Cooking in SMA
With an elevation of about 6,000 feet, San Miguel is considered a "high altitude" when it comes to baking. Not to worry - with a few adjustments, you can have your cake and eat it, too. We suggest the following:
For cakes, cookies, quick breads, brownies,etc.:
reduce baking powder and baking soda by half. This is the most "universal" rule and should be applied across the board. Yeast amounts can stay the same in breads.
add a little extra flour, about 1 tablespoon per cup of flour.
In addition to the above adjustments, reduce the fat somewhat. For example, if 1/2 a cup
of butter is called for, reduce it by 1 tablespoon. (See also note about butter measurements below). This should prevent your cookies from spreading too thinly during cooking.
If your baked goods are too dry, try reducing the amount of sugar by 1-2 tablespoons per cup and increasing liquids slightly, tablespoon by tablespoon.
If your baked goods are still too dry, increase the oven temperature somewhat (15-25° fahrenheit) and reduce baking time (observation will tell you when items are done).
For repeated baking success, note directly on your recipes what adjustments were made, since these adjustments often vary from recipe to recipe. Bon appétit!
If you are an American, you've probably been using the Imperial system of measurements (vs. the metric system, which is discussed more on page 24.) Unless you plan to buy all new
cookbooks, measuring cups, spoons, etc. when you arrive in Mexico, it's likely that you will continue to cook using
the Imperial system, at least for a while. This works fine with bulk items like flour, sugar and spices, which you can easily measure out in your cups and teaspoons, but requires a little more work when it comes to items that are often measured in sticks (like butter), or cans (like evaporated milk). A few of the more common equivalents are listed below for your convenience.
1/2 cup (1 American stick)
[A stick of butter in MX is 90-100 grams.]
|chocolate bars||8 oz
|chocolate chips||2 cups/1 12 oz. package||340 grams|
|cream cheese||8 oz. (U.S. large box)
4 oz. (U.S small box)
|evaporated milk||12 oz. can||340.19 grams.
[Cans in MX are 378 grams.]
|graham cracker crumbs||1/2 cup (10 crackers)||about 1 roll (170 grams) of Maria's cookies, ground into crumbs (see also substitutions below)|
|sweetened condensed milk||14 oz. can||397 grams|
Bisquick - This baking mix is increasingly easier to find here in San Miguel. Sometimes Mega carries it, and the Mini-Mart on the Ancha also carries it. However, if you're counting your pennies, you might try making your own. It's very easy and keeps in the refrigerator or freezer for months. Go here for a recipe.
buttermilk - You'll have to resort to the old "vinegar + regular milk" trick because buttermilk has still not arrived on the list of American imports at any store in San Miguel.
caramels - You won't find those little squares of individually packed caramel here in Mexico, but you will find cajeta, the delicious Mexican equivalent. It comes in plastic bottles of various flavors and can be easily purchased at both grocery stores and small tiendas. You'll have to estimate quantities, as it's difficult to determine
how many of those little squares equals, say, 1/2 cup of cajeta.
graham crackers - Graham crackers are nearly impossible to find in Mexico. However, you can substitute Maria's brand cookies for graham crackers with very good results.
cottage cheese - This is another item that Mega is now frequently carrying. However, if you can't get your hands on a carton, you can substitute ricotta cheese in the same quantities and the result is still pretty delicious.
sour cream - Purists argue that if you want sour cream you need to find something called crema acidica, but what is called simply crema in the dairy section tastes like sour cream to me. Do note, however, that crema batir is whipping cream.