be thrilled no matter what! "Made with love" fixes any mistakes!!!

  3. Vanilla, you are wise, but I think I might pass on the breaded okra.

    Captain Nancy, lots of love was included along with lots of mistakes.