The Fresh Loaf

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Baking above 5000 ft. - Question regarding over-rising dough

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JohnSpiel's picture
JohnSpiel

Baking above 5000 ft. - Question regarding over-rising dough

Hello bakers,

I have a question concering the amount of time the dough should be left at rest to rise. Since we live at such high altitudes we are surrounded by less atmospheric pressure and this results in making the fermentation process occur quicker (up to 25-50x faster from what I have read). When some of these cookbooks ask us for example to create a sponge (which rests for 45-60 minutes) then mix in the final ingredients then put to rest for 45 minutes then knead and put to rest in loaf pans for another half an hour (Reinhart, Bread Bakers Apprentice, White Breads: Variation 3)... That means the yeast has been fermenting for over 2 hours! Wouldn't that lead to a really over-risen and dense loaf? Since the altitude messes with my baking I skipped the second knead and just went straight to the loaf pans after kneading the remaining ingredients into the sponge. What do you do when the recipe asks for the dough to be kneaded two seperate times for 45-60 minute intervals?

Honestly I already have 1 giant fresh loaf which I baked last night but I am looking for "any" reason to bake another loaf today so please give me some reason! Any reason/suggestion will do!

Happy Baking :)

John

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Hi John,

Do everything you can to slow down the fermentation process.  Mix cold ingredients (cold flour, cold water, etc), cut the yeast to a fraction of what the recipe calls for and ferment in cooler conditions, possibly even the refrigerator.

You will achieve a better final product by not skipping any steps but rather by slowing the entire process.  I have baked at higher altitudes and was amazed at the speed of fermentation.

There are a number of members here that live and bake at higher altitudes and I am sure that they can provide better insight than mine as I regularly bake much closer to sea level.

Jeff

proth5's picture
proth5

that I make to bread are very small. (And as you recall, I bake at the same altitude as the OP - and have been doing so for about 20 years)

5280 isn't all that high when it comes to bread.

I was also delighted when "my teacher"  (who normally bakes at low altitudes) came to town to do a class - so I could see what this altitude thing did to his/her formulas and timings.

What I know for sure:

  • No need to alter "desired dough temperatures" (don't need cold ingredients for standard loaves...)
  • Do need to pay attention to hydration as our climate is very dry.  Extra water is often needed.
  • No need to change the mix or the number of steps involved.
  • There is some need to be vigilant about timeings - but they are still very close to what one experiences at sea level - but do pay attention to the bread not the times - alternately to slow fermentation -
  • Reduce the amount of leavening by a small (very small) amount.

I know the theory on atmospheric pressure and it does affect cakes, but the effect is much less with breads.  My routine is always  - do pre ferments (like a sponge) and let them mature - do the mix - let rise - fold - let rise - shape - let proof - bake.  Pretty standard - and my ever increasing public puts ever increasing demands on me for bread.

Try the formula and technique as written and don't obsesss about the altitude when making bread at 5280.  Get up there to Vail and you are going to have to make adjustments - but not on the Front Range...

Hope this helps.

JohnSpiel's picture
JohnSpiel

Thank you proth5 and Jeff for the input, I won't skip that last fold but I will go by look of the dough instead of timed intervals as proth5 mentioned.  I will be baking a marbled rye loaf tonight and will let you guys know how it comes out.


Thank you,

John

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

John,

You could take a look at the King Arthur site which is where I read the following.

Jeff

Yeast Breads:
Decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by 25%, and make water/flour adjustments as necessary to get a dough with the correct texture. Make sure your bowl has plenty of room for the dough to rise in. Since rising times are much shorter at higher altitudes, you have a number of options to help its flavor.
  • Give the dough one extra rise by punching it down twice before forming it.
  • Try covering the dough and placing it in the refrigerator for its first rise, to slow the action of the yeast give the dough more time to develop.
  • If you have sourdough starter on hand, use some of it for some of the liquid in the recipe.
  • Make a sponge by mixing the yeast, the liquid in the recipe, and 1 to 2 cups of flour. Cover and let the sponge work for a few hours in the refrigerator to develop it.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/high-altitude-baking.html

JohnSpiel's picture
JohnSpiel

So I kneaded together the ingredients and allowed them to rest for a good while until the two dough batches were double the size (eyeballing it) then re-kneaded and allowed to rest for another half an hour in which the dough rose substantially. I noticed I had to add quite a bit of water to keep the loaves moisturized while kneading as then constantly were getting dry.  The loaves have been out of the oven for a moment now and look beautiful except for the minor flaw of how un-symmetrically the top rose in the oven (I believe this is because I did not rotate the loaves 180 degrees until 30 minutes into the bake but may be a issue with % of yeast). It seemed as if the top was crusting over nicely until there was too much tension and one of the sides of the loaf broke free and started growing upwards. Other than that the crumb seemed a bit on the moist side but that will change in a matter of seconds once sliced and exposed to this dry Colorado air. The marble rye loaves were nothing less than delicious and will go well on tomorrows sandwich lunch.

-Yerffej - thank you for the info. I did tweak the amount of yeast added by a small amount maybe not 25% but more like 5-10%, do you think this is why I had this irregular/tilted rise in the oven?

Thank you for the help guys.

John

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Hi John,

Altitude issues aside for the moment, your bread is probably a combination of slight under proofing (it wasn't quite ready for the oven and rose a bit too much once it got there) and also due to shaping deficiencies.  Any time you are rolling two doughs together, there is a tendency for them to want to separate in the oven.  A bit of water, like a fine misting, can help meld them together at the time of shaping, especially at the end of the roll.  Then at the end  you want to press very firmly to seal the loaf but press just on the end seal and not the entire loaf.  It looks as if it is the end of the roll that separated in the oven.

All in all,  you seem to have all of these issues under control and need just a bit of fine tuning to make it just right.

Jeff

proth5's picture
proth5

This is more of a general "underproofing/shaping" issue which can happen at any altitude.

If you are doing shaping on any relatively low hydration doughs, a spray bottle will be your best friend in the CO dry.  While folks in other climates are busy flouring the bench, we are busy misting it with water.

I've worked with bakers who come in from more humid climates and this is the biggest adjustment that they always encounter.

Happy Baking!

BigBearMe's picture
BigBearMe

Hi, my first time contributing anything, but had to put in my two cents about high altitude baking.  I live at about the 7300 ft level and I make very little changes in ingredients when baking bread. The baking time is shorter for me with many recipes.    I do have to follow high altitude baking (King Arthur Flour) tips when baking cakes though.

I am not a purist when it comes to bread making, I found a book "Bread in Half the Time" about 7 years ago and have followed their methods:  mix the ingredients in the food processor and raise in the microwave, then bake in the oven. 

Lori

JohnSpiel's picture
JohnSpiel

That must be it! The process of rolling out each dough piece into flattened oblong shapes had dehydrated the dough and not misting in between each piece when stacking them made the bread a bit un-melded. Next time I will have a spray bottle ready to go, I am sure that will make the kneading process much easier than it was....thanks for the tip! But overall the breads' taste was wonderful and the crumb was a little moist which is just fine since it will dry out the second the slice hits the dry air. This spiral technique was pretty simple but the next time I make this loaf (probably next weekend lol), I will try to make a Marbled Rye Bâtard, but the technique seems a bit more intimidating.

I will definitely have to check out the King Arthur High Altitude guidelines the next time I bake.

Thanks again for all the advice!

John