The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Italian or French Bread

friar120's picture

Italian or French Bread

I live at 10,200 feet above sea level.  Just when I think I have a handsome proofed loaf ready go go into a hot oven, I score the dough and the dough falls and the loafs come out of the oven flat on top rather than round.  Also the crust looks dull and dry although I spritz the dough and throw some water into the oven when I am ready to put the loaves in.  In about 5 minutes I throw in some more water.  I have also tried a pan of water without success.  I do use starter.  My bread always come out too heavy and dense for my satisfaction.  I have not yet accomplished nice big holes.  I do proof my dough for 1 to 2 days before forming it.  I wish I could make light, large hole, crusty bread that is shiny and sour tasting.  I don't know if it is the altitude or my faulty techniques.

flournwater's picture

Well, friar, it's the altitude.  At 10,200 feet the atmospheric pressure (or rather lack of it) will cause your dough will rise signficantly faster than those who live at sea level (typically below 200 feet elevation) can even imagine.  There isn't enough space here to cover every aspect of your circumstances and I don't know of a thread in this forum that focuses on high altitude baking.

I'd suggest you try a Google search for "high altitude baking" and review the various sites that deal specifically with the conditons you face.

Here's a couple to get started:

One thing you'll find different is that salt is your friend when it comes to its relationship with yeast.

So you don't feel too much alone, read this thread authored by jacqueg:

Let's hope there's somebody in this forum with bread making experience at  your elevations.  It's an entirely different world up there for the cook/baker and "rules" that apply to most of us won't help you very much.


rick.c's picture


I am not sure of your baking level, I myself am in the beginning stages, but I think I have a handle on things.

A recipe of what dough you are working with would help a lot, flour type, hydration level, and the amount of starter &/or yeast you are using.

Right off the bat though, it would seem 1-2 days of proofing is too much, when the dough is nearly double in rising after mixing, you should either shape it or retard it in the fridge.  Another thought is if the dough falls when you slash it, it is overproofed (after forming)  It should go into the oven when it has risen 1.5 to 1.75 times after forming.  Or, more accurately, when it passes the poke test.  If you poke a finger 1/2" into it, it should fill back, but slowly, not immediatley.  If it doesn't fill in, overproofed, if it fills in right away, not proofed enough.

For better oven spring/ big open holes, you could try covering the loaf with a mixing bowl or some other type appendage instead of the water in the oven.  Spritzing is a good idea though.  You could try, some might gasp at this, but you could try putting the loaf (spritzed and covered) into an unheated oven, see if it makes a difference.

Hope this helps, and by the way, where are you 10,200 above sea level?  Best of luck and baking, Rick

ehanner's picture

We do have a member that ran a successful bakery at 7700ft in Colorado. I'll send him a message to ask him to read your question. Mike Avery is his name and he's an expert at the low pressure deal.


breadinquito's picture

Hi Friar, Quito, where I live, is also located at 9300 ft and inspite of it, I manage quite successfully to bake bread since I started 8 years ago...if you understand french, this link could be helpful....if not, there always are many online translators... happy baking from Ecuador. Paolo

breadinquito's picture

yes, actually I read a bit carefully your message, and must say that 1) yes, wednesday I scored a pretty nice baguette 5 minutes before sending to the oven and flattened a bit (however was quite tasteful) 2) i had no success in making steam with the trick of the boiling water into the oven, instead I put the dough into a aluminum disposable pan and cover it with a second one, just some drops of water  on the inside of the second pan will be enough to create the necessary steam to give a good colour...the second pan is removed after more or less 20 minutes and baking is continued for another 20 (for a loaf of aproximately 1 kg). Hope this trick will be helpful. Cheers from Quito. Paolo

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

As Eric commented, I owned a bakery at 7,700 feet in Colorado.  The issues get a little stickier at 10,000, but they are not insurmountable.  There are a number of factors at work, and all need to be addressed.


The lower atmospheric pressure means a sea level recipe will over rise, be very over extrended and fragile and then will collapse at the slightest provocation.  As a result, the answers are to:

Have an additional knockdown and rising to slow the riser.  Sadly, this tends to produce a finer grained crumb, which is not what you are trying for.


Use less riser - this slows the rise considerably.  I used about 1/3 less riser than recipes called for, whether that was baking powder, baking soda, yeast, sourdough or other preferements.  The lower "push" prevented the dough from over rising.  However, this also prevented the big holey grail from being achieved.


Make the dough slightly dryer.  I dropped the hydration by about 5%.  One flatlanded commented all my doughs were bagel doughs.  They had to be.  Again, this can lead to a tighter crumb.

Break down and use a higher protein flour.  It annoys me how many people try to emulate French breads with American bread flour or high gluten flour.  French flours are, if anything, slightly lower in protein than American all-purpose flours.  Still, it helps to use a higher protein flour at higher altitudes.

You can mix-and-match these techniques and get a workable solution.  All that said, I've only known one baker who has achieved the big holwy thing in Colorado.  He was around 5,000 feet and he couldn't do it consistently.  The big holey thing may not be all that practical a goal.  (If you do manage it, please share the details.)

The final high altititude issue is the relative humidity.  Most higher altitudes seem to have very, very low relative humdities.  That results in dough drying out very quickly.  We spend a lot of time and money keeping the dough from drying out.  In 5 minutes, dough would start forming a skin, a skin that prevented full rise.  So, keep the dough covered.

Getting back to the goal.  I was able to make very good bread with a nice open irregular crumb.  A few visiting bakerss called several of my breads, "world class".  The Denver Post said that one of my customers had the best burger buns in Colorado.  (They were sourdough Kaiser rolls.)  But the big holey grail remained elusive.  If you get there, let me know.

Good luck,



friar120's picture

I thank all of you for your helpful suggestions.  I will try them.  I have achieved great looking, bubbly proofed loaves.  As soon as I score it, the dough falls.  Maybe I should try not scoring it too.  The littlest jiggle after scoring ruins the rise.  I live in Leadville, CO.  As I drink my cup of coffee and eat my breakfast English muffin (Thomas) I look across a lake and upon the Continental Divide and the highest mountain in CO, Mt. Elbert.  I am located in one of the best kept secrets in Colorado, besides Ski Cooper.  I will let you know if I conquer high altitude bread baking.  I keep trying.  The neighborhood loves the stuff even if it is not traditionally shaped.

flournwater's picture

Mike, thank you for your generosity is sharing that information.  I've tried for a long time to offer help to those who struggle with high elevation cooking issues but I have only "book larnin" and no practicle experience.  What you offered here is, IMO, priceless.  You get the hero award for today.