The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine recipe at high altitude

Gweezer's picture

Tartine recipe at high altitude

Greetings-I'm back in Colorado with a sesame loaf from Tartine purchased yesterday.  I've baked Country Loafs from the Tartine recipe about 25 times and still just can't seem to get there.

What is missing is the oven spring and open crumb.  I'd say I get about 1/2 the spring I should and a very dense tight crumb.  Other than that its still the best bread I can find in Colorado.

I don't know much about baking.  This bread is the first thing I've ever tried.  I'm guessing I need to make some adjustments for altitude.  Since the Country Loaf recipe is well known, any suggestions out there for modifications due to baking it at 5280 ft?


ddarathorn's picture

    I think the most pernicious effect of baking at altitude-we're at 5000 ft. in S.E. Montana- is the effect of dry air on rising dough.  Most of the bread I bake has a hyration of 65-85%. I find if my dough is not covered well enough and has no additional moisture it gets stopped in it's tracks. I always do the bulk rises in a sealed container like Rubbermaid and final proofs lightly covered with plastic wrap then covered again with the same container I used for the bulk rise or another large plastic container.  For the final rise I also put in a small bowl of hot water under the cover for a little warmth and moisture.  THis may sound suspiciously like recreating the effects of the Brod&Taylor Proofer much beloved by many members of TFL. It certainly is and one of these days I may break down and buy one.                                                                                                                          Another significant baking problem at altitude is dryness of flour, whether the flour has been been sitting on your shelf or the retailer's for a while.  Buy from shops that have significant turnover and always date when you buy a bag. Don't be afraid to add some extra water if the dough seems stiffer than usual.                                                                                                                     Yeast doughs seem to take their own sweet time at significant altitude. Watch the dough not the clock. You decide when it's doubled not a timepiece.                                                                                                                                                                               I've baked bread in S.F. 0(almost) ft., Oakland Hills (900 ft), Ketchum,ID (6000 ft.) and here in Montana. There are some differences which can be easily overcome-mostly regarding dry air. Starting with an advanced bread like the Tartine loaf may be setting yourself up for failure. Try some with a poolish or biga first(there are billions and billions here on TFL). Also, if you don't have a good scale, then get one. This is another way beginning bakers frustrate themselves.  On the other hand we Rocky Mountain Bakers never have to worry about miller moths and our flours last an amazingly long time if we don't use them first. Keep trying. Flour's (relatively) cheap and you will only get better.  There are lots of good beginner's resources at this site. Read, read and read some more about the process.                                                                                                                             

Best of luck and keep asking questions,




boulangertruckee's picture

Thank you for the insight on high altitude. Low humidity, or zero humidity in the winter. You are right, I have had success using a roasting pan 3/4 full of water placed on top of a stone at the bottom of my oven. Both crust and crumb benefit. More hydration of the dough makes sense. I am retarding the fermentation in the fridge for at least 24 hours. The dough is slightly on the wetter side. I used a Pain a l' Ancience
recipe from Peter Reinharts The Bread Bakers Apprentice.   

ellisgill's picture

I've been baking the Tartine country loaf successfully for almost a year, starting out in San Diego at virtually sea level. Now I live in central New Mexico at approx. 4000 ft. and while the bread is still very tasty and the oven spring is good (the loaves consistently get a pronounced ear), they seem to be smaller than what I was getting in SD, plus I'm getting occasional large air pockets. At sea level the crumb was more consistent. I've read that the dry flour and air need to be dealt with and was wondering if you can just make the dough at a bit higher hydration. I'm going to make two batches tomorrow adding about 5% more water to one and 8% to the other, but was hoping someone out there has done this experiment already.