High Altitude Yeast Bread

Behold the fruits of my labor. 7 hours of labor, to be exact. Rocket science is child's play compared to baking yeast bread at high altitude.

Everything encourages yeast breads to fail at high altitudes. Yup, everything: dry air, thin air, aggressive kneading, water softeners... your apron is probably causing trouble, too. Yeast breads are just that temperamental high in the mountains.

  • The terms 'instant' and 'rapid rise' yeast are relevant to people who live at the bottom of the hill. High altitude baking requires patience. Let yeast percolate slowly in the 'frig for a few hours.
  • Use bread flour vs. all purpose flour.
  • Water softeners fiddle with yeast magic, try bottled water. (I use sparkling water since it's always in my 'frig.)
  • Terra cotta planters or terra cotta saucers make great bread pans.

Artisan Bread Recipe
4 cups bread flour
2-1/4 teaspoons instant rapid rise yeast
3 teaspoons honey
10 ounces bottled, filtered, or sparkling water
3 teaspoons salt

Create a liquid yeast mixture: Combine 1/4th of the flour and ALL of the yeast, honey and water. Refrigerate for a few hours.

Now the fun begins...
Mix the rest of the dry ingredients with the liquid yeast mixture. Let rise for 30 minutes. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Knead it by hand. It's great exercise. (Just try it on a timer, if you don't believe me. 10 min. is a long time!)

Create a humid environment:
Fill your largest casserole dish with hot water, stick it in the oven.
Put bread dough on upper oven rack, let rise for about 2 hours.
Humidity + clay baking pan = 1 perfect loaf of bread!

Knead gently, let dough rest for 15 minutes. Repeat. Give terra cotta pot or saucer a non-stick spray. Let dough rise about 1 hour.

Brush with egg white and water.
Bake @ 400 (F) for about 1 hour.


Lynda said...

Hmmm. I live at 8700' but I rarely have a yeast bread failure anymore. I think the main thing is to learn what the dough looks like when the moisture balance is right--add a little flour or a couple drops of water while mixing. Everything is so dry here, it takes practice. Oh yeah, I usually add powdered gluten, too. Can't wait to try your terra cotta saucer idea.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I am reading this right, I mix 1/4 of the flour and 1/4 of the yeast or all of the yeast? Anxious to try this. I am at 6300 and cannot bake to save my soul!

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Sorry for the delay in responding. I was out of town.

I can see where that would be confusing! Sorry. It's ALL of the yeast. Good catch! I corrected the recipe so it's clear for everyone. :)

Anonymous said...

A great place to raise bread is the microwave...put a mug of water in the oven and nuke it until it boils. Open the door, pop in the bread, and close the door again. (Don't nuke the bread itself, or you'll kill the 'yeastie beasties.') It creates a great, humid environment that helps counteract the high, dry air here in NM!

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

THAT is a fabulous idea! I will give it a try! :))

Jane said...

I live at 9500 feet (Quito, Ecuador). I'm going to try all these tips, because, so far, everything else has failed! Jane

Frances said...

At what point do you slash the top of the loaf as pictured?

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, Frances;
I slash it prior to popping it into the oven. Enjoy! And, thanks for visiting my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi, googled high-altitude baking: thanks for the tips; but will R&D to anaylze the baker's %'s--(ratio of flour to other ingredients by weight!) and

Will try a "retarded" (cool-e.g.refrigerated) pre-ferment, and also a retarded final proof. (I'll be baking at 12,000' in about 3 weeks)

Laura said...

I spent the better part of today going back and forth through many of your blog posts. Entertaining and a good substitute for comfort food. I am baking the Artisan Bread (High Altitude Yeast Bread) now. Did the first part this morning, put in frig, left to run errands, forgot it when I came home. It must have been in there at least 6 hours. Then I tried to follow your directions but wasn't convinced I did it all that well. Distractions... When kneading the dough for 10 minutes, it didn't seem to come together so I added a few teaspoons of bottled water. I live at 6990' elevation in Larkspur, Colorado. I used a terra cotta bowl. The loaf came out a BEAUTIFUL shape and color. I'll send a picture if you'd like. Thanks for posting your recipe and tips.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, Laura;
Your comment made my day! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on my blog. Way thrilled the bread turned out fab. Yes, please, send a pic!

Trish said...

Your cookie recipes have done the trick at 6200 for me. Which recipe for bread is the best at that altitude. One says to use instant rapid rise yeast and the other says not to, I want to bake some today and not sure what to do?

The Cat's Meow said...

I'm at 6500 ft. In CO. I tried this recipe today exactly as written. Kept it in the fridge for 2 hrs. I used Hungarian Unbleached White flour. I stopped adding flour before I got To 4 cups as I know to stop when it's no longer sticking on the sides.

It's in the oven and about ready to come out. Looks delicious! I am concerned about the high amt. of salt but will deal with that later. I think I can experiment now with more nutritious recipes after seeing how this worked.

Thanks so much for sharing this!

Lou Ann Warren said...

I live in FOrt Collins, CO. I tried making Potato Bread and was my first time at trying to make bread. My problem is the 2nd rising of the dough didn't go as well as I thought. After I punched it down the first time, the bread didn't raise very well. I was hoping for a bread to make sandwiches with instead I got bread that butters well. lol. Any suggestions?

Lou Ann Warren said...

I live in Fort Collins, CO and tried my hand at making Potato Bread. This is my first time at making bread. I was hoping to have bread to make sandwiches but after the first punching of the bread, the 2nd raise didn't happen. It turned out well but it isn't as big as a loaf of bread should be. Any ideas? Suggestions?

The Necessitous Woman's Self-Preparedness said...

I found the book Artisan bread in 5minutes a day. Read about it on another HA blog. So simple no kneading, all I changed was the amount of yeast to 1 Tb instead of 1 1/2 Tb. You can find the basic recipe on line. So easy!

The Necessitous Woman's Self-Preparedness said...

I found the book Artisan bread in 5minutes a day. Read about it on another HA blog. So simple no kneading, all I changed was the amount of yeast to 1 Tb instead of 1 1/2 Tb. You can find the basic recipe on line. So easy!

Anonymous said...

4 cups ended up being way too much flour for me! Next time I'll use 3 cups total and see what happens. And next time I'll start at 8 AM instead of 11 AM if I want bread done in time for dinner. :)

Anonymous said...

I lived at high altitude and used to cook wheat free vegan as my wife has celiac disease. Many times tried different methods. It appears the higher you go in altitude the less yeast you need.
A link with charts on high altitude cooking.