There’s a legendary donut shop that sits at three miles above sea level.
You could argue that the donuts taste better because of the spectacular views or the effort it takes to get to the top of a Colorado mountain, but those who’ve tried them swear that they really are outstanding. And the science of high altitude baking makes a case that the donuts served at the summit of Pike’s Peak could very well be the world’s best.
We low-landers never think about air pressure, but if you’ve ever baked a cake or brownies from a boxed mix you’ve seen the high altitude directions. As soon as you get to about 3,500 feet, baked goods require a lot of tinkering with baking times and temperatures, leavening and liquids. There’s less oxygen and the air pressure is lower, and ingredients don’t behave as they do at sea level. Liquids evaporate quickly and gases expand more. Boiling speeds up, baking slows down, and yeast and baking powder rise like crazy.
Pike’s Peak can claim the highest elevation deep fryer in the country.
The conditions at the 14,115 ft. summit of Pike’s Peak are so extreme that liquids boil at a balmy 91°; it literally takes hours to cook an egg. The donut ingredients have been adapted and adjusted so much that the recipe is truly unlike any other, and the low-temperature boiling oil makes for an unheard of long and slow deep frying.
The Pike’s Peak Summit House has been serving high altitude donuts to tourists since 1916. Not only have they perfected the technique, but they maintain that the recipe can’t be replicated at any other altitude. And as light and crisp as the donuts are on the mountain, visitors confirm that the reversed air conditions transform the pastry to disastrous effect when they’re transported to lower elevations. The donuts are not only unique, they are site specific.