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.


 

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.



brickbaker's picture
brickbaker

Hello to the other Calgarians. Just discovered the site and am hoping you can help.


I'll use the word "baking" carefully and I've got a machine that does a little of the work (is it still baking...?)


I've tried increasing the water, decreasing the sugar and increasing/decreasing the yeast – but I'm still getting bricks. Tasty bricks, but bricks none-the-less.


Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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
warmnsunny's picture
warmnsunny

Great to find this thread! I am looking for hints and tips on baking bread in a hot, tropical climate.


For part of the year I live on the Pacific coast of Panama (just one country away from you Nica Linda) and the rest of the year in high, dry Calgary, Canada (hi to althetrainer a fellow Calgarian).


I have been baking bread off and on for many many years but was usually very "recipe driven" and not that aware of what was really happening with the dough ;-( Fortunately, my eyes have opened and I am loving learning how to really work with the dough and to create my own real bread thanks to some of the recommended books plus the great recipes here. 


The recipes that I can do well in Calgary just don't seem to have translated to my kitchen in Panama. I haven't found any flour that has the characteristics of our regular bread flour and I can't get much gluten to develop so my loaves tend to be, shall I say, rather flatter than I would like.


All tips and suggestions are welcomed.


 


 


 


 

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

Warmsunny,


Splitting your time between Calagary and Panama sounds ideal.  My husband and I have the same sort of dream but still have alot to accomplish in Nica before we can bounce between here and Canada. 


In the meantime I practice diffrent bread recipes - some to great success, others not so much.  In order to learn more about the chemistry of this artisan passtime, I have been trying to stick to a basic recipe so that I become familiar with the way a good loaf FEELS.  My loaves have been getting better and better.  The flour I use is not high quality by any means but it still allows us to eat our daily bread.  As Panama is rather well developed, I bet you could find a great flour supplier close to where you are.  Find a good baker and ask them where they get their ingredients?  


Since I don't have expereince of baking bread in a different climate I can't give you any advice based on such a comparison, but I can say that there are a few things that have helped my final outcome as of late:


-using a poolish for almost everything I make.


-splashing hot water onto the bottom of the oven during the first 5 minutes of baking.


-Using the fridge to proof the dough.


I can't say that I've experienced a problem with my dough rising.  If anything, my doughs have risen too much, too fast.  Do you know if your yeast is still good? 


As I continue with my new hobby I will take note of the different factors (time of day I bake, kneading time, poolish fermenting time, etc) to let you know if I come to any helpful conclusions.


Till then, enjoy your topical stint and keep in touch!

warmnsunny's picture
warmnsunny

Nica Linda, thanks for the note - I do feel pretty lucky to be at the stage of my life when I can live my dreams and have the health and zip to enjoy so many new experiences!


I think the yeast has been fine but the poolish idea is a good one. Also, rising in the fridge as you and others do, your bread I mean, not you personally....should give it time to strengthen better.


An egg white is an interesting idea too, I'll try it also.


This is a great group, thanks everyone.


 


 


 

Agniya's picture
Agniya

Hi there,


I just moved to the Pacific side of Panama as well and want to start learning how to make bread here. Where do you get your flours from down here?


Agniya

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

warmnsunny's picture
warmnsunny

Hi Mini, I've never of using potato flour. How much do you use and is it handled differently? This is new to me!

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Good to know that a TFL member actually lives in Calgary (well, sort of).  When I was in Hawii I remember my breads never rose high enough; the flavor was good but the crumb tended to be a bit gummy.  The nice thing about making and storing breads in Calgary, it's easy!  The cold temperature allows me to just do my slow rise in the kitchen without the need of a fridge.  The sourdough breads I make actually stay very fresh for the entire week.  Of course, it's very rare that a loaf will last for that long. 


Speaking of potato flour, I once though potato starch was potato flour.  You can imagine what happened... haha


Anyway, good to have you here.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I did have to keep everything as dry as possible. I had a food saver and all my flours were vacuum packed and all my proofing took place in the fridge. 


We used to joke about "The Challah that ate Hilo" because my doughs would rise so much in the fridge that it was like opening the door to the Blob.  Always rose past the top of my KA bowl, which is quite tall. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Potato flour is hard to come by.  Just boil a potato and use the water and the mashed potato in the recipe.  I find when winging it, a potato dough requires a little bit more salt.


Mini

tjkoko's picture
tjkoko

KA sells potato flour.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

to simply grind up instant mashed potato flakes in a food processor? 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

as is.   Just remember they also need a little moisture.   Also work as good as oat flakes when the dough is too wet and something is needed to soak up extra moisture but don't go over 20% of the flour weight with low protein flour. 


Mini

tjkoko's picture
tjkoko

I might recommend your getting the 1896 Fannie Farmer Cookbook because it gives some recipes not seen during modern times.

reinaCR's picture
reinaCR

I'm wondering if the yeast is different Maybe I need to double the yeast?.. Ive been on a little baking spree the last few weeks and everything comes out flat. I tested the yeast, it appears to be good... I bought brand new yeast (regular and instant) and I keep both in the fridge.. I left dough out yesterday for 6 hours and it never rose.. not 1 millimeter.. I keep my flour in the fridge to keep it dry.. any ideas on tropical baking (no AC, hot humid climate) would be welcome!


I can only find Fleishmans brand yeast

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

I regularly bake bread while travelling on our boat in The Bahamas in the heat. We just got back a couple of weeks ago. Do make sure your yeast is good. I always keep a small jar in the fridge and the bigger foil package (1 lb) in the freezer unitl it is time to add more to the jar. I use Fleishmans Instant or Rapid Rise yeast and mix it with the flour before adding liquids.


One thing I have started doing is using cooler water (or milk) than the recipe calls for, even straight out of the fridge. Since the weather is so hot (high 80's at least) in the galley the dough will still warm up fast and rise with no problem. Do make sure your liquid is not so hot as to kill the yeast. Hope this helps.


wayne

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.  :) 

tartine-y's picture
tartine-y

hi there,

great to find this post. I have become addicted to making sourdough, and am wondering how i'll go in western highlands of PNG in a couple of months. hot, humid, 8-10m rainfaill a year, dense jungle! the fridge will be my best mate by the sounds of it.  any great sourdough timings learned the hard way to pass on?

huge thanks! sophia