Baking is Black Magic, and Other Suppositions at Altitude

When it comes to precision and following directions in most things, I’m your girl.

In the classroom, I understood the importance of keeping directions simple and easy to understand, and my kiddos always knew the “why” behind them (even if they or I didn’t agree with them).

Unfortunately, I take a pirate’s view on directions when it comes to recipes. To quote the great Barbossa himself: “they’re more like guidelines, really.” Of course, when not baking, you can change a good bit and still come out of the experience with something edible and often very tasty in the process.

Baking goes beyond this… freewheeling and winging it never works.

At least, not for me.

After learning that the hard way several times over, I went back to being a disciplined being when making my solemn offerings to the Great Oven, even throwing in a prayer at times to see if it helped.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Some things are beyond help, and my baking seems to be one of them at the moment.

Add the variable of altitude to all of the above, and you’re treading into Scarlet Witch bending-the-rules-of-space-time territory. At least, that’s been my experience so far with baking. And that’s part of the reason that I’ve recently abandoned nurturing a sourdough starter, because why do all that work when even a basic loaf of bread seems beyond me?


Thing is, I love to bake. Or at least, the concept of it. Whether bread, cookies, cakes, or even French macarons (I know, I’m nuts, no need to remind me), I find it all fun and fascinating. I own books, watch videos, and practice when the mood strikes. The Great British Baking Show is one of my favorites, saved on Netflix and rewatched… an embarrassing number of times.

Photo by reneereneee on

All for naught. I’d share pictures, but somehow I can’t find them on my phone. Probably deleted them in shame to blot out the memories. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But when I’ve tried sourdough and soda bread and everything in between, similar things happen within the loaves that I have no idea how to fix:

  • The outside crust is GORGEOUS.
  • The internal temperature, when poked with a thermometer, is correct.
  • Once prodded with a toothpick, all seems well.
  • Upon cutting into the loaf… it’s completely soggy 90% of the time. The other times are flukes and I have no idea what happened.

As I usually do when things go wrong, I went hunting on the internet and tried as much as I could find, including extending the bake time (often by half an hour!), lowering the temperature and extending the bake time, waiting two hours before cutting into the loaf to ensure steam had time to evacuate…

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

Dear readers, I’m stumped.

And again, at altitude I realize things get super weird, but I’m at a loss for how to proceed. I had hoped to begin a baking series here, and perhaps I will after all, if only to amuse with my consistency in failure, but so many false starts have me stumped. It makes me want to throw my spatula at a wall gamer-style, like that one time I decided to be clever and take out a main boss early on in Fallout: New Vegas and ended up messing up the whole save file because I succeeded.

Or that time I wandered oh-so-innocently into the Skull Cavern in Stardew Valley… and ended up losing my best items in the process in the first room.

You know, I’ve often wondered why Link in Legend of Zelda has a thing for breaking clay pots… could it be because he has to keep fighting Ganon over and over and over and over and over and he just needs a way to let it all out of his system?

Man, I get it. I really do.

In essence, these continual head-scratching baking conundrums all make me turn towards the fork in the road labeled “rage-quit,” despite my love for the topic and activity of baking. I’m not throwing in the towel just yet, but I may end up blowing off steam myself in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition whenever I suffer another critical mission failure for the Great Oven.

Feel free to share your recommendations or ideas for baking improvement in the comments! Also, because we’re now in July, I’m returning from my Wine Challenge hiatus, so look for the next installment in that series later this week.

Baking also gives me lots of time to play videogames while things become tasty in the Great Oven. But something tells me you’ve already figured that out… Photo by Pixabay on

Enjoy this blog? Want to see more posts where I try new wines, share a recipe, start a food-at-home project, or make another attempt at baking?

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Published by Allie

Foodie explorer with Stardew Valley dreams. Lover of wine but not beer, cheese but not milk, and all things chocolate. Working to learn as many self-sufficient, at-home food production skills as possible.

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