High Altitude Bread Baking

Winter thunder rumbles across the meadow, with snow and sleet not far behind. Such is life in the mountains, where seasons change overnight, with little warning. And, they'll change back again, tomorrow.

So, I’m keeping busy baking bread. If you think high altitude gardening is a challenge, try baking a yeast bread from scratch. Dry, thin air wreaks havoc on traditional recipes and Betty Crocker is not much help. Her high altitude recipes say ‘over 3,000 feet.’ I live above 7,000 feet so, with most recipes, I'm winging it.

I’ve learned...
  • Rapid rise yeast is the proverbial recipe for failure. Breads rise faster at high altitudes. I have better luck with an instant active yeast, using less than the recipe calls for.
  • A little extra water helps if the dough is too dry.
Baking bread is a science experiment in the mountains. Start with small (1 tablespoon of water, as example) changes and use your best judgement when modifying recipes. Sometimes those adjustments need to be dramatic. For instance, I have added up to 1/4 cup of water to a recipe for bread dough to reach a nice, moist consistency for kneading.

And, don't worry... even the failures taste great!

Seems silly, to me, to pay $3.50 for a loaf of artisan bread when the ingredients cost about 50 cents. Here's a yummy French Bread Recipe to try the next time you're snowed in.

French Bread
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (add more water, by tablespoons, until bread dough is moist)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (less 25%, if you're at high altitudes of 5,000 feet or more.)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon shortening, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
* Combine ingredients in the order listed above. Add flour last. Begin with 3 cups. Place 1/2 cup on your bread board and knead this into the dough. If the dough is very sticky, add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time.
* Rising time: approximately 1 hour. 400 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Brush loaf with beaten egg white and water mixture, for a crispier crust.


My Family said...

I'm also at about 7,000 ft. However, instead of having a problem with the yeast rising way too fast, my problem is that it hardly works at all. So, it seems like I should add more yeast rather than less. Don't assume I'm using too hot or cold of liquid, it's the same recipe I've used for the last 20 years and it's always been great at other elevations, it's just been since I moved here that it's not working anymore.

JK said...

Hello Park City from Evanston, WY! We're neighbors! I found this post doing a google search after my regular roll recipe failed. Thanks for the high altitude cooking tips! I've never made adjustments for the altitude in my cooking, but maybe I should start. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm from Laramie, WY and we're at 7200 feet. I was afraid to try making my own bread here (originally from WI) but after seeing this recipe, I'm willing to give it a try!

Kate said...

Laramie is a pretty place. And, I know exactly how you feel. We moved to the mountains from Minnesota. Anyhoo, give it a shot and plz let me know how it turns out!

Anonymous said...

I live at 7800 feet and it is really hit or miss. Some of my recipes act quite normal while others remind me of trying to get my 15 yr old nephew to rise out of bed on saturday morning. Nearly impossible......What I do know is that watched bread never rises, and if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. (and keep good notes)

Kate said...

LOL ~ I think you're onto something with this analogy. Raising a teen is, indeed, as trying as yeast breads. I've made this recipe a hundred times. But, I made it yesterday and it was a flop. Still tasted pretty good though... ;>)

Anonymous said...

Try adding about 3-4 Tbs. of chopped fresh rosemary. It adds a wonderful flavor and aroma.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

A sprinkle of Rosemary sounds delightful. :)

RMH said...

We live at 6000 ft and have had great success with the New York Times no knead bread recipe. No alterations.

Lisarae said...

The no-knead bread is amazing and never seems to fail-even in dry northern NM (7k+). Can't wait to try this recipe and the other artisan loaf you have on this site.

Lisarae said...

The no-knead bread is amazing and never seems to fail-even in dry northern NM (7k+). Can't wait to try this recipe and the other artisan loaf you have on this site.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, Lisarae!
I'm so happy to hear this. I just returned from your lovely state -- celebrated the centennial on a horseback ride. San Acacia, NM -- ever heard of it? Darling little town.

greta said...

OK... I just failed at "no knead bread" I used the cooks illustrated change for whole wheat. It called for 2 c white flour, 1 c whole wheat. Otherwise no changes. It came out heavy. Just like all my breads at altitude. I am in Truckee, Ca 5800ft. I think maybe my house was too cold for the initial long rising. Plus, the 1/4 t yeast sounded like so little. Any suggestions??

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, Greta;
I'm sorry to hear this and I wonder if, perhaps, my directions were confusing? I'll re-write those to be more clear.

A packet of yeast is 2.25 tablespoons. I knock that down to a little less than 2 tablespoons. But, I fear I might have given you the impression this should be reduced to just 1/4 tbs.

Wheat flour will make your bread dough heavier. Consider adding 1/3 cup of gluten flour to your wheat breads. It will help with rising and texture.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

A packet of yeast is 2.25 teaspoons. I only live at 2500 feet, I know not high altitude, I am trying to help out a friend in Colorado.

Anonymous said...

We live at 8500 feet (moved here from Ne---very flat). Not only do I bake my own bread, it has to be gluten free as well. Got it to an art now! I do use a packaged mix, which calls for eggs. Plan to make some regular yeast bread and see what happens. Can always fry the dough! As for baking cakes, I add an extra egg and barely beat the eggs. More like break the yolks with a fork and stir them a little. Cakes have turned out much better-all made from scratch. It's always an adventure!

The Hampels said...

OK, dumb question from beginning baker. So this recipe you just mix all together, let rise and shape? Feel like I'm missing some steps here and don't want to start out from behind!


The Hampels said...

Learning to bake, in Denver, is my goal for the summer, but I feel like I'm missing some steps for this recipe. Just throw it all together, let rise and shape? Is there something else I need to know?


Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, Hampels!
Not silly questions at all... I should have taken the time to type in the steps for bread baking. I did so, now, and it appears in the revised post. Happy Baking!

Anonymous said...

This was AWESOME! Rosemary was an excellent addition. :D

RebekahElliott said...

I'm from Winter Park, Co and live at 9,400 ft and have never successfully made bread. Thank you so much for posting this! I just finished the recipe and it was a success. I cant wait to try it with rosemary next time. Thanks again!!

Futureself said...

I am from Laramie, WY. After a few attempts at other bread recipes with little success, I tried this one and it worked like a charm! The bread is already half gone, and it hasn't even been 24 hours.

Anonymous said...

I live at altitude too, but I make bread from 3 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2teaspoons salt, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 1/4 tspns dried yeast or one packet, 1 1/4 cups water heated to 115 degrees and 1 1/2 teaspoons gluten. Mix oil and one cup heated water together. In a separate bowl put 1/4 cup heated water, yeast and sugar together and mix. In another bowl mix flour, salt and gluten together. After yeast mix has at least doubled in size, add to oil and water mix, and finally add flour mix. The salt and gluten will stop the rise in the bread, whereas the sugar and the heated water will make it rise, so you want to get the yeast to activate first, and then stop.

Anonymous said...

It's funny but makes since that the posts are from people in the WY, CO, UT, N.M area. I'm in Torrington WY. The bread I baked on the east coast tasted great. I've thrown away or been dissatisfied with the same recipe since I've lived here.
Thanks for the tips. I finally wised up and looked for this information

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate - Gave up on high altitude sourdough bread. Just couldn't get it right. Does it matter what kind of flour (all purpose, bread, etc.?

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

I've found bread flour to be better, but, honestly, I use whatever is in the pantry. If you are ever up for trying again, perhaps test out mineral, or sparkling, water vs tap. Mountain resort towns don't have great water, often require water softeners, etc. Wreaks havoc with my plants and also with my yeast breads...

Anonymous said...

I live at 7600 ft north of Durango and this recipe works great. I even use my bread machine and take some of the dough out before the rising cycle and put it in the frig for another day. Makes good pizza. Trying some whole wheat in today's bread.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Yay! Happy to hear it worked out so well. I make a lame excuse to drive through Durango quite often. It's faster to get to New Mexico via different route, but I just love your views! :))

Willow & Isabella said...

Hi. I've made this bread a few times at 8,000 ft. just outside Aspen, CO. It tastes great. Just remember to let the dough rise for 30 minutes at least AFTER forming into a loaf.

Anonymous said...

I found this famous recipe for pretzels and cannot get it to work at 6500 ft. Any suggestions?

Auntie Anne's Pretzels

1 1/2 cups milk
1 package dry active yeast
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus a pinch or two more
8 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups very hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Nonstick spray
Coarse sea salt


In a large, non-reactive bowl, heat the milk in the microwave until lukewarm, about 110 degrees. Add the yeast, stir, and let it activate, about 3 minutes. Next add the confectioners' sugar and 4 tablespoons of the butter and stir to combine.

Sift together the salt, bread flour, and all-purpose flour. Add to the yeast mixture and knead for about 8-10 minutes, using either the hook attachment of a stand mixer or your hands. Add the dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, moist environment until double in size, about 1 hour.

After the dough has risen, divide it into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a long, thin rope, as thin as your fingers. To form the pretzel, start by making the rope a U. Cross the ends of the rope and twist to make a large circle (about as large as you want your pretzel). Take the ends and fold down into the circle, and seal the ends into the bottom to form a pretzel.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Dissolve the baking soda into the very hot water and oil 2 baking sheets. Take each pretzel and dip it into the baking soda-water bath and then place, seam side down, onto the oiled baking sheets, about 6 to each sheet. Sprinkle each pretzel with coarse sea salt and bake in the oven until golden brown and puffy, about 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking.

While the pretzels are baking, melt the last 4 tablespoons of butter. Add a pinch or 2 of the confectioners' sugar to the butter and stir. Dip the salted side of each pretzel into the butter when they're done baking and serve.

Recipe Details

Servings: 12

- Anne Dolce, The Daily Meal

Anonymous said...

So, I followed the recipe and added 2 tablespoons of yeast. It seemed way too much but that's what Kate said. Then I read that a packet of yeast is actually 2 TEASPOONS of yeast. Could I get a clarification? Although, I think I'll have an answer when my bread is ready.

Anonymous said...

So Does anyone know which it is for the yeast - 2 1/4 tsp. or 2.25 tablespoons??

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

MY APOLOGIES for the typo. It is 2 1/4 TEASPOONS. Sorry...

Barbara Woolf said...

I'm so excited! Your recipe was the only one that I've tried where the bread actually turned out. It was so light and fluffy. Do you by chance have a multigrain bread recipe?

Kathy said...

My sour dough recipe worked great at 7000 ft, but I usually let the machine do the mixing and raising and I make rolls instead of loaves. For a milder flavored bread, use 1 tsp of granulated garlic and 1 T of Italian seasoning instead of straight rosemary. Also, I use butter for my fat, which works fine. I've tried different temps for the water, but still have my bread falling at the end, which is driving me mad trying to fix! I've used water at 110* and 85*, with the same result. I've noticed that different websites recommend different fixes for high altitude alterations. I guess it's just gonna be trial and error. My latest love is

"Rosemary" French Bread:
1 package yeast (I think using quick rise might be my problem, gotta get active to try next)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp softened or melted butter
1 cup of water
Let sit in the bread maker for 10 minutes, then add
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tsp of garlic powder (or 2 tsp minced fresh, but I've been using powder)
The crust is so tender and flaky, almost like a saltine cracker. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I live in Northern New Mexico (7000+ feet altitude) and I'm currently watching a bowl of Instant yeast water just sit and do nothing. I've cooked enough bricks to construct an small adobe abode. The only success I've had thus far is with the NY Times No Knead recipe. If you want to get bread to rise in New Mexico, you have to make friends with the New Mexico cultures.

Pam at 7,200 feet said...

I have the French bread in the oven as I type this. After the hour of rising was the bread suppose to have a second rising after the loaves were shaped? I didn't do that. Just stuck it in the oven. We live at 7,200 feet in Edwards, CO so baking from scratch is always a math problem. For my yeast I removed l l/2 teaspoons from the packet before sprinkling it on the warm water. That was the 25% that you recommended removing. Oh, boy. Are they ever rising. (I just peeked at them.)

Pam at 7,200 feet said...

Ok, the French bread came out of the oven on this very snowy day in CO and we (my husband and I) ate half of one of the loaves immediately. The 1 l/2 teaspoon removal of yeast from the packet appears to work great at 7,200 feet.

Lynn Lawson said...

Where do I find the revised version. I'll try one raise as Pam at 7200 feet did. I live in central Mexico at 7100 feet. I love baking and had given up on yeast bread and rolls. Now I'm excited to try again.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody have a No Knead Bread recipes that works well for them at 8500 ft altitude. I am going to visit my daughter in Conifer Colorado and I want to make this bread in a cast iron dutch oven, as I do at home. It comes out fabulous in New Jersey, but I do know how to bake this in high altitudes. Thank you all in advance for suggestions or a recipe that works well.