Coffee Cake, adjusted for Boulder's elevation

What you need:

4 oz. butter

8 oz. granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/4 oz. vanilla

10 oz. flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

12 oz. sour cream

Directions: Cream butter and sugar. Mix in baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, vanilla and sour cream. Incorporate flour. Add fruit or streusel topping. Spray a 9-by-9-inch baking dish. Pour in batter and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

*This quick bread recipe is more dense than a cake and does not collapse as easily as an airy recipe. Extra sour cream was added to the recipe to increase moisture and flavor.

Source: Tami West, pastry chef for the UMC

A fter more than a decade of baking, University of Colorado pastry chef Tami West said it was like starting from scratch when she moved to Colorado and had to alter her perfected pastries for the increased elevation.

Most of West's cooking experience was in Nevada at about 500 feet above sea level, but seven years ago she moved to Colorado and everything she knew about baking changed.

"Suddenly the products did not react the same, look the same or at times even taste the same," West said. "It became trial and error to get the same results that I had achieved at lower altitudes."

After years of experimentation, West eventually discovered the secrets of cooking at higher altitudes and has been able to adapt her recipes to the elevation.

Water evaporates at a quicker rate in higher altitudes due to a decrease in atmospheric pressure, West said, which can dry out ingredients during the baking process.

Adding more liquids to baked goods will help keep them moist but start small, with minor increases, and don't over do it, she said. Experiment with the consistency and taste by slightly increasing the butter in your cookies or adding some water to your cupcakes.

Chocolate cupcakes at the UMC.
Chocolate cupcakes at the UMC. ( JESSICA CUNEO )

"You can always add more liquids if you need to, but you can't take them out," West said. "Start with a little extra and then bake one cupcake and see how it turns out before you put a whole batch in."

West said she relies on some of her favorite cooking sites like allrecipes.com for clarification when she's trying something new or not getting the desired outcome.

A few general tips she learned from allrecipes.com include reducing baking powder by about a quarter, reducing every cup of sugar by two tablespoons and increasing your oven temperature by 25 degrees.

While she gets a lot of good advice from the web, West said she learns the most from personal experience.

West said she typically bakes a few hundred pastries per day that are sold in the University Memorial Center or used for university events, but she said altitude should be a consideration for all cooks, from advanced bakers to students making macaroni and cheese.

"Something as simple as cooking pasta at higher altitudes requires an adjustment," West said. "Because water boils at a lower temperature, you will have to increase the time you cook the pasta."

CU senior Sabina Bastias said she learned to alter her breads and pizza crusts while working in a local bakery. She also follows the increased liquids rule with her homemade pizza crust, which improves its texture and sturdiness.

"I like to use Hungarian high altitude flour, which is just a lot sturdier," Bastias said. "It's really important in a pizza crust to have something that can hold up the other toppings -- but you get the same effect if you just increase water when you use all-purpose flour."

Adjusting for altitude may seem overwhelming, especially for novice cooks, West said, but a small experiment is worth the improvements to your recipe.