The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sea level baking

raestauffer's picture

Sea level baking

I just moved from Northern Canada to Melaque, Mexico and having a heck of a time getting my dough to turn out! So far I have tried to recreate the bagels and cinnamon buns I made in Canada but have found that I need to double or triple the amount of flour to even make a dough ball form, and still the dough is very soft and not ideal. Any in site would be appreciated!

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

While there are many variables in baking, from altitude to temperature to phase of the moon, none that I've encountered on this planet would affect a recipe such that a doubling or tripling of the flour would be necessary (except for perhaps intoxication or a scale gone mad).

I don't mean to be flippant, but the laws of physics would have to curl up and mightily refuse all cooperation for such a massive correction to be required.

Me thinks you should share your recipe (and any other information you have, particularly ingredients). 

We love a good mystery–not the we ever solve them, mind you. ;D

(You wouldn't, perhaps, be using cornmeal or tamale flour, would you? I jest! ;D)

Chuck's picture

...double or triple the amount of flour to even make a dough ball form...

Not many things could do this. The various elevations you're talking about wouldn't matter hardly at all  Humidity would matter more and might require a bit less water or a bit more flour  ...but nowhere near double or triple the amount. Temperature could change rise times a whole lot  ...but you're talking about the mix not the rise times. Water quality (or lack thereof) could make quite a change in the apparent activity of yeast.

But for double or triple the amount of flour, the only thing I can think of is that measures (or "conversion" math) have changed significantly without your realizing it. For example, in Canada your "cup" may have been "ten ounces", whereas Mexico is more likely to use the U.S. "cup" which is "eight ounces". (The "Imperial ounce" and the "U.S. ounce" are actually slightly different too. And "ounces" versus "fluid ounces" just give me a bad headache:-)

That's one big reason behind the common recommendation to measure everything by weight  ...and use metric if possible. A gram is a gram is a gram, no matter what part of the world you're in.

flournwater's picture

My thoughts run parallel with Chuck's.  I coudn't find anything useful when I tried a Google search for "Talpita" flour or flour originating in Jalisco.  But I'd be willing to wager that, along with the possibilities Chuck outlined, the primary source of your problem is in the type of flour you're using.  I'd like to see an image of the nutritional data on the label (if there is one) of your "Talpita" flour.  No picture?  Perhaps an outline of the information on that portion of the label.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a picture of the package, even better.  

raestauffer's picture

Thank you for your helpful (and not so helpful..) comments. The flour I am using is an extra fine white flour with added minerals and is enriched with some B vitamins. The brand is Talpita and is made in Jalisco, the state where I live. 


I was working with two different recipes; a sweet bread for cinnamon buns and a bagel recipe. The bagel one was the worst. Can anyone speak to working with a sponge or help me out with what i'm looking for during the rise? Or anyone who has experience cooking in the heat and humidity?

to note: I am a newby, be gentle on me. And i don't mix the drinking with the baking ;) 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I once had yeast die on me before I ever got to use it.  I think it was exposed to a window or heat in transport.  Nothing I could do about dead yeast.  You can easily test it disolving a scant teaspoon in some water with a pinch of sugar or some flour.  See if it starts to build bubbles on the surface next to the glass.   If the yeast stays the same or doesn't foam or anything within an hour, it is more than likely dead.

In the beginning, the most common misteak is to work too much flour into  the dough.   If you have a scales, you can figure out the hydration of a dough by taking the weight of the water/milk and divide it by the weight of the flour.  If your flour is an AP or all purpose wheat flour,  a 50% hydration dough would be about 100g water to 200g flour.  This is just a little bit stiff but very doable for dough, a good one for bagels.  How does your recipe compare?    55% is a little softer and more like the cinn.bun recipe.   Your recipe also includes eggs and or butter.  Egg whites can be treated as water for this calculation here on your thread.   Bagel recipes tend to use flour with higher gluten levels, like bread flour, can you read any of the details about your flour on the package?  What are the protein and fiber amounts per 100g?  

Heat and humidity will speed up fermenting and rises so your timing will more than likely be less than the adverage recipe.  During the first rise (bulk rise) the dough will transform in the first half hour from a sticky mixture of flour and water to a more dough like smooth mass as the gluten in the dough develops.    As it sits, the yeast will produce gas that stretches the dough so that the volume increases.

If the yeast is good, it shouldn't be too difficult to tell if the dough is rising.  If it is just sitting there for hours and not increasing in volume at warm room temperatures, get a different batch of yeast, from another source and try adding that to the dough.  Just sprinkle the recipe amount onto the flattened out dough (lightly spray with water, just enough to wet it) and roll up the dough.  Fold it kneading it for a minute to blend in the yeast.  Try not to add any flour.    As dough rises, it also loosens up the overall shape and relaxes.  It should do this.  Keep your dough covered with a lid or bowl to protect it from bugs and drying out.  In high humidity, keeping it covered will keep the dough from absorbing too much moisture from the air.  The bulk rise should double, this is hard to eyeball in a bowl so if you pinch off a little bit and place it level into a narrow glass, cover the top, mark it and mark how high it should be when "doubled," you should be able to tell when the bulk rise is over.  Put the little bit of dough back with the rest before deflating and shaping the dough.

Hope this helps.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Is it wheat flour?   Because it sounds like a non-gluten flour or starch from your first description.    

mrfrost's picture

Reads to me this is more of an issue due to the types of flour you are using in Mexico vs what you had in Canada.

Soft Mexican flours(on thier own) probably can't compare to the strong flours available in Canada that are ideal for bread making.

You should probably, first, seek out a source for a stronger, higher protein(gluten) white flour that is more suitable for making yeast breads. However, reading other, previous threads here on this topic, one may realize that obtaining bread flour, on the consumer level in Mexico may not be so easy as it is in Canada and the US.