Q: Do I need to adjust when baking your recipes at high altitude?
A: Living in MN we don’t get to such heights, but in 2014 I had the opportunity to do a video for Craftsy, in Denver, Colorado. The video will be available in 2015, but I can tell you now that our standard Master Recipe worked beautifully, with no adjustment needed at Denver’s modestly-high elevation (about 5,200 feet/1,585 meters). But many people have asked about baking at more extreme altitudes, like, for example, a hundred miles up the road in Vail, Colorado, at 10,000 feet. If you’re getting dense, flat results at higher altitudes, here are some thoughts:
Altitude can affect how yeast behaves– it rises too quickly, and then it collapses because there isn’t enough structure to support it. So you can try things that inhibit it from rising so fast–and modify the recipe to add more structure to the dough:
Decrease the yeast and give it more time for the initial rise. See our low-yeast FAQ to see how low you can go. This slows things down, which helps with the altitude problems.
Replace the all-purpose flour with bread flour, which has more gluten, which will give it more structure. This may cause your dough to be drier, so you may end up adding a little more water.
Assuming you like the flavor and aren’t on a salt-restricted diet, consider a saltier dough–salt inhibits fast yeast growth. If you go this route, use the higher end of our salt range in the ingredients list (1 1 /2 tablespoons of coarse salt for a four-pound batch).
The refrigerator rise trick may also help with high altitude baking.
More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.