Thursday, October 26, 2006

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. 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.
Rising time: approximately 1 hour. 350 degree oven, bake for 30 minutes.

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 granulated sugar
1 tablespoon shortening, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups flour

* Brush loaf with beaten egg for a crispier crust.


compteacher said...

Hi Kit,

Hey I read your bread post and your bread recipe sounds good, maybe we'll get some on Halloween. Well, the pretzels I made for the potluck at work were a big hit and I'd like to share two long pretzel recipes with you, maybe you can try them sometime:

Both recipes are good the 2nd one has a strong baking soda flavor, and is the favorite.

* 2 c warm water (100 deg. to 110 deg)
* 1 Tbs sugar
* 1 packet active dry yeast
* 5-6 c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
* 1 Tbs salt
* 2 tsp baking soda
* 1 large egg
* coarse or pretzel salt
* vegetable or cooking spray

pour water into bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook. In a small bowl combine water and sugar, and stir to dissolve sugar, sprinkle with yeast, and let set 10 min, yeast should be foamy

Add 1 C flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined, Add salt and 4 c flour, and mix until combined about 30 sec. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 min. Add 1/2 c flour, and knead on low 1 min. more. If dough is still wet and sticky add 1/2 c more flour. knead until combined about 30 sec. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about 10 min. or until smooth.

Pour oil into a large bowl, swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hr. or until dough has doubled in size.

Heat oven to 450 deg. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces about 2 1/2 oz. each and wrap in plastic.

Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18 in. long strip. Twist into pretzel shape, transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels, eight will fit on each sheet. let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 min.

Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 in. of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda. Reduce to a simmer, transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 min. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

Beat egg with 1 tbs water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 min. let cool on wire rack or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temp. uncovered for 2 days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

Soft pretzels

* 6 c bread flour
* 1 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast
* 2 c warm water
* 3 1/2 Tbs butter, softened
* 2 Tbsp brown sugar
* 1 Tbsp salt
* For the dipping solution:
* 6 C warm water
* 6 Tbsp baking soda
* Coarse salt to garnish

* In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment stir together the yeast, a pinch of the brown sugar and 1/2 c of the warm water. Allow mixture to sit for 10 min.
* Add to the yeast mixture the remaining 1 1/2 c of warm water, butter, brown sugar, flour and salt. Begin mixing on low speed for 2 min. and then on med speed until the dough begins to pull away from the sides, about 2-4 min.
* Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead about 5 min.
* The dough will be stiff, yet smooth. Place dough into lightly greased bowl and cover with kitchen towel. Allow to double in volume, about 1 hr.
* Punch down dough, transfer to work surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form the dough into oblong pieces, cover with plastic wrap and rest dough for 5 min.
* Meanwhile, line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Working with one piece at a time roll dough to 30 in. in length. Lay the dough on the table in a U shape and cross the ends over each other. Twist the ends together once. Bring the ends down and attach them to either side of the thicker center of the dough, pressing to seal them. Place pretzels on parchment lined cookie sheets (6per cookie sheet) and let rise, uncovered for 25-30 min.
* Preheat oven to 450
* Prepare dipping solution by mixing the baking soda and warm water in a stainless steel bowl. Add a couple of pretzels at a time, allowing to soak for 10 sec. Using a slotted spoon, lift the pretzels from the solution and place on lightly oiled parchment lined cookie sheets. Let pretzels dry slightly and sprinkle with coarse salt.Bake for 12-15 min. or until deep golden brown.
* Best eaten the same day.
* Makes 1 doz. large soft pretzels.

Anonymous said...

You might want to spray the hot oven with water right before putting in the bread to bake, or chunk three or four ice cubes into a hot cast iron pan sitting on the oven floor before you close the door. Mmmm, good crusts.

Taos, NM