The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What does elevation got to do got to do with anything?

diverpro94's picture

What does elevation got to do got to do with anything?

How does elevation and climate effect bread and sourdough? I live in Oklahoma and my elevation is around 700 ft. What do I need to know when baking at my elevation? :)



davidg618's picture

But if you move to Denver--the mile-high city--ask again.

As for climate, humidity effects water content of flour, and rates of evaporation. Both have impact on bread baking, but, again, India's monsoons have big effect, In Oklahoma the effect is small--or more correctly, the change in effect, day-to-day, is small.

That leaves temperature. One needs pay attention to dough temperature. Learn how to adjust dough temperature. J. Hamelman's Bread has a good explanation on pages 382-383, or Google "calculating dough temperature".

David G


proth5's picture

At 700 ft - you have no altitude worries.

I bake at a mile high.   Our entire area had been known for a long time for our bad bread.  The source of the problem in baked goods is that atmospheric pressure is less at altitude and that any kind of leavened baked good will be able to rise more quickly.  Bread dough will double faster not because it has been thoroughly fermented, but because the gases produced by the yeast have an easier time expanding.  (Take a sealed bag of potato chips up in an airplane and see what happens - there's no additional air in the bag - it just has an easier time bouncing around and the bag inflates.) I've adjusted my formulas (less commercial yeast, smaller amounts of pre ferments for levain breads) to take this into account.  (Chemically leavened baked goods will rise "too fast" and then collapse before they have baked enough to actually trap the air bubbles, but that's another story.)

My "sourdough" starter routinely triples (or more) in volume when ripe.  That's how it is and I don't fret about it - it becomes part of the adjustment in my overall formula.

The lower boiling point of water at altitude also has an impact - if I were to bake bread to the same internal temperature as folks do at lower altitudes, I would have nasty bread indeed. 

The low humidity also plays a part.  On the downside, I need to be careful with covering my dough so that it does not dry out.  On the upside, I hardly ever have to use much flour when shaping, on my couche, or on my peel when loading.  When I bake in more humid climates I have to remember to use more flour, especially on my couche.

Again, though, for your locale and altitude - no worries.  Just sharing the experience at mine...