Tag Archives: high-altitude baking

TWD: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

It’s time for another Tuesdays with Dorie recipe from Baking Chez Moi!  I was really looking forward to this one: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake.  I love simple vanilla-flavored cakes, so this sounded right up my alley.

What makes this recipe special is the brown butter and the vanilla bean.  Sure, it would be good with “unbrowned” butter and vanilla extract, but the inclusion of these two ingredients really adds oomph and complexity to the flavor.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

As expected, I loved this cake! The flavor, the texture, everything about it. The tender but sturdy crumb was surrounded by a lightly crunchy crust. While I loved this cake on it’s own, it would be wonderful as a base for strawberry shortcake, or any recipe calling for pound cake.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cake

Altitude Adjustments

I live at an elevation of about 4500 feet, so I usually have to adjust cake recipes so they rise properly.  The adjustments I made seemed to work well.  Here’s what I did:

  • Reduced the baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon
  • Added an extra tablespoon of cream
  • Added a tablespoon of 1% milk

Note: I did not use the optional rum.  If I had, I probably would not have added as much extra liquid.



Filed under Cooking

Bread Challenge: Maple-Walnut Oat Bread

I am really enjoying my bread challenge.  Each loaf of bread I make is better than the one before and I am learning a lot!

This week’s bread was called “Maple-Walnut Oat Bread” and it came from King Arthur Flour’s book Whole Grain Baking.


I focused on two things while making this bread:  kneading it enough and letting it rise enough once it got in the pan.


One of the most difficult things for me in learning how to bake bread has been knowing when I have kneaded the dough enough.  Recipes say things like “knead until smooth and elastic”, but what does that really mean?  My sister told me about the “window test”, in which you stretch a little piece of the dough between your fingers and if it makes a thin sheet without breaking then you can stop kneading.  I tried this and it seems to have helped.  I found this link which talks about kneading and shows a nice picture of the window test.

I really think I got the dough kneaded enough this time (or at least very close!).  Not only could I stretch the dough thin fairly well (a little tricky with the walnuts), but I could see the strands of gluten starting to form.


Another problem I have had making bread is I don’t feel the bread is quite tall enough.  I suspect I haven’t been letting it rise quite high enough for the final rise.  I have also been getting “lumpy” tops, rather than smooth.

This is the first loaf I baked. You can see that the top is a little lumpy.

This time I made two changes during the final rise.  Normally I let my dough rise in the laundry room on top of the dryer.  It’s a nice, warm little spot.  I was starting to suspect that the act of carrying the pan of risen dough back to the kitchen was causing it to fall a bit, resulting in my lumpy loaves.  So this time I did the initial rise in the laundry room, but did the final rise in the kitchen.

The other change I made was to let it rise a little higher in the pan.  The recipe said to let it rise so it crowned an inch and a half above the pan.  I actually took out a ruler and waited until it got high enough.

Nicely risen and ready to bake!

Other Adjustments

I also made my now-usual altitude adjustments:  I added an extra tablespoon of water, and let the dough rise a second time before shaping it for the final rise.  I remembered to use my bread improver this time too!


This is definitely my best loaf so far!  I know I say that each time, but really it just means I’m learning and improving.  The flavor is wonderful!  And it has a nice soft texture that is perfect for sandwiches and toasting.  I finally got a nice smooth top, rather than a lumpy one.

I am looking forward to continuing my bread challenge and continued bread improvement!  If you are interested in making Maple-Walnut Oat Bread for yourself, you can find the recipe here on King Arthur Flour’s site.

Nice smooth top.


Filed under Cooking

Bread Challenge: White Loaves

For my next challenge bread, I made the White Loaves from Baking with Julia.  The Tuesdays with Dorie group made these a few weeks ago and all the loaves I saw looked wonderful.  It seemed like a good recipe to try.

My mom and sister also made the same bread the same week I did.  Our results were mixed.

I made a few changes to the recipe.  Some of my changes were to adjust for altitude and some of them were for added nutrition and taste.  Here are my changes:

  1. I substituted white whole wheat flour for half the bread flour.
  2. I used 8 teaspoons of KAF Whole Grain Bread Improver.
  3. I let the dough sit for about 30 minutes after the initial mix but before kneading to allow the whole wheat flour to absorb more liquid.
  4. I added an extra 2 tablespoons water to account for my dry climate and higher altitude.
  5. After the first rise I punched down the dough and let it rise a second time before shaping and doing the final rise.


This is the best loaf bread I have made so far!  The texture was good – nice and “springy” to the touch, for lack of a better word.  The bread was great toasted and it also made a nice turkey sandwich.  I really  liked the flavor added by the white whole wheat flour.  My bread did not rise as high as many of the TWD loaves I saw, perhaps because of the whole wheat flour I used.

Yummy Turkey Sandwich

My mom liked her bread but didn’t love it.  It was a little chewy and yeasty.  But she was very pleased with her results since she hadn’t made a loaf of bread in years.

Mom's bread. The bread on the left was baked in a taller glass pan and the one on the right was in a wider metal pan.

My sister thought her bread was fine untoasted, but great toasted.  She didn’t care for the crust – it wasn’t what she thought it should be.  She and I both worried about our mixers; they got really hot while mixing!  The dough for two loaves was a little too much for our mixers to handle, and we both stopped the kneading process before we should have because we didn’t want to hurt our mixers.

My sister's bread. She only has one bread pan, so she made the second loaf a boule.

All-in-all, I consider our loaves to be a success!  Did you make any bread in the last week?  If so, put a link in the comments and I will check it out!



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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


Is it really Friday already?  This week has flown by!  Being Friday, you know what that means:  French Fridays with Dorie.

This week’s recipe is a simple cake called Quatre-Quarts, which translates directly to “four-fourths”.  Similar in concept to an American pound cake, the cake uses equal amounts of eggs, flour, sugar, and butter.

Cakes have been my nemesis since I moved to Reno over 11 years ago.  Growing up in sea-level Seattle I never had to be concerned with my altitude while baking.  Reno is apparently at a high enough altitude (~4400 feet) to affect the baking of cakes.  I suddenly had cakes that were not rising properly, sinking in the middle, spilling over the pan, and the texture was off.  The richer the cake, the more trouble I had.

I received the book High Altitude Baking, which explains a lot of the science behind baking and altitude and also gives suggestions for adjusting recipes.  For years I attempted small adjustments to my recipes with mixed results.  Whenever I did any Internet searches for help with high altitude baking, most people said they simply added an extra egg to their recipe.  I resisted trying this because it seemed too easy, but a year or so ago I started adding an extra egg to cake recipes and it worked!  The extra egg changes the texture a little bit, but cakes rise beautifully and the texture is way better than what I was getting without the extra egg.

If you live at a higher altitude, do you adjust your cake recipes?  If so, what method do you use?

Now, back to this week’s cake…  I debated whether or not to follow the recipe as written or to add the extra egg.  In the end, I decided to add the egg.  The result was a lovely, simple cake very similar to a pound cake, but lighter in texture.

I really liked this cake.  Dorie mentions that it is a common after-school snack cake, so my daughter enjoyed a piece when she got home from school.  We ate it plain, but the cake would also be lovely dressed up a bit.  Strawberries and whipped cream would be good!

My daughter is notorious for helping herself to cakes and other baked goods left unattended.  This cake became a victim.  Luckily it happened after my pictures were taken!

Who ate this cake - a little mouse or a little girl?


Filed under Cooking