Reader question… “We recently moved to a location that has a higher altitude and all of a sudden I can’t make a good loaf of bread any more even though I’m still using the same recipe I always use. What happens is the bread rises well but falls while it is baking and ends out as a very dense and low loaf. I’m fairly certain that the higher altitude is the problem but I don’t know how to fix it. Do you have any ideas about what I can do to make good bread again?” –Karen H.

I would guess that the higher altitude and decreased air pressure is causing the dough to rise too fast and the too fast rising is creating larger air pockets than normal. When the dough rises even further in the heat of the oven, the fragile dough structure has not had enough time to develop the way it normally would and it is not strong enough to support the volume of the risen dough… and the loaf of bread collapses.

I have never personally baked bread at a high altitude, but here are some ideas that the Extension Service recommends to compensate for the higher altitude. They stress that you should make only one change at a time and that it is helpful to keep notes of what works for you and what does not, so you will remember what changes to make another time.


Shadows and color in our woods
  • The most recommended “fix” is to try decreasing the amount of yeast in your recipe by about one fourth. Also be sure that the yeast you use is instant active dry yeast and not the rapid rise kind.
  • Give the dough structure more time to develop properly by letting the dough rise at least twice. If you’re mixing the dough by hand, just punch the dough down after the first rise and let the dough rise again until it has doubled. If you’re mixing the dough in a bread machine, be ready to adjust the settings after the first rise so the dough can rise a second time before finishing the rest of the cycle.
  • Sugar (and other sweeteners) feed the yeast so you may need to adjust the amount of sweetener downward to control how much the dough rises. A good place to start is with about one fourth less.
  • Salt naturally inhibits the growth of the yeast so be sure to use the amount of salt called for in the recipe.
  • You may also need to adjust the amount of flour or liquid. Make adjustments until the dough makes a nice smooth ball that is neither too wet nor too dry.

I hope these guidelines will help. You might also try contacting the Extension Service in your state… they would have specific information for your particular altitude.


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Comments

Wretha

This is something I am dealing with, going from an altitude of about 450 feet to 6000 feet, I knew about things being different at high altitudes, but didn’t have any real experience with it. I’ve even read conflicting information about how much more or less yeast to add.

What I have learned is, I add the same amount of yeast and sugar. I add a tad bit more salt, that helps to slow the yeast. But the biggest changes I have had to make is the addition of more liquid, being at higher altitudes often means being in a drier atmosphere, the lower humidity means your flour has absorbed less moisture from the air, and doughs dry out much quicker. If you are used to making bread by hand, then you already know what a perfect dough should feel like and you will automatically know that you need more liquid. If you are used to making bread in a machine, watch your dough, if your machine is struggling to mix and knead the dough, or if it just doesn’t look right, add more liquid, a tablespoon at a time, reach in and feel the dough as it’s kneading, does it feel soft enough? Does it look right? If not, add more liquid. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what changes work best for you, don’t be afraid to mess up, it’s just bread, if it falls, then use it for breadcrumbs, croutons, bread pudding, or worst case scenario, feed it to the birds. :)

Mrs. Colton

I haven’t been able to make good bread since we moved and I never thought that it might be the higher altitude. I have read through your hints and tips here and now I’m going to put some of them into practice and see if I can be the baker I used to be again. Once again thank you for very helpful advice.

Pammy

That is true. Living where there is high altitude makes baking very different. Noone told me either and I had to learn the hard way. These tips are excellent and should ease the situation.