The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking bread in the Tropics?

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

Baking bread in the Tropics?

Hello Bakers,

Over the past year I have discovered that I love to bake bread, and not just because I have been baking out of necessity (sadly, good bread is hard to find where I live). Without the convenience of internet right in my kitchen, my single resource has been the "Fannie Farmer Cook Book" published in 1970 that a friend gave me. But as of a month ago, we finally have dial-up speed internet out here in the campo. One of my first searches lead me to The Fresh Loaf!

After reading through so many highly-knowledgeable posts, my list of questions is as long as my arm. But in general, I would greatly appreciate any tips on baking in this tropical climate and unique recipes that might be ideal for the limited amount of flours and grains available to me...Bollo Fino white flour, mid-grade wheat flour, corn meal, Oat bran, Oatmeal and a variety of add-ins (local cheese, nuts, fruits, veggies). My baking tools are very basic and my oven is propane rather than electric.

My desire is to get a few good recipes down so I can make bread regularly for friends and neighbors. I also know of several local women in the area who might enjoy learning about different breads they can bake in their adobe brick ovens.

Thanks Fresh Loaf community!

Linda

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Hello and Welcome Linda,

Sounds like you might be limited on flours..but you have some friends with wonderful ovens for baking bread..there are lot's of recipes posted here new and old ones. 

Sylvia in San Diego

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds like you've got enough to start on, if not keep you busy for quite a while!   Where are you located?  The tropic zone is a big one!  I'm guessing Middle America?

Internet is wonderful!  Just start with a basic recipe and see where it takes you.  Tropical temperatures and humidity will affect your dough.  You will have shorter rising times and you may have to add more flour (or rolled oats) to your recipes.  Follow a recipe first and then make adjustments to the recipe.  How high are you above sea level?

Mini

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

Hi Mini and Sylvia,

Thank you both for the quick replies.  I have been combing through this website for most of the day.  I just prepped a pre-ferment that I will use later tonight for an attempt at Italian bread.  The amount of info on this site is incredible.  I have a vision for the kind of bread I want to create - it seems this forum will help me get there. 

My location is the southern Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.  My husband and I live basically at the beach with a wonderful view of the ocean. We enjoy our Nica life, except for the lack of bread - but I'm working on that!  As I experiment and learn more about the science of bread making in general, I'm sure I will be posting many more questions and comments.  For now, I plan to try the techniques and recipes offered on the site to see what works best for us...and our friends!

Gracias!

Linda

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I used to live in rural Hawaii without air conditioning and baked bread all the time.  If you have a refrigerator (not everyone in rural Hawaii did, so I'm not making assumptions!), the refrigerator is your friend!

You can let dough rise in the fridge.  It is great for developing flavor and giving you total control over the process.  Otherwise the quick ferment you get from what passes for "room temperature" in your area (I'm guessing in the 80's unless you have air conditioning) does not allow the flavors to fully develop and you are a slave to the bread's schedule instead of the other way around.  Over-proofing becomes a real danger. 

I always did at least one proofing in the fridge, and often two.  After the initial kneading, the dough went right in the fridge.  When I was ready (4 to 20 hours later) I'd take it out and do the shaping (or a second rising).  If I wasn't ready to bake at that time, I'd pop the shaped loaves back in the fridge until I had more time.  The shaped loaves would usually come quickly to room temperature out of the fridge while I was preheating the oven. This works with all sorts of doughs--artisan styles and enriched dough.  Cold dough is also easier to shape. 

Be sure you keep your yeast in the freezer or the fridge--it will go bad a lot sooner in the warm and humid environment.  We had a "FoodSaver" that would put an airtight seal on everything in jars or bags and I used it for all my flours and seeds to keep them fresh and keep tropical bugs OUT. 

Enjoy--sounds like a wonderful life ;o)

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

My set up is the same - fridge and no air conditoning.  Although on those really hot days I consider my fridge to be the air conditoner as well, at least for a few seconds at a time. And now I'm finding out that it will help my bread making substantially...the firdge is nothing to take for granted.

Janknitz, your advice is just what I'm looking for.  Thanks for the detailed reply and I'll look forward to any more wisdom you're willing to pass on.

 

mickeymarie's picture
mickeymarie

Thanks for that great suggestion. I also live in Nicaragua and have battled with my bread rising too fast. My refrigerator will now be my best friend.

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

I used to live in Hawaii, back in the 1980s and the early 1990s.  It was the time when I was a young girl who wanted to make her own bread.  I remember the bread I made were very different from what I can make now. 

Experience (or the lack of it) was a great factor but the altitude, temperature, and humidity could really affect the results as well. 

Now that I live in Calgary where the altitude is almost 3,500 feet.  I need a bit more water and longer fermentation time here due to the dryer and colder environment.  I remember my loaves in Hawaii were always small.  Now I know I must have over proofed my breads in such hot and humid environment.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The one with raisins.  It was a real hit in Costa Rica when I was there in Feb.  I've been looking for Black Turtle Beans here to no avail.  

Mini

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

Mini I would love to try black bean bread.  Please send me a lnk to the recipe!  

Today was my first time using a pre-ferment and it turned out excellent.  I used it to make pizza and it was absolutely the best I've made thus far. 

Tomorrow I'm planning on trying some cinnamon rolls.  Wish me luck!

Linda

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

as part of the liquids for straight doughs.  Try to find flours with high protein content.   I have baked a lot of potato doughs in tropical weather.  

Mini

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Regular yeast?  What's that?  Sounds like Dry active?  Or is it a cube of fresh yeast? Instant I understand.  Which one did you test and use?

The biggest problem with yeast in the tropics is that it might have been over-exposed to killing heat before you got the yeast or during transportation home.  Yeast rises like crazy with tropical temps so you will be more apt to reduce the amount not increase it.  :) 

Jilrob's picture
Jilrob

I live in steamy Southern Thailand and this is very helpful. I have a pizza oven, gas not wood and just bought a decent fridge so time to jump in. Thanks for the wonderful site.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Northern Laos, in the mountains, and have cool nights (16° to 20° C)  With 28°C  day temps.  Mixed up a 500g wheat AP dough at 70% hydration (350ml water, 24°C) with only 2g SAF instant yeast and it moved up my baking time from Afternoon to Lunch time.  Sourdoughs are also going off faster during the daytime fermenting.  Even in the fridge, my starters are very hungry and keep me busy maintaining them.  The wheat starter made from rye is too sour so I am starting a fresh one from scratch.  The flour is sealed inside sturdy plastic bags (I'm using them for garden plants) so it must be very dry and absorbent flour.  

I also have a new Sharp mini oven to play with until my bricks arrive for my big oven project.  I've got the "white wheat daily" baking down to a no fuss, shove in the proofed dough at 220°C on an upside down baking tray (bottom) set the time for 40 min after preheating, and come back anytime to take the loaf out of the oven.  I can come back when it's hot or later after the oven cools down.  Love that automatic shut off, leaves me plenty of time to do other things.  The dough proofs inside a cut off 8 inch piece of pipe on parchment in an air conditioned room.  

Very interested in the gas pizza oven burner set-up, Jilrob,  got a picture?

helenmcintosh's picture
helenmcintosh

Mini,

I am interested to read your email. In Ghana we are probably a good 4°C warmer than you are. I am just restarting my bread baking here and was very interesting in reading your percentages and the amount of SAF that you're using. I pretty sure that I put too much yeast in my last batch on levain. Can you share roughly what percentage of salt are you using? Thanks!

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I tend to use 1.8% salt (upped it a bit while we sweat glow so much.  And the instant yeast I've cut to just one level teaspoon SAF per 500g flour.   We are having cooler temps at night so depending on when I'm raising the dough I can change the yeast to fit the room temp.  Less with high temps, more with low ones.  (14°C at night)