September 25, 2012

A word about dry weather and high altitude

I briefly mentioned in my last post that I switched from using gumpaste to using fondant when making the large flower on top of the cake. I did it because of the dry weather. I live in the dry state of Colorado at 5,280ft above sea level. A far cry from the practically sea level, high humidity state of Florida that I grew up in. Baking here is a bit different than Florida. Thanks to a friend, I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that works here, but I have yet to recreate the one I grew up with and have it tun out well. Have you ever seen those directions on the bottom of a cake mix for high altitude? yeah, us Coloradoans actually have to use those.

I have many people ask me if my sugar cookie recipe is a an old family favorite or something. To answer that question, it is not. I've never even tried the recipe I grew up with out here because I know it wouldn't work without figuring out the altitude adjustments that would need to be made. Instead, I found one from a high altitude baking blog. Even with that recipe, I made a slight change based on other's comments and the fact that the blogger bakes at about 9,000 ft altitude-almost twice as high as my mile high city.

Why am I talking about this now? When I made the flower for my last cake, the creator who made the flower originally (and kindly put video tutorials online to show others how to make it too) recommended using gumpaste. In fact, many bakers seems to recommend using gumpaste (instead of fondant) for flowers, figurines and basically anything that needs to dry or hold a certain shape. Gumpaste supposedly dries faster and harder than fondant an thus, is the better option. Even though I've been solely using fondant, I decided to try out gum paste for this flower cause I really wanted it to come out right. Well...try I did. and what I ended up with was gumpaste that dried WAAAAY too quickly! the petals were drying out before I could even finish doing basic ruffling to the edges. I tried adding shortening and it didn't help at all. I finished the flower only to hate it.
So...I switched back to my trusty fondant and it worked beautifully. Not only did it come out great, but the flower still dried completely hard within 36 hrs (others talk about fondant taking full weeks to dry fully).

I'm sure professional bakers and maybe others who grew up here who have figured out how to use gumpaste effectively in this dry weather. However, if you live in a dry climate and are an amateur like me, know that fondant is easier to work with.

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