The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from the wild west - any tips?

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Kris Hughes's picture
Kris Hughes

Hello from the wild west - any tips?

Hi folks!

Kris here. I'm really excited about this site, because there are so many people from many places with quite varied taste in bread - not to mention all that knowledge and experience. WOW!

So I'm 55 and have never baked bread before. Strange because I'm a pretty good cook who tends to make almost all meals from scratch (and to me scratch is not combining two cans of this with a packet of that and adding a pound of ground beef). I spent most of my adult life in Edinburgh, Scotland. There were great bakeries and delis on every corner. Even the supermarket bread was pretty good, if you knew what to look for. Why would I bake bread. I had other stuff to do!

Two years ago I moved back to Colorado. Old house, old barns, too many horses, not much money - you get the picture. It took me two years to get as far as owning an oven! Got one last week, and I want to start baking bread before the stuff the local supermarket sells kills me.

As soon as I get some flour and yeast and a baking sheet I'll try lesson one. That might take some time (having money, going to town LOL!) but in the meantime, I figured if I posted here it would help me hold myself to the intention to begin - even though it's going to be very hot for the next few months. (Did I mention that I don't have air conditioning?)

So - when I try lesson one, here's the scenario. I'm at about 4,300' altitude, the climate here is usually very arid, and the kitchen will probably be pretty hot (no AC, remember?).  The oven is electric and quite large, the stove is fairly new, so I hope it will be fairly accurate. Would the more experienced like to offer me any advice about this?

Thanks for reading, and for a great site!

Kris

RonRay's picture
RonRay

Hi, Kr,  you picked a good place to hang you questions on.

I am 13 feet above sea level, so I'll let other give you their tips on the 4,300' baking.. ;-)

Ron

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Been a frugal,make-do kind of person my whole life and also cook from scratch. Good to hear there are other sensible people in the world.

As you can see, this is a great site to start on the bread-baking path. You will get LOTS of help but the best teacher is,after all, experience. So read up and get ready for some fun. Bake often!! No bake is wasted-the birds love the bricks I've made but they haven't gotten any in a long time!

A few basics:

1.Keep a notebook of your bakes. Write in the recipe and any technique you used for each one.You really learn a lot doing this.

2.Find a recipe you want to be good at-pick a standard white or whole wheat to start and stick with it until you are happy with the results and your understanding of the loaf. Rye can be tricky. Sourdough is great but is a different learning curve. You could certainly go that route, if you want,but make sure you use a method that doesn't discard the starter.

3.Use the same ingredients every time. All flour isn't the same-even if it all marked AP or whole wheat.If you change ingredients, make a note of it in the book so you can tell how it has affected things. I find that a certain store brand here makes really lousy bread.

4.Realize there are many ways to get to the same place so when advice sounds conflicting, pick one method and stick to it. Research why it works or doesn't work. Change technique as needed but make a note of it so you can see the effect on the bread.

5.Use the search box often!

6.Don't buy any fancy pans. Any casserole with a good coating of oil/spray will work great. View any heat-proof dish with a new eye-tools should be multipurpose. Hit the Goodwill if you need additional baking pans of any shape.

7. A thermometer for checking loaf temp is very valuable.

As for the altitude, I believe your dough will tend to rise much more quickly so use a little less yeast and pay attention so the dough doesn't over-rise or over-proof. Or use salt to control the yeast activity.Use the search box for this.

The most important piece of advice is to have delicious fun and share your experiences with all of us!

wassisname's picture
wassisname

...eerily familiar…  I live in the California version of where you live, horses and all. 

Elevation – not a problem.

Lack of humidity – problem if you don’t seal your containers well (or if the top pops off the tupperware sometime in the middle of the night… lesson learned).  In some ways even a good thing, I don’t worry much about bread going moldy on me.

No AC – Stampede!!  Just keep an eye on your rising dough so it doesn’t run away from ya, pardner! (sorry, could resist)  My kitchen swings from mid 60’s in winter to mid 70’s in summer even with a cooler.  That makes a huge difference.  If your kitchen gets into the 80F range your bread may rise significantly faster than the time in the recipe.  Not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re ready for it.  You can always slow the rise with a little recipe tinkering if it gets too fast.

I see great bread in your future, good luck!

Marcus

proth5's picture
proth5

bake in the wild west at altitudes of a Mile High (Guess where.)  I also do not have air conditioning.  Some tips.

  1. Keep your doughs well covered.  You may read a recipe that says "cover loosely with plastic wrap" - do not be fooled - this does not mean you.  Keep your bowls covered tightly with plastic lids (or shower caps or whatever) or damp towels.
  2. I have a basement that stays at a relatively constant temp - find such a place for doughs, sourdoughs, etc in the summer.
  3. Bread rises faster at high altitudes.  To get the long, slow ferment that you desire may require using less yeast (or cooler temps) than our flatlander friends might use - although 4, 300ft isn't really a high altitude...(Only Colorado folks think like that.)
  4. Learn to love your grill for baking in the summer.  Flatbreads, pizza, sometimes even freestanding breads can be grilled.
  5. Also try things like crumpets and English muffins.  If you have an electric griddle or frying pan - you can use that outdoors and not throw heat into your house.

Ah, the wee great mountains of Scotland!  You must miss them.... But not the rain.  :>)

Happy Baking!

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

The advice you have gotten is good.    I would reduce the yeast in almost any recipe you follow as dough will rise faster at 4000+ feet.  You can also keep your ingredients cooled in the refrigerator prior to mixing to combat your hot weather.

Good luck and welcome to the site,

Jeff

RuthieG's picture
RuthieG

Welcome .......now get to baking and then tell us what you are doing and what recipe you used.

copyu's picture
copyu

a good cast-iron one (with its heavy lid, of course!) which will make your baking of round loaves a lot easier and more satisfying at that altitude...don't forget to check out the "no-knead" breads for your first efforts...

http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/recipe/baking-perfect-loaf-bread-home

http://wellpreserved.ca/2009/08/11/no-knead-bread-courtesy-of-the-minimalist-and-friends-from-twitter/

http://www.breadtopia.com/basic-no-knead-method/

http://www.breadtopia.com/sourdough-no-knead-method/

A hearty welcome and best wishes,

copyu