Long Rivers and Boiling Water

Most folks know that the Rio Grande is the border between Texas and Mexico.  But did you know that the river originates high in the western part of the Colorado Rockies?  

Likewise, the Brazos River, which we live near, and which runs near Fort Worth, passes through Waco, Bryan,  Brenham, and Houston on its way to the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport, has its origin in Running Water Draw north of Clovis, New Mexico.

As a result of the prodigious lengths of these two rivers, there is often confusion in recipes concerning cooking times when they are shared from one chuck wagon cook to another, as they move up and down river. These two rivers start at some pretty hefty altitudes. Up in the mountains, there is considerably less atmospheric pressure. Water boils at a lower temperature, sometimes as low as 180°F instead of 212°F at sea level. Leavening, such as baking powder or yeasts, may produce light fluffy biscuits in small amounts in northern New Mexico, yet require almost double the amount in Laredo or Matagorda. I’ve heard some say that you can’t cook beans at altitude. Well, at 180°F I imagine it could certainly take longer than at 212°F!  

So when you read those bread recipes, especially the ones which claim to make light, fluffy, flaky biscuits, take into account where the author lives and adjust the baking powder or yeast to your own altitude. It may take some experimenting, but you’ll prevent a dough wreck!

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