Baking in High Humidity
Posted: 14 March 2010 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi Everyone

I live in Hong Kong and at the moment we are experiencing record levels of humidity - as high as 100% on some days, and hovering around 98% most of the time.  Because of this (I think) I am having serious problems with my baking.  Cakes and bread don’t rise well and are heavy and stodgy, and pastry is wet and soggy to work with.  Have any of you had any experience with this situation and could you advise me what to do? We don’t have centrally climate-controlled homes here like you do in the U.S. so my kitchen is entirely at the mercy of the elements.  I would really appreciate some help.  Thanks a lot.

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Posted: 15 March 2010 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I, too, bake in high humidity much of the year where I live in coastal Mexico. My humidity isn’t as high as yours, as the highest I see it is in the low 90%. I have learned to keep my flours, sugar and baking powder in the fridge. The self-defrosting refrigerators pull moisture out of foods, so they stay dry. I keep all nuts, dried fruit, chocolates, spices, even salt—most of my baking ingredients—refrigerated, not just because of the humidity, but because of the high heat as well, which tends to cause mold and flavor loss. We have an extra fridge to have room for all the things that would normally be kept in a pantry.

I know not to make meringues when the humidity is at the highest. Even whipping cream can be challenging when it is really hot. The cream can easily turn to butter. I keep two bags of frozen peas in the freezer to hold against the mixing bowl to keep the cream cold when whipping.

All these refrigerated ingredients mean I have to plan ahead to allow them to reach the proper temp. for mixing and baking. When I am going to bake, I take out my ingredients a few hours ahead of time, and put them in well sealed zip-lock bags so that they don’t absorb moisture when the moist air hits the cold package. In the summer, my kitchen is in the upper 80s Farenhiet. So “room temperature” does not apply when warming ingredients. I use my instant-read thermometer to make sure eggs, butter, etc., are not too warm, and put them back in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes if they need to be cooler. All of this can make for challenging baking, but it is possible to produce beautiful breads and cakes in a humid climate.

As for bread, make sure your yeast is fresh, and keep in in the freezer.

I hope this helps. I’ll be glad to answer any specific questions you may have about baking in high humidity.

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Posted: 13 April 2011 12:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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@Kathleen, I sure do thank you for your suggestions and pointers. I am experiencing humidity problems of epic porportions for some reason. I’ve always used Rose’s recipes for everything and they’ve been perfect. Suddenly, I can only say that humidity is the problem.

So, do you think using vacuum sealed containers would work with my sugar and flour? The sugar is soooo lumpy it has to be de-lumped before using. Or do you use plastic storage bags for that?

Thank you so much! :D

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Posted: 13 April 2011 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I think vacuum sealed containers would be great to use, though I don’t have any. Keeping ingredients sensitive to humidity in zip-lock bags in the fridge is my main way of keeping them dry. If kept out of the fridge during the summer, my sugar becomes lumpy and heavy with moisture. If I don’t have any sugar in the fridge, and have to use the moist sugar, I decrease a wet ingredient in the recipe. Maybe I use a few teaspoons less milk or egg. I know this isn’t a perfect adjustment, but my cakes turn out very well.

I also make sure to buy my baking ingredients from large supermarkets that are air conditioned, so that they start out dry.

I hope this helps.

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