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Elizabeth LaBau

Comments Wanted: Making Candy At High Altitude

By May 2, 2010

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The Reader's Mailbag feature is an occasional series where I share common questions I receive from readers, with the hope that we can all benefit from someone else's unfortunate frustration (or at least bond over shared problems). Today's email is from Julie. She writes:

Q. Can you please explain the formula for temperature adjustment at high altitude for making toffee?

A. High altitude can do strange things to the baking and candy-making process. Reliable, time-tested recipes suddenly fail, producing fallen cakes, burnt pastries, or sticky candy. The thinner air at higher altitudes means adjustments to recipes, ingredients, or procedures are often necessary to produce satisfactory results. Fortunately, there is a formula for candy-making that makes it easy to know how to adjust your recipes. For every 500 feet above sea level, subtract 1 degree F from the required candy temperature. So if you are at 2000 feet above sea level, and you're making caramels that require you to cook them to 245 degrees F, you would instead cook your caramels to 241 F.

Truthfully, this formula comes from some of my cooking reference books. I personally live at sea level, and have never tried making candy at high altitudes, so I would love to hear from readers who have. If you live at high altitude, what adjustments, if any, do you make in your candy-making or baking? Have you noticed a difference in your recipes compared to when you make them at sea level? Are there any recipes that just won't work, no matter what changes you try?


January 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm
(1) Linda says:

Please help!!! I am trying to make fudge at an altitude of 3500 ft. I calibrated my candy thermometer and subtracted the degrees. I was making Hershey’s fudge recipe. It stated at sea level it should take approx. 25 min. I understood it should be quicker at high altitude. Mine had to cook for approx. 1 1/2 hrs before it reached the 225 temp. By that time so much had cooked away. It seems that it gets on 190 and stays there forever. Hope someone can explain this.

November 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm
(2) Ella says:

I live in Oxnard, CA and want to make English toffee. I can’t get it to set up..do I need to adjust my temperature…pls help. Thanks!

November 5, 2013 at 2:19 am
(3) candy says:

Hi Ella,

Oxnard is at sea level, so you don’t need to make any temperature adjustments to the recipe. It does sound like your toffee wasn’t cooked to a hot enough temperature, which means either your thermometer is inaccurate, the recipe is bad, or there was some sort of user error and you didn’t cook it long enough (no offense!). What temperature did the recipe call for? If you haven’t already, try testing your thermometer to see if it’s accurate following these guidelines:


Once you’ve tested it, please send me an email (candy (at) aboutguide.com) with the results of the test and the information about the recipe, and we’ll take it from there.

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