I thought I’d show off; I’d learned how to bake at sea level, but I was staying with friends in Colorado, at roughly 7,000 ft. Disaster. I had to learn quickly about altitude baking. After I’d moved to Montana things evened out for me at just less than 3,000 ft. I did not find much difference between sea level and Montana as far as the outcome of baking, even though a few minor adjustments were still necessary along the way.
That’s Pike’s Peak in the background.
We are visiting our friends now, and I baked two loaves of rather concave bread yesterday. I have to laugh at myself, at how much I’d forgotten—the formulas for re-writing the recipe, the texture of the dough while kneading. Every two minutes I was showing the dough to my friend: “Am I done kneading yet?” I would ask. So much of baking for me is in the hands.
If you find yourself above 3,000 ft altitude, my bread recipe might not work entirely well for you. You may have to try a few substitutions until you create your own perfect recipe. For a more complete understanding of high altitude baking, let me suggest this high altitude baking site to answer your bread baking questions.
The science of altitude changes things. The boiling point is lower (it drops about a point for every additional 500 ft incline). The air is drier and moisture evaporates much more quickly. It’s extremely difficult to have a muffin top or a dome on a loaf of bread. Although baking is as much art as science, ignoring these changes will not work to your favor. One of the more notable differences is the need for extra moisture. This makes the dough stickier and wetter.
My recommendation is to start with a high altitude recipe instead of attempting to modify a sea level recipe, if you are higher than 3,000 ft. Here are a few tips for you if you are higher than 3,000 ft and really want to try modifying your own recipe:
*Decrease rise time to once, and only approximately 30 minutes!
*Decrease fats, increase moisture--since the moisture decreases faster, the remaining imbalanced ratio of fat will weaken the bread.
*Increase the baking temperature by 10-15 degrees to keep the leavening gases from collapsing your beautiful loaf of bread.
My friend graciously gave me her recipe, which she adapted over time from a local breadbaker.
Her one comment was, “I wish my bread held together better”. A typical troubleshooting tip I give is to add an extra egg. I did that yesterday and the bread was much more “cakey” than I had anticipated, but it does make great toast. Thought I’d pass that along to you—I think next time I would adjust the cooking temperature. If anyone plays with this recipe, please comment and let me know what you have tried!
High Altitude Bread
Preheat oven to 375˚
Makes 2 loaves
2.5 cups warm water
1 ½ Tbsp yeast
¼ cup oil
½ tsp lecithin
½ Tbsp lemon juice
½ Tbsp salt
5 cups hard wheat flour
- Proof your yeast in hot water and a tablespoon of sweetener for approximately 10 minutes.
- Combine other ingredients.
- This batter will feel much moister, will require more stirring initially to thicken the batter.
- Oil your hands before turning out onto the counter. Avoid adding more flour, and knead bread for 15-20 minutes.
- Immediately put dough into bread pans and let rise. I used the Excalibur dehydrator for the temperature-control factor.
- Bake for 30 minutes.