Bread Challenge: Altitude Matters

I’ve talked before about my challenges baking cakes at my apparently high altitude (~4400 feet).  But somehow I thought I was immune to altitude problems when it came to making yeast breads.  My dough rose nicely after all.

After making my last loaf of bread, I started thinking about what I could do differently to improve the texture.  It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps my altitude was affecting my breads.  I did some research and learned a lot!

Second Try at the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

According to my book High Altitude Baking, yeast bread dough rises more rapidly above 3500 feet.  And since the development in flavor depends in part on rising time, bread at made at higher altitudes may not be as flavorful.  Most sources I looked at suggest punching down the dough and letting it rise a second time before shaping and doing a third rise.  This extra rising time allows the flavors to develop and allows for “the changes in the gluten that make bread tender, light and of good flavor”.  This might also explain why I have had success with the no-knead artisan breads:  they take advantage of a long, slow rise.

I also found out that my dry climate as well as my higher altitude causes flour to be drier and thus absorb more liquid.  Recommendations to remedy this include using less flour or adding more liquid.

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

With this new information I made another loaf of 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. I made the following changes:

  1. I used the orange juice recommended by the book to improve flavor, which I left out last time.
  2. I added an extra 2 tablespoons of water.  This was a little too much: the dough was pretty sticky and I had to add a touch more flour to make up for it.  Next time I will try only 1 tablespoon.
  3. I let the dough rise a second time before shaping.  Unfortunately I had to leave the house before the first rise was finished so I had to punch it down early.  I didn’t want to risk it rising too much and collapsing.
  4. I accidentally left out the dough improver.  Oops!

Results:  Much better than the first loaf, but still needs improvement.  The texture was much improved and it toasted better.  I didn’t discern any change in flavor by using the orange juice.  The bread was a little soft and wanted to break apart easily, especially when toasted.

Next time I use this recipe I will make the following changes: Use only 1 tablespoon of extra water.  Let the dough finish the first rise before punching it down.  Remember to use the bread improver.


Next Challenge

My mom and sister are participating in the bread challenge with me.  Next bread-related post I will share some of their results as well as my results baking the “White Bread Loaves” from Baking with Julia.

We would love to have you participate too!  If you wish to join in the fun, make a loaf or more of bread, then leave a link to your blog post or photos (if you don’t have a blog) in the comments or send to me though the Contact Me page.  Next week I will to a round-up and will do so at the end of every month.



Filed under Cooking

3 responses to “Bread Challenge: Altitude Matters

  1. Your loaf looks good. I live at a much lower altitude and still like to add some orange juice to my whole wheat breads. It seems to soften up the flavor of the wheat.

  2. Your bread looks great! Your bread challenge is such a good idea and I bet it is fun experimenting. I enjoyed making the White Loaves so much a few weeks ago and I have never made wheat bread before, so I would like to try it. If I have a chance I will try to make some soon and join your challenge.

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