High altitude baking

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.

Hey Just Bento,

I was kind of hoping to find some tips on baking at high altitudes. I live in Colorado, so baking is always tricky. I know that when you bake things from a box they tell you to add some flour, but I was wondering if there were other rules that like that I should keep in mind for general baking. Also, how much flour, ratio-wise, should you add to a recipe? In particular, I've had a lot of trouble getting bread to rise. It just sorta...deflates after I pick it up again. I'm good at cooking, but I suck at baking, so any general baking advice would help, too. I don't have a bread maker or any fancy equipment, since I'm just a college student with no money.

Thanks for your help. :)

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Annatomic
Re: High altitude baking

I don't know any ratios or anything that can help ( I live in the prairies, its not a high altitude, but its really, really dry here...and cold). But I can say that you need to rely on texture and looks as much as you need to for ratios. You really can't be rough enough with it when you do your first round of kneading. When you've kneaded it enough you should be able to stretch it out and see through it (it will be like looking through really dirty windows) If the house is too cold, it won't rise very well either. I find it helps to turn the oven on at whatever temp you need just long enough to get it warm (NOT HOT) it usually takes no more than a couple of minutes. Turn the oven off and once your done kneading you can put it in your bowl with a cloth over it and it should be warm enough to get the dough to rise nicely. As for adding extra flour/water, add a little at a time, mix/ knead it a bit and just keep watching for for a smooth stretchy dough. If all else fails, try different recipes and breads. I find I have a terrible time making a normal yeast bread, but I tried making a sourdough the other week and it was the best type of bread I've made.
Heres a handy tip that you can apply to any form of cooking really: You can always add, but you can never take away. (so in other words don't go crazy adding in a bunch of extra ingredients all at once, other wise you'll go crazy trying to fix it) Oh and if you're like me and hate going to the gym (or any form of exercise really) kneading bread (with out a machine) is a really good way to to get a work out on your arms :D

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

Thanks for the tips. I suppose it mostly just takes practice. I just hate wasting dough.

Annatomic
Re: High altitude baking

Your welcome. Hope they help :) It does take a bit of practice, but its worth it in the end. Something else you can do if the bread doesn't turn out well, is let it dry out and turn it into bread crumbs. Then you don't have to worry about wasting anything.

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

That's a good idea. I tried making nikuman (char siu bao) the a while back, and it was just a disaster. They were supposed to be for a potluck, but because of they didn't work, and because I was super broke, I ended up not bringing anything. At least the filling I made for them ended up making nice sandwiches later. But I don't think I used the failed bread for anything.

RavenNC
Joined: 16 Jan 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 34 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

Hi Colorado!

I'm originally from Wyoming (7,165 feet - that's over 2,000 feet higher than Mile High Denver). I'm in NC now, so my recipe adjustments these days center around too much humidity!.

Cooking bread, rice, pasta - anything like that - was different than at or near sea level. It's easy to overcook rice and pasta because water boils at a lower temperature so it's not actually as hot as it should be. If you're using a rice cooker that seals (kind of like a pressure cooker), then it's not that big a deal and you can just follow the directions on the cooker. If you're cooking rice or pasta on the stove top you'll need to add water and increase the cooking time. Usually about an extra 1/4 cup of water and an extra 5 minutes or so for about a cup of rice. Honestly, I cooked rice in a glass pot so I could monitor the water level. Cooking a little longer to get rid of water left at the bottom is not a problem, but if you need to add water I suggest adding about 2-3 tablespoons of HOT water and cooking for a few more minutes.

For bread the big problems are really dry flour and rising too much. For the dry flour issue, you just have to watch the consistency of whatever your making. Don't add all the flour a recipe calls for at once (once you've added it you can't take it out!). That way you can control add what you need to get the right texture. A lot of recipes suggest adding more flour to compensate for the fact that the bread is going to rise more than it should, but then you increase the dry flour problem. When I made bread I would increase the amount of salt in the recipe by about 1/4 tsp. You also want to watch the bread when it rises. DON'T let it rise by more than double the first time and beat the heck out of it before you let it rise again. Doughs that only rise once need either more salt or less yeast/leavening.

Better Homes & Gardens has a nice website with suggestions for high-altitude cooking: http://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/cooking-basics/cooking-at-high-altitud...

Good Luck!

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

Thanks! I think that'll really help. I've never really had a problem with rice or pasta, but baking is my weak point. I live around the altitude of Denver right now, but I'm from a smaller town in the mountains that's at 10,200 ft. So, you'd think I'd be good at this. I can deal with baking from a box, but making bread just never works for me. I think I'll try making this rosemary bread my roommate made for me once, to try out your tips and the other's I've received.

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

The trick with bread is to go by what it looks and feels like, not what the recipe says with respect to amounts and times. Yeast is alive, and batches vary in their "liveliness" even at sea level; flours also differ in the amount of water it will soak up. You need to get a feel for what it should look and feel like at the different stages of mixing, kneading, and proofing. That's a bit difficult without either someone to show you or an awful lot of trial and error.

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Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

Yeah =/ I kinda wanted to avoid the trial and error part.

Katy
Bento-ing from: › Florida › USA
Joined: 17 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 29 weeks ago.
Re: High altitude baking

I usually turn to King Arthur Flour for baking tips.. I have no experience with high-altitude baking, though (I suffer from perhaps the opposite: it is too humid to bake baking. Crisp meringue is like a fantasy)

They have a lot of educational materials online, and I know I've seen high-altitude notes on a lot of their online recipes; here's a link to their education center:
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/

Also, I noticed on the main page they are doing demos in Colorado in March!! I have no idea if these locations are near you.
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/traveling-baking-demos.html#Winter-2011

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Greetings from the panhandle of Florida!

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