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kellycolorado

high altitude breadbaking problems

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It's very timely that your Q&A is this week. I just "re-found" my copy of Bread Upon the Waters yesterday to start getting serious about breadmaking. I really love your analogy of bread development and spiritual journey and have reread it several times, learning something new each time. But now it's time for more hands on work...

I took a wonderful course you offered at Sur La Table back in 2000, then soon after moved to Colorado and the SF Bay area, now living in both places. In CO (alt. 6,000 ft) I had really bad luck at making any bread other than pizza dough, especially multigrain breads, and basically gave up.

I started by reducing the yeast and salt in my doughs by about 1/4 to 1/3, resulting in a dense loaf. Using the normal amount of yeast caused the bread to overrise and fall and become concave. Do you (or anyone else) have any suggestions or tricks for high altitude baking?

regards, Kelly


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It's very timely that your Q&A is this week. I just "re-found" my copy of Bread Upon the Waters yesterday to start getting serious about breadmaking.  I really love your analogy of bread development and spiritual journey and have reread it several times, learning something new each time. But now it's time for more hands on work...

I took a wonderful course you offered at Sur La Table back in 2000, then soon after moved to Colorado and the SF Bay area, now living in both places. In CO (alt. 6,000 ft) I had really bad luck at making any bread other than pizza dough, especially multigrain breads, and basically gave up.

I started by reducing the yeast and salt in my doughs by about 1/4 to 1/3, resulting in a dense loaf.  Using the normal amount of yeast caused the bread to overrise and fall and become concave.  Do you (or anyone else) have any suggestions or tricks for high altitude baking? 

regards, Kelly

I agree, you have to reduce the yeast by anywhere from 25-50%, depending on how high you are. Same with baking powder. Salt should stay the same. Baking temperature--well I lower the temperature by about 1 degree per hundred feet above sea level, but not everyone does this. It partly depends on your oven. Also, you may need a little more water in your dough the higher you go, but let the dough dictate that as you mix.

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[Peter Reinhart,Oct 5 2004, 05:20 PM]

I agree, you have to reduce the yeast by anywhere from 25-50%, depending on how high you are. Same with baking powder. Salt should stay the same. Baking temperature--well I lower the temperature by about 1 degree per hundred feet above sea level, but not everyone does this. It partly depends on your oven. Also, you may need a little more water in your dough the higher you go, but let the dough dictate that as you mix.

_______________

Dear Peter,

I am at 6500 ft. I have not been reducing the yeast as much as you suggest, but rather giving the dough two or three rises. Would your technique result in a much different loaf?

Why do you suggest lowering the temperature when water boils at a lower temperature the higher you go?

I have been baking my bread at about 25 degrees higher temperature than specified in the recipes, which is why I am curious about your technique.

You are spot on about the water --- I always need to add quite a lot more since flour at high altitude gets very dry.

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[Peter Reinhart,Oct 5 2004, 05:20 PM]

I agree, you have to reduce the yeast by anywhere from 25-50%, depending on how high you are. Same with baking powder. Salt should stay the same. Baking temperature--well I lower the temperature by about 1 degree per hundred feet above sea level, but not everyone does this. It partly depends on your oven. Also, you may need a little more water in your dough the higher you go, but let the dough dictate that as you mix.

_______________

Dear Peter,

I am at 6500 ft. I have not been reducing the yeast as much as you suggest, but rather giving the dough two or three rises. Would your technique result in a much different loaf?

Why do you suggest lowering the temperature when water boils at a lower temperature the higher you go?

I have been baking my bread at about 25 degrees higher temperature than specified in the recipes, which is why I am curious about your technique.

You are spot on about the water --- I always need to add quite a lot more since flour at high altitude gets very dry.

  Well, everyone seems to have a way that works for them and I'm not an expert on altitude baking. The problem with extra rises is that you're eating up lots of sugar and making lots of alcohol, which could be robbing your loaves of sweetness and giving a yeasty aftertaste (but it depends on the type of bread and how much yeast you're using). If it works as you're doing it, though, keep doing it, or give my suggestions a try and see what method delivers the best flavor. The only true rule is: Flavor rules!  As for temperature, it is because water boils at a lower temp. that I tend to use lower temperatures--everything just seems to happen so much faster in altitude. However, refer to the Flavor Rule above and whatever works best--stick with it.

  Does anyone else have experience in this area?

   

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I noticed that more liquid was needed because of the dry climate as well. Also, if I didn't reduce my yeast enough, the bread would overrise and collapse very easily. I look forward to trying both of your suggestions when we move back next year. I haven't tried experimenting with temperatures yet either.

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Hi Peter,

Greetings from Mitch at theJ & W Providence campus. In regards to the high altitude baking, I baked for a number of years at 6,000 feet. I made no changes to the formulations, but I did control the dough temperature -- I maintained a temperature of 73 to 75 degrees when processing artisanal bread. I learned pan breads at an altutude of 7,000 feet from an old time, Dunwoody educated baker, and we never adjusted the recipes there either. I have used the same formulations of both types of bread at sea level without modification for over 20 years. I think that the main thing, as you have indicated in your writing, is to be in touch with your doughs; know them and monitor them, which is another benefit of the stretch and fold not previously mentioned -- it allows you to check in on how things are going. We miss you in Providence.

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Hi Peter,

Greetings from  Mitch at theJ &  W Providence campus.  In regards to the high altitude baking, I baked for a number of years at 6,000 feet.  I made no changes to the formulations, but I did control the dough temperature -- I maintained a temperature of 73 to 75 degrees when processing artisanal bread.  I learned pan breads at an altutude of 7,000 feet from an old time, Dunwoody educated baker, and we never adjusted the recipes there either.  I have used the same formulations of both types of bread at sea level without modification for over 20 years.  I think that the main thing, as you have indicated in your writing, is to be in touch with your doughs; know them and monitor them, which is another benefit of the stretch and fold not previously mentioned -- it allows you to check in on how things are going.  We miss you in Providence.

Mitch, are you Boulak? Folks, you can count on any of Mitch/Boulak's info--he's a great baker and teacher! Thanks for chiming in. I'll see you when I get back to the Providence campus in the spring. And by the way, please give my congratulations to Chefs Ciril Hitz and Sadruddin Abdoulah, (two other talented J&W faculty) for recently winning the Grand Prize Best in Show (and $50,000!!!) at the first ever National Bread and Pastry Team Championship. As you can see, I'm quite proud of my colleagues--I think we've assembled an amazing array of talent at all our campuses and I feel honored just having the chance to watch them work and learn from them.

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Greetings Peter,

Yes, I am Boulak. I was in AC with the boys. It was great. We all miss you here and look forward to your next visit with great anticipation.

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Thanks for your suggestions Mitch/Boulak. I've never tried a recipe without modifications! I look forward to trying when we return to Colorado.

If anyone else has high altitude success from these suggestions, please post your results. thanks, Kelly

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