The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

High elevation help from beginning!

justjobean's picture

High elevation help from beginning!

Hello fellow breadians!

I recently received a sourdough starter here in Denver, CO.

At an elevation over a mile, I know there are a lot of changes that need to be made to recipes.

I have been refreshing my starter with:

20g starter

90g water

75g bread flour

25g whole wheat


Just fed at 11 am MST.


Any suggestions on a levain recipe and bread recipe? Any suggestions on a timeline? I have baked sourdough loaves at sea level to moderate success but REALLY want to impress someone with a loaf. 


Please advise!!

UVCat's picture

hello, fellow denver-area sourdough baker!

idaveindy's stella culinary link is great; you'll notice that it says that lean bread dough recipes don't usually need to be adjusted for high-altitude -- i agree that bread does not require the level of adjustment that cakes do. and the tips they give on understanding what will be different for bread-baking at high altitude are good.

but, maybe you're also looking for personal experiences? i moved to ~5300' two years ago after ~5 years baking sourdough bread in new england (so, sea level and relatively humid). i've found i need to add some water to bread recipes i was used to baking before (~5%, as baker's percent, for most of my go-to recipes) and that the dough will rise higher for the same level of actual fermentation.

the hydration/water effect is by far the larger one for me. but, i also changed which flours (bread and AP) i use, due to what was most easily available in my new area, so that also plays a role in how much water the dough absorbs to get to the same consistency. this is something i would suggest just playing around with, but with an eye toward *probably* needing to add a bit more water.  when i try a new recipe, i usually expect to add a little more water, and might add 2% to the baker's percent the first time i make that recipe, and then adjust from there.

the second effect didn't have much impact on my bread-baking: i already went by the feel of the dough rather than by estimating or measuring the amount of rise, but it took some getting used to seeing dough that looked way over-risen (compared to sea level) at the end of bulk ferment. i sometimes deflate the dough during bulk ferment in order to counteract this, but many of my bulks are done overnight and in those cases i don't worry about it.

i made no changes to my starter feeding regime (starter was and is 100% hydration), and i haven't noticed any differences in its behavior. but: even before moving, i was used to making adjustments for the temperature of my kitchen between winter (low 60's, even mid-50's overnight) and summer (70's up to 80's). the summer temps here are a little warmer, so that just made my adjustments a little larger. those adjustments are needed for fermentation times of my dough as well, of course.

you asked for a suggested recipe, but i think the take-home message is that any recipe you enjoyed at sea level will probably work, maybe even as written, at higher altitude. i'd just go ahead and try and maybe come back for help if the results are not what you'd hoped?

fwiw, maurizio leo (the perfect loaf) is at ~5300' in NM and i think all his recipes are tested there. he has a guide to baking sourdough at high altitude as well.

hope that helps,


ps: i'm a long-time lurker on this site and your post gave me the impetus to finally create an account and try to help. i'd like to give a huge thanks to all the regular contributors --  i have learned *so much* from you all!