The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from 5280 ft. above sea level (Denver, CO)

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JohnSpiel's picture

Hello from 5280 ft. above sea level (Denver, CO)

Hello bakers!

My name is John and I have searched long and far to find a great community of knowledgable bakers. I am a college student in my 3rd year and have had a deep love for baking since I was a child(it must come from my mother). Ever since I was just a boy and to this day there is nothing better then baking with my mother. My food will never be as good as hers, but I can sure try and hopefully with some advice from you good people I will be able to impress her one day. I have been baking breads for a little less than a year in which I have made some very delicious breads and some clunkers that could fly through a brick wall. I was browsing through a library full of older books and came across a book called "Beard on Bread - by James Beard," luckily it was a gold mine and all of my recipes have come from the book. All of my bread making has been done by hand which I enjoy, but all this talk about bread machines has made me curious. Even though it is my first day here I am anxious to start learning and have a few questions about the use of bread machines. Do the loaves come out in a specific shape? Is it possible to use it just for preparing the dough say for artisan breads? And what do you prefer to use your hands or the machine?


Thank you all for being bakers and loving it too!

Happy baking,


proth5's picture

I, too, bake in the Mile High City.

On bread machines - usually the loaves come out the shape of the bread machine pan.  My machine (the Zo Virtuoso) allows you to stop a cycle, do some minor shaping and then bake a loaf that fits the pan "somewhat."

But baking in a bread machine will always, by design, have some limitations.

I feel that you might have to "tweak" formulas due to our altitude - but I write most of my own formulas, so I'm always tweaking.  You might experience some trial and error.

You can use them for just mixing (and they do this in the King Arthur test kitchen where they can have any mixer they want - so they are effective mixers).  My feeling is that the mixing action is better for some styles of breads than others, but I will say that I popped the ingredients for a pizza dough into the machine and walked away to find a very nice dough awaiting me just the other day.  I tend to use mine for "set it and forget it" bread when I am pressed for time or energy or for baking bread, cakes, and other things during the summer. I am well trained in classical techniques, and yet, there are days when I love me my bread machine, no doubt about it.

Some people talk about second hand stores overflowing with unused bread machines (and that one should shop nowhere else for them).  I haven't got the unallocated time to go combing these places on a frequent basis, but on the occaisions that I do - I have found no bread machines in second hand stores in Denver.  You experience may vary.

Frankly in the great mixing debate, I favor a spiral mixer, but most people will not want to lay out the money for such a specialized piece of equipment.  I would favor hand mixing over bread machine - if (and I emphasize this) I have the time to spend doing it.  I don't place undue emphasis on the means - I favor focusing on the end.  There are people who feel that hand mixing is intrinsically superior and they often post to that effect.  My thought is that you give over some control over the process if you use a bread machine, but if it serves you well it diminishes nothing.  With other types of electric mixers (and there are others beyond the spiral) your control is absolute (although there is a learning curve with any method).  Hand mixing is gentle and easy (try "stretch and fold" or "fold in the bowl") and a good way to gain tactile experience with how the dough develops. But it is more time consuming (elapsed time and attention perhaps - not active work time - unless you want that.)

Again, your mix method should serve the bread and your needs, not serve as an ideal to which you should aspire.

A bit rambling, but I hope this helps.

Happy Baking!

JohnSpiel's picture

Thank you for the detailed response proth5, I have definitely witnessed the challenge that comes with baking at high altitudes and it can be a pain.  I have found that at and around 5000 feet it helps to add about 0-2 tablespoons of flour (per cup added) while decreasing the amount of sugar by 0-2 tablespoons (per cup added); and as for the liquid reagent I add an extra 2-4 tablespoons to each cup I use. I have also read that the atmospheric pressure of Denver is less than that of the pressure at sea level and that the amount of time dough is set to rise should be decreased because the rising process occurs much more rapidly. If you don't mind me asking what kind of tweaking do you perform on your dough before sending it into the oven?

Your response has made it very difficult for me to not buy one of these machines in the near future. As a college student I have limited time as it is and being able to bake a fresh loaf without having to spend a considerable amount of time would be very ideal. Time to do a little research on these bread machines, by the way how do you like your Zo Virtuoso? Is there anything you would like to be different about it? Also what is the size of the loaf pan?

Thank you again for all your advice,


proth5's picture

In general for yeast breads, I don't make  formula adjustments at all unless I am baking in the bread machine as I can make baking adjustments by the feel of the dough.  In the bread machine, I;ll drop the yeast percentages a bit (like most bakers I prefer to work in weights and baker's percentages.)  Cakes, of course, I add more flour.  I don't usually adjust sugar.

I like my Zo pretty much and don't see too many drawbacks.  The only thing I dislike is that the paddles that are used for mixing make holes in the bottom of the loaf.  I have read that Breville makes a bread machine where the paddles fold out of the way prior to baking so there are no holes.  I haven't personally seen it or used it, so I don't know what the actual results are.  I think that Sur La Table carries it...

Size of the loaf pan is about 1.5 - 2 pounds of dough - enough for most uses.

Hope this helps. 

gardener-cook Joan's picture
gardener-cook Joan

Hi John,

I have a Breadman bread machine and I only use it through the dough cycle.  I have never baked the bread in the machine. I use it for mixing and kneading and find that it is a quick and easy method of kneading.  I have deformed hands due to arthritis but love to try many different recipes and flours.   I only use KA flour and have my own sourdough starter for those delicious San Fran style of sour dough breads.  There are a number of disadvantages to the bread machine,  the first is a small size.  I cannot go over 4.5 cups of flour if I let it rise in the bread machine.   It takes up space but is only needed when making bread.  I only make bread once a week as we are a two person family and can only eat so much.  I use the bread machine to make bagels, English muffins as well as many breads.  I have had years of experience but bread is like an old friend, you use a recipe, evaluate, maybe toss out,   then come back and try it again, tweaking to suit your needs.  Just keep baking whether by hand or machine.  Such good things to eat!