The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Greetings from the mile high city!

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gypsybum48's picture
gypsybum48

Greetings from the mile high city!

I moved to Denver area within the last year and am learning to bake all over again. It has not been pretty and I have thrown out numerous loaves to aweful to eat. I have trusted my favorite bread book, "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" while 2000ft lower in elevation but it is not helping much now. I have come looking for insight to getting that beautiful loaf at higher altitudes!

Thanks, 

Susan T.

 

proth5's picture
proth5

"Denver area" is quite a broad range - but I've baked bread for many years at nearly exactly a mile high and I've found that very little adjustment is required.  For yeast breads, that is...

Some tips, though. are:

  1. Reduce the amount of yeast.  Just how much will depend on a number of factors, but bread does "double" faster at altitude, so using less will give the long, slow, rise that make for flavor.
  2. Carefully cover fermenting and proofing dough.  None of this "cover loosely with plastic wrap" -I use tight fitting covers on all of my rising vessels and for proofing, I will seal the rising loaves in large plastic bags.  Dough dries out in a flash in Denver.
  3. This will be counter intuitive given what I said above, but, decrease the hydration (less water in the dough) a bit.  What this does (again) is slow down the yeast. Slow rise = more flavor.  (Extra flour is the traditional remedy for cakes and quick breads that will rise too  fast and then collapse at higher altitudes...)
  4. Make sure the oven is hot.  Years ago there was a rumor that ovens sold in the Denver area were calibrated so that they were about 25 degrees hotter than the controls suggested.  This wasn't (and isn't) true - but you do want to make sure your oven is really at least as hot as what is called for in the recipe and maybe just a skosh hotter.

If you want to tell me more details on the nature of your woes, I'd be glad to speculate on more specific causes.  But truly, I bake formulas at a mile high that are exactly the same as those I bake at sea level - with no big time issues.

Have fun and Happy Baking!

Pat

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Pat's advice is rooted in practical experience as a long-time Denver resident and meticulous baker.  She knows whereof she speaks.

My high-altitude baking experience is much more limited, just two or three batches of bread at my daughter's home in Colorado Springs.  Fortunately, those went off without a hitch even though I didn't make any adjustments.  I did notice that the bread rose faster than it does here in Kansas.

Can you provide some more specifics about your bread / technique / results?  That will help others with diagnosing the problems and suggesting fixes.

Paul

gypsybum48's picture
gypsybum48

I actually live pretty close to Denver Metro. The trouble I have had is a heavy dense loaf that doesn't seem to fully cook even when left in oven beyond cook time. I had been using the artisan bread in 5 min a day cookbook with great success in NC but it isn't as successful here. I love the techniques and the advantage of having dough ready to bake but am disappointed by my current results.

 

 

proth5's picture
proth5

your dough is not rising properly before baking - that's one issue and is most likely not related to altitude (unless you are not covering the dough properly and it is drying out - I cannot overemphasize the importance of tightly covering your dough at every phase - especially if you are leaving it in the refrigerator for long periods of time). Since you have relocated - have you changed your brand of flour?  Have you made sure that your yeast is viable?

If the dough is rising well, but when you pull the loaf from the oven it is dense - this may be because the loaf has over risen and collapsed.  These type of loaves will "never"  bake. If this is the case - the "reduce the yeast - lower the hydration" route is the way to go.

(added by edit) - I just took a look at the master recipe for the artisan bread in 5 minutes a day, and I would have to say that you might be running into trouble with the yeast over rising and consuming all the sugars in the flour since the stuff sits around so long.  You want to watch the dough carefully as you leave it out for the initial rise and you may very well want to use a bit less yeast.  Exhausting the food supply will leave you with no final oven spring and a dense loaf.  Also note the container that they use (a Cambro) - this will be your best friend to keep your dough moist. 

Also, look at any changes that have occurred since your move.  New fridge (warmer/colder?) - new oven (not true to temperature) - new equipment (favorite dutch oven lost in the move - bought a new one?)  Does the dough feel different when you mix and shape it?

Usually bread failures upon reaching mile high have their origins in the dryness of the area and little else.  The method you are using calls for a very wet dough - but it can still get surface dryness.  Something else may have changed, though, and that's what you need to find.

Troubleshooting bread failures over the "interwebs" can be a tricky thing.  The more details you can provide - the more people can help.

gypsybum48's picture
gypsybum48

Ok. I have gone back to basics and am trying bread based on the lesson 1 here on this site. We shall see how it goes!

gypsybum48's picture
gypsybum48

OK. my first attempt at making bread based on lesson 1...loaf looks good just out of the oven however it is a bit sunk in the center...wondering rose to fast? My altitude (about 5000ft)? 

proth5's picture
proth5

during the bake - did it rise higher than its height now?  If so, you have the classic "rose faster than it baked" syndrome. 

There are three factors here - the amount of yeast, your final proof time, and the temperature at which you are baking.  Make sure the loaf has almost doubled (many instructions say to double, but it should be just a little less than that) and no more.  This is under your control as the time you proof it.  But even if you proof perfectly, you will have trouble if the oven isn't hot enough.  The yeast will continue to create gas (and expansion) in the loaf and the flour will not gelatinze quickly enough to form a stable structure.

The last factor is the amount of yeast.  

At 5,000 ft the yeast adjustments will be very small.  If it were me - and I was sure of my proof - I would check my oven temperature.  I usually bake at 425 - 475 F.  Get an inexpensive oven thermometer and check your oven.

Hope this helps.